Ahhhhhhh….Summer Solstice. The light rules. The warmth of the sun fills us with energy and we move through the season with our hearts on fire. Lightning bugs dance and frogs gurgle in the moonlight when it finally arrives each evening. Bonfires crackle, BBQs fill the air with the smoke of traditional gatherings after long, hard days or weekend fun. Some mornings are foggy after cool, short nights and others are already heavy with the buzzing of insects and the whisper from the sun, reminding us that Summer is upon us. Abundance, growing, dancing, the day rules and the night awaits its turn.
This day is both happy and sad for me each year. Honestly, if I could have it be any day of the year forever I would probably pick June 19th or so. Still leading up to the Solstice, hope still ever present, looking forward, the anticipation, the days stretching into the evening, the light lingering just a little longer each rotation… Those days leading up to the Solstice for me are the days of pure joy. I bask in them. THIS is my time. And yet like a growing sense of the inevitable ending to a wonderful story I know deep inside that this also begins the transition into darkness. The peak of the wheel is so brief really, so much like the finale of fireworks…boom…and then it is done. We begin the descent, ever so slowly, down the stairs into the bottom of our beings. We turn slightly inward and follow the path away from the light once more.
I have fanaticized since I was a kid about the ability to freeze time. Just make the feelings and the surroundings of a particular moment or period remain with me forever. I wonder if other people do this? It so happens that whenever I have those thoughts, even as I am thinking them I can already feel whatever it is I want to preserve start to slip away… It’s like trying to hold onto smoke. It can’t be done. This is one of the things about life (in general) that makes me so very sad. Even as I type this entry I am thinking about how I can’t dwell on it much longer or it will put me in a funk for the day, which is surely not what I want on the most beautiful day of the year.
What I want (and will have) is to be outside for as many incredible moments as possible. I want to soak up every bit of what the sun has to offer. I want to watch grass grow, birds play, horses graze, I want to giggle at the lambs and their antics and make the absolute most of every second of the day that stretches into the eternity of this 24 hours. And when the sun finally dips behind the mountains after its long climb to the very top I want to thank it for refilling my soul with light.
Happy Summer Solstice and blessings on your own journey…
Welcome, 2017. Each year on Winter Solstice I try to ask the Universe for a word for the coming year. This year the Universe was slow about answering me, unlike last year when it threw the word LIBERATION out of the depths of my soul, pulled me forward into action and kicked my butt sideways a million times. Liberation is a helluva word to follow up and I thought that maybe this year I just would not have a word. Words are tough and sometimes painful. I’ve had Truth (2014), I’ve had Presence (2015) and I’ve contemplated the differences between passive words and action words. I’ve failed at words and I’ve been surprised by them. Words tend to come to life for me and shape my thoughts of the year.
So, I waited, not really meditating on a word or thinking about it too deeply until yesterday while I was sitting at the kitchen table eating vegetable soup. I was looking out the window at the horses, their backs to the wind and their heads down like horses will do in the winter. It wasn’t particularly cold yesterday but the wind was wicked, hence their hunkering in like it was necessary. Overly dramatic? Always, those two. My mind started to wander because, well, that’s what my mind does and I decided somewhere in the midst of that wandering to ask again. Hey Universe – that word? And it said – Love.
Oh, come on. Love? Give me something else. Please? Love is not the word for me. I’m not at all love and light and I need something to do. Something gritty for Hades-sake. Love? What the fuck am I supposed to do with that word? Love is too squishy of a word. Too happy and too damn clean. Love. Really? Hmphhhh. Whatever…
So, I went to clean stalls with my trusty barn playlist, which is really pretty much just my go-to playlist that I keep adding to. You’d think it would be all country but no, it is peppered with a million other things and ever since they died is heavily Prince and Bowie oriented. There is really nothing like Little Red Corvette when shoveling frozen shit I tell ya. I’ve got a bunch of general 80s stuff on there too. Just because, you know, I’m old and all. So I’m mucking and a Bryon Adams song pops on – the acoustic When You Love Someone from the MTV Unplugged session. This is a sappy damn song. Which reminds me of another sappy damn Bryon Adams song that I love as well ~ that one from the worst Robin Hood movie ever, which I also love by the way (mostly for Alan Rickman’s version of the Sheriff) so don’t you dare say it is the worst Robin Hood movie ever. Anyway, sorry, I digress. Despite all these sappy damn songs that Adams has, I’ve always liked his music tremendously. I grew up with it. When I listen to the song When You Love Someone I don’t think of human love. I tend to think of horses. I've probably cried over more horses than I have over men. I've also probably vowed to do anything for one horse or another, including put out the sun if I had to. I do this with a lot of songs. Think about them in terms of things other than humans. I actually change all the words to Taylor Swift’s Our Song in my head so that it is completely about a horse. I’m so over Taylor Swift by the way, aren’t you?
Anyway, again, I digress. So, I’m humming along to Bryon Adams and picking through frozen horse shit and I start to cry. Oh, man I hate it when that happens. People don’t think I’m very emotional but I cry at the craziest things. This season it was that damn Purina horse feed commercial about the old horse that just couldn’t get adopted… Holy shit I’m usually a damn mess. I’ve always been like this but I hide it because where I’m from big girls don’t fucking cry. But, there I was, crying in a horse stall to this damn Bryan Adams song.
And, shit (no pun), it hits me. Love is tough. It is a difficult road and all too often, more painful than not. It takes a fighter to love. There is so much struggle wrapped up in it, so much commitment and sacrifice and yes, even loneliness. Love requires patience, kindness and truth. It requires forcing oneself to embrace, to give, to receive and oh god this is dreaded…to need love too. That one is some scary shit. So, it requires one to be brave, willing, and open. Love needs one’s willingness to go on when all seems lost and one’s openness to let go when one should. It needs for us to be grounded but take the opportunity to fly. It needs us to know when we have more to give and when enough is enough and we should walk away. It requires us to think of others but also ourselves because without our own self love what is any other love really worth? It requires us to face the truth, have presence and yes, it definitely fosters liberation. So, love is everything and nothing. It is worth risking plenty and also locking the doors against the wind so as to protect what you risked yesterday. Love is kind, yes. It is compassionate, knowing and gives us hope. Love is also tough, decisive and…gritty.
My word is not looking for me to fall in love, with a particular person anyway. It is more global than that. Perhaps it is simply looking for me to give love. To my dream, to every creature I encounter, to myself, to the people that I do care about. Love doesn’t have to be romantic. It can simply be about caring for others, human and not. It can be about extending a hand, lending an ear, choosing to say something encouraging rather than not.
This year of Love will be about nurturing a future. It will be about speaking graciously to myself, something I’ve never been able to master. Love calls for the year to be one of an open heart and nourishing opportunities to encounter life’s work. This is the first year in which I have ever had a place of my own. Truly my own in the sense of the fact that I did this. No one else. For better or worse, whether I’m richer or poorer (and right now I’m definitely poorer), in good times and bad – this is my space in the Universe. This is the place of my dream and I will pour love into it as part of the recipe of my truth. This is the year my own story begins. I’m writing it. And a good story always contains some love.
The Wheel turns. What a lovely Winter Solstice it was, filled with music and glogg, reading and quiet, sacred time. I normally begin my musical journey downward around the beginning of September, first surrounding myself with the songs of Samhain, then slowly descending into the darkness of the Solstice night. The melodies feed me, my soul hungry for lonesome sounds, pulling me downward to the very bottom of my being. Like Persephone making her way to the Underworld over and over again, my path is well worn, familiar, and in a certain sense very comforting.
The difference this year is the lingering. I normally love to linger within the music. I play it well into the rest of winter. It is almost like Solstice does not end for me until Imbolc arrives. But the morning following Winter Solstice, upon awakening to a day just barely longer than the day before, my thoughts were not of lingering, but climbing, reaching, working toward what lies ahead. I was full of energy and announced to the horses that there is now nowhere to go but up! Up, toward the opening of the cave, toward hope, renewal and all that will feed us until the next time we find ourselves at the top of those long and winding stairs that will draw us into the earth…
I’m not sure why my feeling is so different. Maybe it is a sense of urgency for everything that I hope to accomplish this spring and summer? Maybe it is that I’m closer to myself now that my soul has somewhat returned? Maybe it is that 2016 was an awful year (except for finding this farm) full of angst and stress and SO MANY trials and tests? I’m ready to put it this year to rest for certain. Maybe it is that damn ticker app on my phone that keeps announcing to me how many days until daylight savings time starts? (lol).
Whatever the reason there is a marked difference in my Solstice journey. I remind myself that the period between Solstic and Imbolc is the hardest time for me emotionally. It always has been a struggle to stay focused and not fall backwards, tumbling down the staircase to land in the mire of hopelessness that winter seems to throw at me. As I climb I can always feel the ice covered hands of it, the breath on my neck, one step behind me like a willowy, windswept beast waiting for just the right moment to wrap me in arms of cold, cold darkness and carry me back down with it. Post Solstice Winter is as lonely as the season of my soul. It wants companionship. It lives off of worry and strife, feeds off of hopelessness and self-loathing.
But, I cannot linger with you this my friend, my enemy, my very, very familiar companion. I have to do my best to climb. I must go faster than I have before, be strong against your pull and care for my wounded soul that is still trying to heal herself. I will have to brace against your power, your cold comfort, your sweet, sleepy breath against my cheek. I am climbing this staircase and pushing my grief and madness aside as I go. I will not turn around for you. I cannot come back down right now. Wait for me though, as the leaves turn and flutter once more. I will not leave you in the darkness forever. Rest and wait for me. I promise to return.
Wheeeewwwww… After a very sad and difficult writing stint last week, I’m feeling like a little love and light is in order. Or at least a look outside myself (not exactly but in the sense of having to do with a bigger picture) to something else I’ve been meaning to tackle. Religion. LOL. Yes, a less heavy subject than self-loathing for me.
Now, I should say - not religion in the sense of let's all go to church on a weekly basis or even religion in the sense of following this particular religion or that other religion or identifying with a religion per say. I'm talking about a personal relationship with the spirit of the Universe, whatever one considers that to be and whether that relationship includes gods, or an afterworld, or reincarnation, or any number of other things for that matter.
For instance, I consider myself a "magical creature", but can magic be secular? The definition of secular spirituality from everyone’s favorite (and possibly the original fake news source) Wikipedia: Secular spirituality refers to the adherence to a spiritual philosophy without the avocation of a religious framework. Secular spirituality emphasizes the personal development of the individual, rather than a relationship with the divine.
Not really close. Because, I’m talking about something deeper. When you Google secular spirituality you get a ton of hits and opinions. But, like everything else that we find in meaningful conversation and contemplation, there are no concrete answers. These are the discussions that we have in dark corners of cozy pubs late into the night, around campfires in the wilderness, with newfound members of the same tribe of thinkers and questioners. The kinds of conversations that allow us to see into the souls of those we are talking to and realize that they are kindred spirits, wandering as we are, navigating to somehow get through this thing called life (yes that is a Prince reference). Prince is one of my all-time favorite philosophers, spiritual yet not necessarily religious, male/female/neither, questioning yet knowing creatures of all time.
Author Roger Housden, Keeping the Faith Without a Religion, has several articles and the noted book relating to the question. I even came across an article in Teen Vogue (BTW I can’t even believe there is Teen Vogue – kack…) of all places, so the conversation is there, in many forms and places. And as Housden points out, has been theorized by philosophers for centuries in one way or another.
Upon discovering Paganism existed I was smack dab in the upsurge of Wicca as a movement (and the internet as a communication device) and I jumped toward this new found experience with a full embrace. As I crafted my magical life, there were things that made sense to me and things that did not. I actually almost gave up the idea of magic at one point because I could not marry the things that did not work for me in Wicca to the things that everyone said were essential. I enjoyed the ritualized aspects in general. But I did not identify with the Goddess and her triple nature.
Paige, at the Fat Feminist Witch podcast has a heartfelt and wonderful episode on this subject, which is one of the things that got me thinking about it again. I feel like there are many women that have had a difficult time with their spirituality and trying to reconcile their lack of identification with the Goddess and her forms. For some time, I simply turned to the God, or I would still ask of Artemis in ritual and prayer because she was as close to the Goddess as I desired to be. I identified with her aspect in my mind’s eye of myself (as one can tell from some of my other journeys into the depths of my self-loathing I never desired to be a “woman”, or a mother, or a hearth-keeper) and it was she that initially called to me during spiritual meditation in those early days of Wicca. The God made me feel wild and free and of the woods. He was earth and bones and everything that I held fast to when I was unsure and needed to be strong, yet I was still fascinated with the moon and the darkness that it was said the Goddess held sacred.
In my early days, it was all very confusing to me and rather than give up my new found spiritual side I sort of began to make my own religion. Quietly of course, even Pagans can get all up in arms when a girl decides to forge her own path. I just did what felt right. I started collecting animal bones when I’d come across them in the woods because I felt they were powerful. I became a worshiper of the earth and the Universe because in them I saw magic. At some point it began occurring to me that there were no gods and goddesses. Just like there was no Christian god, we were alone in this journey. I wondered if I were an atheist afterall? I blogged about this at one point and I talked to people that had the same questions. They were hard to find though because no one knows what I am in person. Well, most of my family and friends think I AM an atheist actually and that’s fine with me. It honestly brings up fewer questions than would formulate should I try to explain…
I’m not sure there is anything after this. At least in the sense that we want there to be. I’m not sure that there is a rainbow bridge or a Summerland. I lean heavily toward a certainty that there is not, yet I find the Universe to be so damned magical in and of itself and I have experienced what people consider the "supernatural" at more than one point in my life. I try to factor in the magic of transformation in another sense. We die and are consumed by the earth. We become a part of it and therefore a part of the Universe. Eventually we are once again stardust. THAT must be magic, right?
Velma Nightshade and I had this discussion once and she said that she simply believed there is more. That it is not just that transformation in another sense. Interestingly enough I was with her (and several other friends) during one of the meditative experiences (led by the late Peter Paddon) in which I felt - DAMN, there IS something, I KNOW there is! In the present day I think I have turned some corner of the same belief because I’m closer to nature again. I live within its power daily. My life is somewhat dependent upon it. For instance, I now have to conserve water because I have my own water source. I have to worry about how much it rains/snows/the temperature because I’m caring for animals that also need that water and need to be cared for in different ways depending on what nature deals us. I can see the stars SO clearly. I can hear….everything it seems. The fields and woods and swamp are teaming with life and it is in my ears loud and clear every single day. I’m outside. A LOT. So, I experience things that I have always felt hold magic on a daily basis. So, if indeed there IS more, WHAT is it? What is it to me and does it even matter? And even though I tend to agree there is more that doesn’t discount the possibility in my head that whatever it is might still not mean that it is anything that I’ve been taught or led to believe or read or hoped or imagined. Am I just an eternal doubter? A skeptic of everything?
I go on about my business doing what feels right but I can't explain it to anyone. I still assign gender to certain things in spirituality even though the traditional Wiccan gender roles that I was taught did not end up making sense to me. I talk a lot to the moon here on the farm. I think it is because you can see her so clearly most nights, looking down upon fields and my own small spirit. I am at the barn after dark on most nights, even in the summer, and upon walking to the house I will tell her hello and thank her for lighting my way. I still request of Artemis to protect animals and I still kneel to Hern in the woods. I don’t feel as if these are things that I should let go of even though on the other hand I say that I don’t really believe in gods and goddesses. They are manifestations of spirit to me and that spirit can be secular and still be named. Can’t it?
I also have come to recognize that despite my inability to embrace the Goddess in all her forms I mother many things and am now the keeper of a hearth by the very nature of my life’s work. Still, this does not mean to me that gender assignment in spirituality works for me anymore than not secularizing spirituality does.
It all becomes extremely confusing and I dare not attempt to explain it to anyone. At least anyone that I speak to on a regular basis in my outside voice. So I write about it and I contemplate it and I share it with you guys on the off chance that anyone else has the same thoughts, struggles, has wandered the same paths at some point or is on them now, possibly hopelessly lost but fascinated with the journey.
The wind is howling right now. Yesterday began our transition into the swirling storms of fall, as leaves spun around us in vibrant hues of red, gold, orange. Persephone weaves her cloak and begins her descent…
The earth begins its vigil. The trees, dark and becoming barren, their lovely, soft summer greens turning brittle and unable to hold on, are stark and naked now. Only a few have been able to retain their leaves during this onslaught of wind and rain.
The horses are nervous. It’s the wind. It blows in odd smells I think and whips up noises that are unsettling to them. Wind has always represented chaos to me. I feel like it’s the same with them. We are prey to the earth and the things it conjures. We are on high alert for the battle to come.
I feel woefully behind in planning. I have done my best but there are things that I just have not had time to get to. The roof on the barn, which I thought would last for one more winter, is showing signs of giving up. I lost a bale and a half of hay last week from a new leak I discovered while organizing and counting bales. Roofers don’t like to look at things so close to winter. Nobody wants to work in what is to come. The cost will be an issue if it needs done earlier than I had planned. Life builds and unravels. It is the same for all of us I think.
What is it that implores us to fight on? I don’t know. I know that I have it, deep within me. It is difficult to muster at times but I do it. I’m just a belligerent sort of creature I suppose. Like my cat, Obi, I tend not to realize the size of my opponent. I don’t know when to stay down. I’m hoping it brings me through the other side of every major challenge.
Darkness is always with us now. Looming in the background. The days grow shorter and the mornings seem to have the hardest time pushing it back. Horses are so internally ruled by their surroundings so they move closer to the barn as it approaches, they linger in the far field for as long as they can on nice days, refusing the dinner bell like kids that want to stay out and play just a little longer. It is as if they too know that they must suck this all in while they can. The season of frozen water buckets, blankets and thigh high snow is racing toward us now. Like a train…and we are stuck on the tracks with it pressing down upon us. We have given up trying to free ourselves. The collision is inevitable.
When the things you do require travel and being outdoors during the season to come, you either look forward to it, you deal with it, or figure out ways to cope. I’m in the second and third categories of approach and I’m not always successful at either. Winter has forever been my enemy. Even as a child I hated it. Snow days were the only thing that made it marginally acceptable but again, at a very young age I realized that we would eventually pay for those by having to remain in school during the best season of the year! Why would you want to give up the warm days of early summer to be stranded with the beast of winter? I didn’t take to skiing, snowboarding and although I do know how to ice skate it too seemed really tedious to me in terms of the layers and the shivering (we had an outdoor rink in my hometown). I did my fair share of sledding and building igloos as a kid but even that was more to stave off cabin fever than actual fun.
I’m most definitely Spring’s child and Summer’s maiden. I have a list of indoor activities and projects for winter. Mostly painting, some minor repairs but a good part of it will be spent dealing with the ramifications of water freezing in buckets (because our new frost and freeze proof automatic waterer got installed too high off the ground and we have not been able to arrange for anyone to fix that so I will be bucketing and thawing the old fashioned way all season – something that I was hoping to not have to do), monitoring the weight of the horses, adjusting feed according to the same, shoveling, chopping wood, trying to stay warm myself…
Winter is Goliath to me. Only I am no David. I have many times conceded to its power. We must realize that there are enemies we cannot defeat. I simply try to cope. I surround myself with the music of the Dark Season, I write, I think, I try to hibernate as best I can and heal. I bide my time and know that in 16 weeks I will see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Spring will crawl from the frozen earth and muster her strength from the approaching sun. And when all seems lost she will burst forth and warm me, once again, the world will be reborn.
Now that I have spent eight or so weeks with myself, immersed in the long process of reclaiming a house from mistreatment and a farm from neglect, I'm becoming keenly aware that the process is mirrored within my soul.
I was sitting on the porch the other night, after working all day on some tedious, highly physical tasks. I was exhausted. My feet ached, my hands hurt, my shoulders and back were stiff and I was thinking about my journey, about my truth, about people and how they try to change us all. Well meaning or not it seems that life is sometimes a process of maneuvering around one obstacle or another, one person’s idea of who we are vs who we really are, deep down, in our own soul.
One time, long ago, I made what my parents considered a horrible decision to quit my job as a bodily injury adjuster for an insurance company and go back to school to pursue my eventual Master’s degree. My job paid well and I had a company car. What was I thinking? I was thinking my soul was dead but I couldn’t explain that to them. Let me be clear – 10 years in the insurance industry was a great deal responsible for my view of the world as I know it. To be fair, going on 20 years in public service has not negated any of that view and probably only added to my anger at the world at large but that is a whole other post…
Regardless of eventual job choice, that decision sent me down a path toward my truth. I was at the same time experiencing an awakening of magic in my life. I had discovered that there WAS something I believed in, Artemis had spoken to me, I was devouring magical writings and spending time in chat rooms and “meeting” tons of new people on that same journey. Odd things began to happen. Doors opened in my soul, friendships were formed, toxic people faded away, long discussions in dark pubs took up the majority of my spare time, nature spoke to me for the first time since childhood and I ventured into the world of myself. There was no one in my life but me and every moment was taken up by magic, reading, study, contemplation…
My ex always said I used to talk about this time in my life with a wistful tone that other people used when talking about a lover or their teenage years. He was certain I was romanticizing it, not seeing it clearly, like we often do when the past is long gone and its hardships somewhat faded. But he was wrong.
While I sat on the porch the other day, exhausted and alone, I thought about how hard this is. This thing I have chosen to do. And my next thought was not of doubt, or even of some misplaced cocky determination. My next thought was simply that it was right for me. I am right where I need to be, right where my life has been headed before. All things come to pass and all paths lead back to our truth if we only open ourselves to the voice of our own soul. Our longing. No matter how different that longing is from someone else’s, no matter what they are telling us we should want. We have to listen to ourselves.
I’ve not chosen a path that’s not convenient or even wholly practical. I’m not on a typical journey, nor have I ever been really, despite meanderings into the world of expectation and “normal” patterns of what life should consist of. A part of me always stayed hidden, longing, like a zoo animal of some sort, who despite her “natural” habitat provided for with regular meals and man-made climbing apparatus simply wants to feel her belly grumble with hunger, to hunt, to sense danger, to run, to be….a lion. Yes, a lion that has forgotten she is a lion still has an instinctual memory of the pads of her feet meeting the earth. She still dreams of the smells of her path upon that earth, the sounds of her homeland.
The road to our truth has twists, turns and stopping points along the way. Most recently I spent a year and a half resting. Thinking. Planning. Wondering if there was any way to get back on the path that I had so desperately fought to be on so many years ago. And there was. And I’m here. And it is hard. But, it is my truth. I’m fierce in my beliefs because I’ve had to defend my “different” since the first moment I can remember. Sometimes I built a better fortress than others. Sometimes I lost myself and other times I was barely able to hold on to anything of myself.
My truth has tears. Just this morning I read something and I cried. I cried for a creature I didn’t even know. I cried for the world we live in. My truth has blood. I’ve shed some already and I’ll shed more I know. I’ve buried the dead and wept. My truth has sweat and pain and exhaustion. My truth is lonesome and sometimes dicey. But it speaks to others too and I will find them. My tribe.
I’ll open my heart and my doors to the things that others ignore. The things that are forgotten and used. I feel kinship to them in a way because I too was once wild. I’ve known the feeling of being captured, rounded up, worn down. I’ve stared out of the equivalent of cages where my soul was locked away and I was bartering for the opportunity to let her out, just a little, so that she could take a single breath. So now I am in the middle of my life, tipping toward the end and I have little to show my soul in terms of proof of my commitment to this truth of mine. But still she smiles. Because my truth has magic. And hope.
Happy Ostara!!!!! I am sitting here watching it snow/rain on a peaceful Sunday morning. The animals have nodded off again, after getting up at our usual time, then going back to bed, then getting up again (I'm the only one who managed to stay awake this go-round). So, what I'm saying is that it is quiet. I can hear birds chattering on occasion and the faint snoring of the dog...
I have managed to be a very piss poor magical person and plan nothing for the first day of spring. Meh, I guess life has gotten the best part of my planning lately...
I think instead of anything formal I will just spend the day in quiet contemplation and mostly rest. Other than some minor chores I'm free to lounge, visit my horse and watch it spit snow one last time (fingers crossed). Winter is mourning itself now, even as it takes this last breath it is losing a grip on the world. Spring is giving birth to us all and our memories of how to live and grow and thrive are beginning to spark as we prepare to touch to warmth of the sun once more.
Blessings on this first day of renewal.
And with blessings some thoughts about spring from last year:
This is a really messy time of year, which gets me thinking about the birth of a season and the earth in general. I think that spring is possibly the most misunderstood season. Because people want it to be something it is not. Yes, they love the concept of winter ending and warmer weather and “life renewed” but they think in terms that aren’t accurate. People want spring to be like modern Easter. Full of brightly colored, clean eggs and new frilly clean dresses and enormous feasts fit for a very clean village.
That ain’t spring! Spring is fucking messy! It is muddy, wet, gooey and sometimes painful (if you count wiping up your floors four times a day from little dirty footprints as critters come and go). It is true birth. Birth of the creatures that we share the world with, the trees and plants that bud (and pollinate speaking of painful for many), the flowers that have struggled to the surface and finally break through, the cold blooded frogs, lizards and snakes that lie curled in the earth as they begin to come back to life…
These things aren’t sterile and crisp, clean white. They are bathed in the colors of struggle. The colors of blood and tears and grit. It takes an enormous amount of work to renew oneself and that rebirth doesn’t come without those things.
When I walk outside these mornings I am not greeted with promise. Promise was for Imbolc. Promise was the whispered words of those still underground telling me to hold on, just hold on a little longer… Promise has passed now and we have burst forth into what is real. What is real is that birth is all around us and every bit as messy as it should be.
I wonder how it is sometimes for things underground. Is it dark and cold and difficult to climb the staircase to the light? Do they claw and scratch their way forward? The roots and the steams and buds of spring flowers... Do they think about giving up? Do they cry because the journey is difficult only to burst through the muddy earth in triumph in the end? Or are they more like sleeping children, simply uncurling from a long and satisfying nap, lifting themselves to the sky and smiling at the sun?
I was working in the yard the other day and I saw an amazingly huge (and disgusting) nightcrawler making its way through the mud, going who knows where except maybe to find another place to dig back down into the ground... I pointed out to him that the robins were back so if he knew what was good for him he'd get his ass back to the abyss as fast as he could.
I saw the first robin on a snowy morning a couple of weeks ago. It had been warm a day or two prior and despite the "dangerous squall" going on around us this robin and at least a dozen others were in my front yard shoving their noses into the ground and serving as a beacon of hope for all of us tired, worn winter warriors.
Seems that spring has all but arrived and with it, some kind of cautious hope that life will begin to become less tedious, more warm, more welcoming to the sun coming up over the trees each morning. As personally I am still in the midst of struggle and uncertainty in life, I find a little bit of comfort in the shift. It is the "well at least" scenario. Well, at least it isn't snowing. Well, at least the days are getting longer. Well, at least the early bloomers are showing themselves...
Here is to hope for the rest of us, still ascending the staircase on our hands and knees at this point. Still seeking the light, knowing it is there somewhere and that we will reach it somehow, someday.
Here is to still holding onto hope even as we have to stop and rest, then shake ourselves awake and go a little further. Moment by moment, inch by inch, pulling ourselves forward without even really knowing why.
Here is to the stirring and the first scent of spring rain. We can smell it even underground and we follow it, thirsty for it, knowing it will nourish us and wash away the grime and heal the bruises of our lives.
At some point, on a robin's wing, we will be warmed by the light.
The one thing that I miss about weight lifting heavy is pain. Muscle pain. I am addicted to it and always have been. Sometimes I feel like if it were the sole reason that I lifted in the first place, I'd still be engaging in traditional "fitness" on a regular basis.
I love the feeling of sore muscles. Tight and incredibly raw, needing rubbed and stretched and massaged with a hot shower... There is absolutely nothing in this world that makes me feel more alive and thankful for my body than the feeling of aching muscles after a hard day's work.
Having just spent two weekends in a row installing a French drain under my house because the first one was not installed properly and got clogged, I can tell you a thing or five about pain. First, the digging. With short-handled shovels and little shortened hoes, headlamps on, duck walking and crawling through mud. We had to widen the drain trench (another thing not done properly the first time), install new pipe and rake out/haul out all the dirt we dug up. I got a whole new appreciation for coal mining while my dad told me stories about being "underground".
Then the gravel. Oh my the gravel. You can't just toss it in there because the house is already on top of where it needs to go. We got it delivered but they had to put it on the opposite side of the house of the crawl space door because there is no way to drive a truck to where we needed it. We had to shovel it into dad's ATV cart, drive it to the correct side of the house, dump it, shovel more. We did this over and over until we'd get a decent pile to work with. Then, to get it under the house and where it needed to be dad built a little cart (just big enough to hold gravel but still fit through the crawl space door) out of scrap wood he had in his workshop. The back tires were old lawnmower tires and the front tires were off a trashcan. There was a 100 ft. clothesline on the front and one on the back. I would fill the cart and he would pull it to the other end of the house, dump it in the trench and I would pull it back, fill it...over and over again we did this.
By the end of this weekend all we have left is finish work. Filling the final few feet of trench, mortar for the area around the drain where it leads from the crawl space to outside, putting down new, clean moisture barrier material where we were working...
I'm sore from head to toe. Shoveling is like THE close second to chopping wood for a full-body workout. This whole project cost around $400 in materials. Interestingly enough you'd pay a few thousand bucks to have someone do it for you. It is hard-ass physical labor in less than ideal conditions. My dad is 78 years old and other than having to rest more often than he used to he still outworks me.
When I'm sore like this I think about beginning a regular work-out program again. I think about how much I love being sore and how it is an addiction that's actually good for you so I should take advantage of it. Then I think about lifting a weight and the repetitive nature of counting sets and reps and thinking about different body parts on different days and... Then I start looking for other reasons to shovel or chop wood instead.
It has been a particularly bad month here so far in terms of weather. It doesn't matter how "mild" November and December were, once we hit the first of the year, we all knew we were in for it and Mother Nature has delivered. Besides experiencing Jonas (the 2nd most snowfall in this city ever recorded) we've had continual smaller storms and "dangerous snow squall" warnings (when did those become a "thing" anyway?) off and on for weeks. We seem to get more than TWC calls for every single time, which has led to a workmate naming this season "The Winter of Underestimation".
Considering everyone knows how passionate (lol) I feel about winter, it isn't a surprise to me that I'm quite grumpy these days and also sad, on and off on the verge of tears, tired, worn and just DONE. Even if the beginning of the season is mild, once I get to February I am simply so over even the possibility of cold, snow, ice and all the inconveniences that come with it that I need therapy daily.
I address weather only because I think it relates (for me anyway) to larger things and mindsets - my own and those of others. Somehow my mind goes into darkness (and not the good kind we celebrate) during the final half of winter. It is a very tricky time for me from a mental health standpoint.
It is in times like these that seeing or hearing about emotional pain, angst, anger and dealing with disappointment from those around me hits me deep and gets me thinking things like goddammit I am sick of this world. I'm sick of it for my friends, sick of it for myself and sick to death of not only not winning but not even getting to really play. There is something not right about the way things are, the way people are, the way the world's energy is flowing. The sci fi geek in me would say the Force is most definitely...off.
But, you know I watch a lot of historical documentaries and on many levels I've concluded it has always been this way. We like to believe that the world has improved and that things have changed but really, from a broad perspective, it isn't much different now than it ever was. There are some leaders that are forward thinking, others that are not. Political differences may have resulted in death then, now they result in varying degrees of something similar. Death of sense, of order, of the ability to distinguish between plausible representation and the outright laughable scenario. There is hope for some, then there isn't. It gets snatched away like your balance on a patch of ice. It is there then poof - gone. There are those at the top, then there are the rest of us in varying degrees, usually notated by what we are "worth" and that "worth" determined by money. There are gladiators (only they are not slaves or prisoners, they are actually among those at the top), there are peasants.
Then there is simply the sadness of life. Death, abuse, illness... Is it because we are SO connected to everything now that this stuff seems to flood in and overwhelm us? All news seems sad or horrific and it blasts in through Facebook and other media minute by minute. It isn't enough to simply not buy the paper or turn on the evening news. It is everywhere.
Shutting it off seems about as likely as controlling the snow or temperature. I think that is part of the frustration because although we perceive that we can control this information, in reality, we can't. I'm not sure how to deal with this time of year and/or the overflow of negative stimuli that only compounds it. I'm not even sure why I spend time (like this) contemplating it because I just get more off center and feel more sad.
So, I just try to grab hold of little Imbolc's hand and remember her telling me to hold on, just hold on a little longer... It is always the coldest and darkest time right before the scales tip ever so slightly toward the warmth of the light. Once that light appears, a little bit of rational thought will re-enter my mind.
Trying to live well in every way...and sometimes laughing about it later.