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5/28/13 11:24 pm - does my religion make my ass look fat?

don't tell me. i know it does.

dammit. and i was just getting into a size that felt comfy and looked good.

i just never seem to stay there long. just as i'm getting lean and mean and recon trim, i'll have a breakthrough in my cm practice or get caught up in some traditional witchcrafty Work, and bam! i get all poofy and puffy and fluffy, and move way too far down the ceremonial and neopagan end of the spectrum to get to hang out with the hardcore recon crowd any more. or i'll tip over into berkertland, and get so enamored with recreating minutiae of obscure cult practices that no one but the odd recluse, or terminal pedant, or eyeball-rattling insane person would find remotely interesting let alone understand. and my neopagan friends don't wanna play with me no more.

one of the things i love about the kyklos apollon, and the reason i've been a quiet member for years, is how beautifully simple it is. you worship apollon? got a minute at a particular time once a week? bam. you're in. doesn't matter if you're wiccan or recon or associate him with lugh or jesus, or if you do one of the many lovely elaborate templates, or just light a match at the right time.

the debates go on, of course, and i'm not a part of them. but i stay in the kyklos, because i love apollon, and therefore i'm welcome there.

hellenismos makes occasional burps about being a big tent, but if it is, it's holey and leaking and unwelcoming as hell.

there are a lot of people under that tent whom i do not love. there are a lot of people whose practices make me do a double-take, clutch handfuls of hair, roll my eyes. when i hear that someone is regularly offering their own blood to the erinyes, i can't help but wonder 'have you really thought this through?' but maybe they have. maybe they know something i don't. i have my own personal bugaboos, generally involving people who insist that there is NO RAPE in greek mythology, it's all just feminist reworking of what were once touching love stories. (see? couldn't resist the tiny whiff of sarcasm, could i?) but they belong under that frayed and flapping tent too. the gods apparently have use for what seems fluff to me, in the great balance of things. and since my own beliefs and comprehensions constantly evolve and morph, i sure can't be making any absolutist statements.

it's silly to get caught up in wanting a community, really. i've known for quite some time that i am pretty much relegated to solitary work, and most of the time i'm fine with it. there are maybe half a dozen folks in a 100 mile radius who will try to show up if i'm hankering to offer my theoi some public kleos with co-religionists. but if that happens a couple of times a year, it's a good year. there's just no way that schedules and personalities and proximity are going to allow for more than that. and it's okay, really. i'm a solitary person, and have my own odd eclectic round of daily, lunar monthly, and annual observances. it's very satisfying, and is constantly evolving enough to stay fresh and exciting. and when i want to do deeper Work with someone else, or observe the much-derided Wheel of the Year sabbats that i still love, or just enjoy the company of other people who are pagan and pleasant, i've got a very few witch friends i can go to, and a really nice big inclusive cheerful neopagan world to romp through.

it ain't so bad.

but for most of the neopagan world i'm WAY too recon to be a regular participant in anything else. if you're hanging out with wiccans, it's just stupid to piss and moan about the god and goddess, or demand that kthonic libations be poured out into a trench, or try to get everyone to learn epithets. i go to wiccan rituals to enjoy standing in circle with cool people and feeling the energy raise, focus and lower (assuming it does, which is another post, isn't it?) not to try and foist recon practices on disinterested people. and maybe, if i'm fortunate and not pushy, toss in some hellenic nuggets here and there. just in case there's a theoi-worshipper-in-the-making lurking out there. but my wiccan and neopagan friends aren't going to come with me on daily prayers and libations, on a 5th century athens calendar of religious observations, on learning some greek epithets and their meanings, on laboriously trying to work out and intuit just when it IS okay to offer Demeter wine, if ever. i don't think it's a matter of it being hard work at all. i think most folks just ain't interested, any more than i am in learning islam. just doesn't ring the chimes.

and yet for the recon crowd, i'm unbearably fluffy and light-minded and not nearly serious and committed enough. i skip festivals. sometimes my daily devotions are thrumming with sincerity and connection, and sometimes they're pretty rote. sometimes i recite epithets in english. if i use them at all. sometimes i spend hours crafting and preparing a ritual, and cleansing and preparing myself for it. sometimes i wash my hands and face and trudge out with a cup of raw milk.

sometimes my 'festivals' are that cup of raw milk and a prayer that is festival-themed.

my practice is gods-centered (i'm always shocked when i see purported pagans saying stuff like 'if the gods disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn't have any effect on my practice.') but it's also me-centered. the gods are, apparently, much gentler with me than with some other folks, which makes sense because everyone's religion is subjective. and in my practice, it involves me, how it makes me feel, how it encourages me to grow, how it sustains me in hard times, and teaches me in times of disconnection and dark nights of the soul. in the relationship i have with my gods, it's okay for me to be important too. because i am so amazingly, shockingly, incredibly, unbelievably loved.

i don't know all the different incarnations of even the gods to whom i'm most devoted, and all the myriad differences in how they should be honored. and (heresy according to the latest outrage) my hero cultus, such as it is, has absolutely nothing to do with graves or cenotaphs or any consideration whatsoever as to the final resting spot, putative or created or actual, of the bones of the hero in question.

i don't care if odysseus was historical or not. his importance to me goes so far beyond his actuality, or bones.

i'm a bad recon.

sometimes- often- gods reveal themselves to me through fictional characters. or a person on the street. or an animal. i don't feel the need to parse that into smithereens. i assume it's the same for some folks, maybe never for others. i just know how it happens for me.

i so wish we could talk about this stuff in the few fora that are active. i'd love to hear people thoughtfully share information on how they move through relationships with different beings and spirits, mortal ones like dryads and immortal ones like heroes and created ones like egregores and elementals. i'd love for people to feel safe enough to discuss instances where they weren't sure if they were communicating with a god or not, and how to bumble through encounters that are frightening or confusing. i wish we had a few places where superiority and sarcasm weren't the vehicles for suppressing, rather than exchanging, ideas.

i suppose human nature is what it is. i'm guilty too. i recently got sucked into a forum (damn you, fern!) where an admin was holding forth on how it was her opinion that wicca was ancient, far older than any other religion on earth, and that gardner was just the guy who happened to write it down for the first time EVER, and no evidence could persuade her otherwise because it was her opinion, and dammit, she's entitled to it. and despite all my high-minded ideas, i found myself snarking away.

but i realized, when i bitchslapped myself back outa there, that all i did was garner some high-fives and adrenaline-fueled applause from already like-minded people. i didn't give any useful information to anyone who might have been searching. i didn't persuade anyone who was open-minded enough to hear other povs, because i was nasty. and all nasty gets you is an ugly echo chamber.

i think i can do better. i think the gods deserve better from me.

i do think there are wrong ways to do things, and some stuff that's frankly stupid. but i think most of us could be a lot more judicious- and courteous- before we slam an idea that doesn't jive with us into the 'stupid' and 'wrong' column. having been a n00b at one point, i know i learned far more from discussion than i ever did from scornful dismissal. and it's not all about noobs anyway, near as i can see. if the gods want someone, they get 'em. we all had to figure it out for ourselves at some point.

so, here i stand, with my religion stretched uncomfortably over my big inclusive let's-all-sing-kumbayah ass.

of course, i'm really not as inclusive as all that. if i were, i wouldn't be so obsessively solitary.

really, i just want to not be an asshole, and to have some real conversations with folks who love the same gods i do, and aren't assholes.

khairete

suz

8/5/11 09:33 pm - horsegeekery

first of all, however goofy bill shatner may be, captain james t. kirk is sex on a bun. he just never palls.
i rode nik today, for the first time in a year, and the first schooling session (although i use the term lightly) in over 2 years. i think it was before my last exalted ride on bo, the one where brian took all the pictures, before he foundered. that was summer '09.
shit.
i put the bitless bridle on her just for kicks. nik has no issues with any of her bridles, but jasmine went so well in it that i was curious to see how Psychomare would behave. jasmine loved it, but she was never trained to anything above stop, go and turn before she was lamed. nik has had years of training, and is sensitive, responsive and athletic even in her old age, but also has not lost the explosive factor. so while she has the knowledge to go with less bits of leather and metal hanging about, i was genuinely concerned about a) having brakes and b) having sufficient nuance to be able to get a response to the subtler aids.
it was a success. she started off jiggity and fussy, not surprising in a thoroughbred with too much time off. the bridle surprised and puzzled her, and she naturally wanted to test it. but she's so tuned in, even after all the downtime, to my seat and legs, that i need very little hand to keep her with me and this bridle was plenty enough to give me that. what a pleasant surprise!
my girl has no muscle tone, her topline is completely gone. she muscles up very quickly, but if she's not working regularly and correctly it goes to hell even more quickly, and she's been off for a long time. so it's not surprising that she couldn't stay on the bit for long, but bless her, she gave it to me over and over for several strides at the trot. i wasn't sure if half-halts on the outside rein and little bendy squeezies on the inside rein would go through with no bit, but i'll be damned if she didn't soften her jaw, lift her back and drop softly into my hands, the energy circling in waves through my hands and back into her hind legs, gorgeous and round. and if i let her move from that into a stretchy head-down trot, she didn't resort to her evasive mode, which is head-up and back hollowed. i got that occasionally, but not too often. when you consider her age, her time off, her lack of conditioning and, frankly, that her ma is no lightweight to haul around, i'm thrilled at how little she resisted me.
she generally tests at the beginning of a ride, and with a new piece of equipment it's inevitable. 'am i in charge? if i am, we're going to go fast. so i'll speed up now. how do you like this?' if her rider tenses up, she decides the only safe thing to do is take over, and for her that always means go lickety-split. but if her rider firmly and QUIETLY sets an easy rhythm with soft hands and an authoritative seat, she's happy to come back and comply. but she'll test. today was no different, but you could almost hear her sigh of relief that she didn't have to be the captain.
nik has talent. it's almost a shame that she got stuck with me, as i never progressed far enough to explore all the things she could have done. i bought her to event, but never got good enough (or had the money) to do it. on the other hand, she's so high-strung and dramatic that riders good enough to handle her would probably have chosen to do their thing on a horse with less baggage. so it's not so bad that we ended up together. i'm a lazy rider and would never have pushed myself to improve as much as i have if i had an easy horse. nik hasn't always been fun, but she has forced me to work hard and get good, because you can't ride her if you're not good. i'm not great, but i'm a hell of a lot better than my nature inclines me to be, because i have a horse who won't settle for less. a poor rider would never have kept a fireeater like her, and a great rider wouldn't put up with the histrionics. so i guess we both ended up right where we should be.
i love my sweet considerate jasmine, and had a blast on my scooterpie ponylove. but there is no horse in the world who thrills me like my pickles. she is such a lamborghini, so instantly responsive to my slightest movement, so forward and eager, so fiery and red. i feel completely and utterly at home in her saddle, with that long neck stretched out before me, those elegant ears swiveling to listen to my voice, that ground-eating stride.
the walk was tense and quick at first, but settled down in mostly-good relaxed long strides, not really on the bit but not high and hollow either. the trot was the best today, not super consistent but frequently brilliant. she handled the trot poles quietly and efficiently. i was worried about the canter, as i'm not sure her back end is strong enough to do it any more. it used to be her best gait, and wasn't today, but it wasn't awful either, and best of all, she held up for it (although i kept them very brief.)
i didn't try any lateral work, and i suspect the bitless bridle doesn't have sufficient sensitivity to do much there. she picked up the wrong lead to the right, her 'bad' lead, and i attempted a flying change and didn't get it, but that's not a surprise. even when she's strong, i'm not very good at them and often don't ask her correctly, so it's probably not the bridle's fault that i needed to go to a simple change. a rider with an excellent seat can probably get high school results without a bit, but at my level i probably would need one if i were going to do anything much above training level. but she and i are both old, and i just want to enjoy her. we hacked down the lane and around the boy scout field with our new bridle and it was great. we don't need no steeking half-passes or turns on the haunches.
afterwards i gave her a long bath, and the fact that she adored it underscores how i've been neglecting her. when she was getting hosed off several times a week and bathed a couple of times a month she hated it. now it feels like pampering to her.
she was SO pleased with herself afterwards. so was i.
so why don't i ride more?
khairete
suz

8/5/11 08:46 am - lughnasadh!

i know lughnasadh is a fire sabbat, dedicated to the celtic sun god lugh. but as the festival of first harvest, it always feels demetrian to me. and it's the most bittersweet of all of them.
it's usually hot at the beginning of august, with few hints that autumn is on its way in. but the hints are there. yellow leaves up and down the lane, and quivering on the river birch. the days are noticeably shorter now. still long, still plenty of time to putter around after dinner and still finish up the dishes before dusk, but fireflies are now few and far between.
yesterday my hummingbirds were mobbing the feeder. i was horrified. it's still summer! WAY too soon for them to leave me!
the grass is dry and yellow and prickly. hard on the feets.
the mares are droopy when i bring them in for breakfast. there are audible sighs of relief when i turn off the lights and turn on their fans.
i'm twitchy and out of sorts. it's hot and glorious, but i'm not sinking into it the way i want to. the knowledge that classes start next month is always at the back of my brain, nagging me to work on my syllabi, scolding me for not having lost the weight i hoped to this summer, reminding me of what i haven't accomplished. i know what i need to do, i'm just too pissy and distracted to do it.
so i leave my offerings of bread and milk, and one of the few tomatoes i rescued from the stink bugs in the garden. i pray to Demeter, and to Apollon and Lugh. and try to find my way back into the moment, the golden sweet present.
and i thought age would bring wisdom!
khairete
suz

7/10/11 10:46 pm - adonia

this is the first time i've done more than a libation/prayer/offering for the adonia, and i'm glad i did. i think there are layers of complexity to this....what is it? not a festival. event?......that i'll be unpacking for years to come.
i spent the day at a horse show, baking in the glorious july sun and generally enjoying myself. it wasn't until i began fixing dinner that i began to sink into the ritual mindset, preparing fresh summer produce, mostly locally grown (today is also my monthly demeter day, which has resonances with the adonia as well). i don't know what (if any) food was traditionally offered on the adonia, but i kept in mind as i worked that this would be offered to him later.
after dinner and cleaning up, i went out in the beautiful purple dusk to water the herb garden and flower pots and refill the fountain, imagining the falling drops as tears mourning the death of the beautiful boy, the breathtaking lover. fireflies rose like sparks around me, and a male hummingbird with a throat as red as blood kept me company. it was so beautiful that it was hard to keep my mind on the ritual, but i slowly slowly sank into it. it takes over half an hour to water everything so there's time.
i brought the mares in and fed them, giving jazzie a good groom which she loved. while they had their dinner i went out to the paddock in the moonlight, and the first wave of grief hit. i was thinking about a man who died a few days ago trying to catch a baseball for his son at a major league game, falling out of the stands to his death on the walkway below. the stricken player who had thrown him the ball said the worst sound he has ever heard were the sobs of the little boy for his daddy. that led to thoughts of my beautiful brother sam, lost so young, all his potential gone, his dancing blue eyes and wicked sense of humor. michael, with all his secrets and all his rich laughter. all those men, the not so young ones as well, but tonight my mind was especially on those young young men fighting and dying in stupid, senseless, atrocious wars overseas. so gallant. so brave. (yes, i know there are women also. but it's the adonia. i'm focused at this point on the loss of male youth, beauty, fertility, manliness.)
it's so heartwrenchingly tragic and beautiful, this whole human existence thing. if it's so hard for us to bear, how to the immortals do it? watch us and love us in all our ignorance and doomed glory and certain loss, over and over again?
what a night it must have been in ancient athens, all the women keening and wailing, throwing their pots to lie smashed and shattered in the streets below, tearing their hair and garments. how surreal.
i went out to the orchard, in sight of the persephone shrine with its solar light bright in the moonlight, and near the aphrodite plum tree, and laid on the altar the wilted roses from the aphrodisia last week, and the perfect body of a butterfly that i found earlier today. i lit a stick of myrrh incense, and set the offerings of food and the last of the plum brandy i made a few years ago on the ground by the altar. then i sat in the grass in the moonlight for a while. the fireflies are dwindling. they peak between the solstice and july 4th, and by the end of july they're pretty much done. i'll find a few glowing weakly in the grass when the first frosts come, but they won't keep me company on my starlit swims much longer.
lots of summer left. lots of hot days and warm precious nights, long sweet evenings and swimming and sunbathing and fresh good food and being outside every second i can. but the days are getting shorter. it's not really perceptible yet, but it's there.
there are a lot of death and rebirth myths and rituals and festivals. and a good few that focus on gods loving and losing humans, and how love never really dies, it's transformed. but the simple joy of the first experience is truly gone, so the loss is as real as the love. the message might be the same in the myths of hyakinthos and iason and adonis, but the nuances are different and importantly so (or we wouldn't have different myths, would we?)
i'm looking forward to exploring these nuances over the years.
i've decided to institute a new festival of my own, the iasonia, which will be held on the 9th day of the 9th month (elaphabolion) and will commemorate demeter's union with iason in the thrice-plowed field.
hm. i'm thinking i won't get to the ironing tonight. isn't that a pity?
khairete
suz

6/27/11 10:11 pm - a word about elimination

england doesn't mince words when it comes to privy matters. there are no coy euphemisms like 'bathroom' (what, you're taking a bath in the middle of dinner?) or 'restrooms' (who rests?) or 'powder rooms' (cocaine is so passe), 'comfort stations' (some are truly not), not even the 'loo' or 'water closet' (which is what i grew up using, but are apparently considered precious these days.) if you need to widdle, make water, go number two or evacuate your bowels, you must simply ask directions to the 'toilet', and 'toilet' is what's on all the signs.
my friend ross (rolph as he'll always be to me) pokes gentle fun at americans, who have coarsened discourse to the point of having obscenities as entertainment, but are too tender of sensibilities to refer to the appliance in question by its name.
there is something so very in-your-face about it. ladies DO sometimes retire simply to powder their noses or comb their tresses, but i suppose since the TOILET (can't we just refer to it as a commode???) is in there, it must be plopped into the conversation. saying 'excuse me, i'll be back in a sec, must go to the toilet' sounds to me as if i'm giving WAYYYY more info than anyone wants. along the lines of 'hey, got to pass some explosive gas and then maybe drop a gigantic dump, probably piss while i'm at it, see if the waitress will bring around the dessert tray, willya?'
i was saying it by the end of two weeks, out of self-defense. it was bad enough being a clearly american tourist, with all the baggage THAT entails, but to have the locals look at me blankly when i asked directions to the restrooms got old quickly. 'ladies' room' and 'men's room' seemed to work better, but even then the pragmatic english attitude seemed to be 'why on earth don't you just ask for what you want? you want to whizz, right?'
what really threw me, though, was that as i was still absorbing the whole 'toilet' thing and getting acclimated to looking for the right signs, in london i was also peppered with TO LET signs (for rental properties, gentle american readers) and i kept wondering what happened to the missing I.
:) khairete
suz

6/25/11 08:16 pm - england- stone circles

how aggravating that i don't have a stonehengey sort of icon!
i didn't visit stonehenge. my brother does not share the general english view that it's not worth the trouble, what with being both expensive AND fenced-off so that one cannot commune with the stones. he says it's magnificent just as it is, which i get because that's how i felt about niagara. it should have been cheapened by the tourist glitz and silliness, the hotels and tour boats and helicopters and the maddeningly awful lights behind the falls at night. yet they rise above it all, and still awe the soul.
i'll bet stonehenge is like that.
but i don't know for sure. didn't see avebury either, although that and glastonbury were hugely on my wanna-see list. one can only do so much in 2 weeks.
but i did get to see castlerigg circle, high in the hills of the lake district above the town of cheswick (pronounced chez-ick) which is apparently comprised entirely of B&Bs. the pictures on the website looked wild and lonely, far from human habitation, doubtless accessible only after a strenuous hike of hours.
we met a lovely young couple at our B&B in scotland who were from cheswick, and pleased to hear my enthusiastic anticipation of their hometown. but when i waxed rhapsodic at the prospect of castlerigg and its lonely isolation, the young woman uncomfortably informed us that it's actually less than a mile outside of town, and that you just drive up to it and park.
oh well.
and sure enough, after a climb steep enough to have our little vauxhall corsa gasping and begging for mercy, we came upon a lot of parked cars and (disconcertingly) an ice cream truck. we had found our mecca!
as we extricated ourselves from the car (we had to park in a prickly ditch), struggled into our macs (drizzle threatened) and our backpacks (never travel without water and plenty of digestive biscuits), a group of about a dozen stalwart british ladies preceded us into the field, striking a chill into my heart. and sure enough, they marched over to the circle, talking animatedly, made their way to the inner circle and ensconced themselves comfortably upon the aunciente stones, passing around thermoses of tea and unwrapping- i kid you not- an entire iced cake which they sliced and handed round with napkins and forks (real forks, not plastic.) i have never seen such a thing. i thought it only occurred in alice through the looking glass. they talked and tittered loudly, taking lots of pictures of each other and thoroughly enjoying their tea, whilst i slunk around the perimeter, trying to simply enjoy the staggering vista of hills and dramatic clouds, and not glare at them.
and the vista was truly staggering. let's see if LJ will let me post some pics without making me nut up.....
nope. apparently not.
i really need to find another blog format. LJ has become too cumbersome and dated, not to mention expensive.
well, the vista was staggering. you'll just have to take my word for it. david wandered off to the edge of the field, past the sacred (and ubiquitous) sheep, and found a wonderful stairsteppy stile over an ancient stone wall, with an enigmatic lone standing stone near it, far from the circle. there was a partially burned log nearby, several wilting bouquets of flowers, and a brilliantly blooming yellow rose bush. i'd love to know what the scoop is.
i continued to prowl and glare. the Tittering Ladies continued to titter and take pictures of each other. david found the remnants of incense at the base of one of the biggest stones. yay! worship takes place here still!
people came and went. the Tittering Ladies stayed. david started to make 'have we seen enough?' movements. i squinched my eyes shut and mentally begged/threatened/importuned/menaced.
and the Tittering Ladies shared a final hearty guffaw, assiduously picked up their trash, and vacated the inner circle. i sent them mental thanks, gave their backsides mental kicks, and pounced upon the inner circle before anyone else could claim it.
i'd love to say the hair rose on the back of my neck, and that i heard the whispered invocations across the turgid centuries, that robed figures and faint torches imprinted themselves spectrally upon my consciousness. none of this happened. and yet it was still wonderful, beautiful, memorable. david took a picture of me within it, and then wandered off to have a word with the sheep while i did a quiet but palpable Elemental Balancing Ritual.
and then we went for a thumping good hike.
:) khairete
suz

6/24/11 07:32 pm - england: on drivers and driving

when i left england i resolved to drive like an englishwoman. (okay not like wendy pulling into her driveway- more on that to follow- but like our american conception of an englishwoman.) i resolved to put aside even minor bouts of road rage, to allow those merging onto highways to do so, to use the fast lane for passing, to yield where appropriate. i already stick like velcro to my side of the road, don't tailgate and only speed where it makes sense, ie on open highways with no cops around and help requests to Hermes sent out.
but it's hard to do when you're the only one playing. especially in a country where you look around for police help when someone is viciously tailgating you at 70mph in the dark on an icy road, and you realize that it's a cop doing it.
driving on the wrong side of the road isn't that big a deal. if you just remember that you (the driver) should be in the center of the road, you don't have to keep checking your hands to see if you're on the correct side.
what? you don't check your hands to make sure you haven't got left and right mixed up?
i blame my bermudian/british school upbringing. i have to mentally face mrs. redford's blackboard and picture RIGHT and LEFT in the upper corners. you'll notice if i ever give you a riding lesson i only use 'inside' and 'outside' because left and right boggle me so.
i say how easy it is, and yet when i left my beloved martha yesterday (after our last run until she returns in two years...sob) i drove smartly out of the battlefield, turned right onto harper's ferry road and promptly drove into town in the left lane. until i met a startled oncoming driver, that is. and had to call my husband at work to let him know about it, because i don't process any crisis big or small until i've told him about it. as you can imagine, this is not easy for the poor man.
in england, those merging onto the highway have the right of way. motorists already on the highway slow down or move to the fast lane to let drivers on. astonishing! and even more incredible, the passing lane is used only for....
wait for it.....
passing.
no pacing each other. no dogging the fast lane (and no zipping past in the slow lane. i know!!!) if someone in the slow lane is piddling along, you pass them and move back over. even if you are a tractor-trailer (wait, a lorry. i don't think i saw any tractor-trailers there, did i?) even if you have a fast car. even if you are in a hurry. even if you're a Mean Person. i didn't see ANY instances of one big truck going 47 passing another one going 45 and then staying in the fast lane because it was easier than moving back. not even on the M-1.
it wasn't perfect. there were occasional tailgaters, and i'm pretty sure i did get flipped off once. all those circles are bewildering, and i'm not a fast driver at the best of times. but nothing- NOTHING!!!- like it is here.
when most people practice courtesy, everything flows. here, in a country where individualism is taken to such ridiculous degrees that we can in all seriousness have a recruiting slogan for our armed forces that reads 'an army of one' (can you hear the spartans laughing??) it doesn't work, but in countries where people live in closer quarters, courtesy has so much more value. no wonder the japanese are so incredibly polite.
so, i spent most of the day in the car earlier this week, going to PA to get my raw milk (must...not.....start....that rant.......) and then to take foo to get his elizabethan collar off and staples out. lots of highway and a fair amount of secondary roads. plenty of time to practice my new philosophy.
but it's so hard unless everyone else is in on it.
i did have some successes. i did let others merge even if it inconvenienced me for a micro-second (and was rather taken aback to realize how odd this was), i yanked myself back from the brink of mentally cussing out other drivers. but that's about it. i found myself constantly going to the pissy place, not really road rage (i rarely go there) but just fuming and negative and unpleasant, and had to keep consciously putting a pleasant expression on my face which tends to cause one's thoughts to lighten up. it was very hard to stay in the slow lane if there was any traffic at all, because it's so clogged. of course, the fast lane is clogged too, because no one moves over after they've passed. i wanted to shriek each time i encountered someone in the fast lane keeping perfect pace with their neighbor in the slow lane. but that violated the courtesy rule so back onto my face went the smile.
england's back roads and villages are another matter. tiny, tiny, tiny. bermuda-road sized. and most with no discernible speed limits, other than my enigmatic GPS which said '60' way more than i believe is feasible. and insane brits whipping around those blind hills and corners all casual-like, sometimes texting as they go. cars parked randomly up and down 'main streets' barely wide enough to fit a racing bicycle. i had to laugh at myself for thinking the back roads would be more picturesque and less stressful than the main drags. picturesque? you betcha. downright phenomenal. but so much steering wheel gripping and eyes popping trying to stare through flowering hedgerows and over stiles and around sheep (have i mentioned the sheep per capita numbers in great britain??) that the stress level was something along the lines of piloting a space shuttle. at least on the big roads you could SEE. see the roundabouts that occur every quarter mile, anyway.
and finally there's my darling wendy, an excellent driver who whips her golf around like one of the top gear guys, and inexplicably speeds up when she's 10 yards from her short driveway and FLIES into it, standing on the brakes to halt 1/4 inch from her garage. i flashbacked to 'the world according to garp', each and every time.
it made a great excuse to collapse in her kitchen with a cup of tea half-filled with british double cream.
:) khairete
suz

6/20/11 10:27 pm - england part two

not surprisingly i got distracted from my 'people' focus last night and got swept away by westminster abbey. so tonight i'll just let my little brain meander where it will. it's summer solstice eve, after all. i can't be expected to be coherent.
if there were a moon out, or clear starlight, it would be a lost cause. but since it's beclouded i shall spend some time musing before i go out and do Important Witchy Things.
i love that every english hamlet and village has its own version of westminter abbey, not as gilded of course, but in almost all cases ancient, beautiful, carefully-crafted, and most importantly, used. in one of the most secular nations around, in a country cash-strapped enough that the first-estaters all let tourists into at least part of their palatial homes and many of these churches rent space as tourist info centers or bazaars, they ARE still working churches with clergy and congregations. in some weird indefinable way, it's so much more satisfying than our loud, often angry, american brand of religion where we have churches on every corner but they are rarely long-established, dignified or beautiful. even the wealthy ones like the gold-plated mormon tabernacles or osteen's mega-church are modern and self-conscious, almost offensive when held up against the magnificence of english ecclesiastical architecture, even though both are incredibly ostentatious.
(and what would the simple shepherd who taught in marketplaces and open fields have thought of any of them?)
it's not that i think one or the other is better. clearly Ellas knew how to create houses of worship that were designed to strike awe and humility into worshippers. in many ways it's easier to hear the quiet, thrilling voice of the divine under the stars or in a grove. but there's something to be said for the energy created by standing in a place conceived, crafted and created by inspired, dedicated, brilliant master builders, all for the glory of their various gods. a pre-fab doesn't quite cut it, not in the same way.
one of my favorite books from my childhood is an obscure little volume called 'the little white horse' by elizabeth goudge. my copy, bought for me by my mother when i was 7, has gold-painted page edges and incredible illustrations. one of them is titled 'scrubbing sir wrolf' and shows a lad busy with a bucket and scrub brush on the tomb of a knight in full armor, whose head is resting on a carved unicorn, feet on a lion. it's graved indelibly in my mind, and i felt as if i ran into it over and over on this vacation. so much love and dedication focused on the memorials of the beloved dead. very appealing in a way (at least to an adherent of a religion where ancestor and hero-worship is a fact) and yet also a bit dismaying to one who thinks that too much thought goes into an afterlife that is putative at best and too little into living the best NOW that one possibly can.
but it's kicked off a cool train of thought that's been absorbing me ever since. apparently i have things to work through in this area.
the castles are another matter. the only one i visited that is currently lived in was alnwick, the harry potter castle. it was gorgeous, of course, even if the lived-in part is slightly silly, being done up entirely in florid italian renaissance inside its stately and staunchly english exterior. the duke of northumberland (who apparently owns the entire North and then some) isn't suffering from the upkeep of his huge estate, as the gardens alone bring in millions per year. we didn't see the harry potter part of it all, but i'm betting it's a shrewd proposition.
but my favorite castles were the ruined ones, especially framlingham. i don't honestly know if it's the romance of ruins, or the fact that my imagination could run wild rebuilding them in my mind, or that there's no envy involved since real people don't inhabit them, or that it's so fun to imagine being able to perform an LBRP or samhain circle inside their ivied walls in the moonlight. but the monastery at bury st. edmonds, framlingham and orford entranced me.
in addition to being beautiful, alnwick held a great gift for me in that i met my old family friend ross (aka rolph) there, a dear man whom i had not laid eyes on in decades. he's one of my brother richard's oldest friends, and one of my first crushes (probably because he was one of the only of richard's friends who was ever nice to me when i was a kid.) he's a wonderful writer, and after years of enjoying his blog, i finally got to see his adopted hometown of amble and see all the places i've been reading about for years, but i got to meet his beautiful little doxie cailean. and david and i got treated to an awesome dinner.
love you, bolphie! the poem you wrote for me when i was doing the Master Cleanse is still displayed above my desk!
getting to see places you've read about for years is always a treat. i loved getting to do it when i went to visit hewet_ka_ptah several years ago, and even though i'd seen pictures of wendy's place, being there was totally different. not only did i love wendy's backyard to distraction, i spent my time there ecstatically rediscovering 'the water babies' which i hadn't read since i was tiny and had totally forgotten. tom's adventures will always now have the feel of being in that beautiful wild little garden, with its lavender roses, frog-haunted pond and the incessant cooing of pigeons.
i love that every village has its village green, just as i've read about for years. it's a totally different feel from 'parks.' village greens are USED. not just with mulch-padded swingsets and taut toned young mothers, but by everyone. people walking their dogs, riding their ponies, running, playing team sports, kids hanging out.
and the public footpaths. oh, how i wish we had such things here. the farmers get some sort of break, i gather, in return for allowing access to their fields and pastures, and they maintain them and put up stiles so you can get over fences and are expected to behave and not trash the property. and people do. so you can meander all over this beautiful island, countless miles of breathtaking walks (and bridle trails and bike paths) all of which make living in smaller homes, more densely-packed communities and busier marketplaces so much more attractive. we have all this land here, but it's all fenced, barb wired, 'no trespassing!!!' signed. it's not that i'm not for private landowners' rights, but there is something to be said for the mindset that our land belongs to all of us and should be both worked and enjoyed by more than those who can afford to own it.
oh, the walks we took. such wonderful walks. even the two times i got lost at wendy's (both trying to figure out the same footpath!)
bear in mind when you visit and are lured down the siren-song paths, they don't all connect or make logical sense. you may see a sign on the side of a narrow hedgerow-edged road beckoning to you, find a precarious parking place and follow it, only to find it starts and ends inexplicably in a couple of fields, with other paths tantalizingly visible another field or two over. but you can't get there from here.
and that's okay.
we galloped eagerly onto one in the lake district, overlooking the irish sea, with a glorious waterfall plunging down steep mist-shrouded mountains. it wound us around a lovely old mill, through sheep-nibbled turf, into farmyards and chicken runs, past neatly tended kitchen gardens, and mountain homes with views to stagger the imagination, but try as we might we could not make it to that dang waterfall. i call it the Hike of the White Hart, as it was an elusive quarry who tempted us on, the journey greater than the desired destination.
okay, time to end this one. it's solstice eve! i've got communing to do!
khairete
suz

6/19/11 07:26 pm - england part one

(since i will surely not get it all in one or two or several go-rounds. and i tend to forget to blog at all most of the time. i compose them in my head and then i think that i actually wrote them. see, i'm digressing and i haven't even started. welcome to my brain.)
i've already ruled out trying chronology. it makes me nut up and my brain starts to fritz. so i'll just pick random aspects of visiting england to focus on and see where it takes me.
i'll start with people. yeah, that works. to lead into that, i'll state for the record that i'm crazy in love with Knights. all of 'em. wendy's been in my heart and head for years, her kids and mine are inextricably intertwined, i've always adored will, and now matt has joined the group Knights About Whom The Thackstons Can't Squee Loudly Enough.
if you're new to a country, getting met by a calm person who first thing takes you to a coffee stand and lets gentle amusing banter wash over you, then getting tucked into a car and whisked through the bewildering foreign streets to a lovely quiet welcoming home and nestling you in, just can't be beat.
we elected to fortify ourselves with coffee and set out to have adventures rather than nap, and try to acclimate to the new time as quickly as possible, which turned out to be a good strategy (although it would never have worked if we'd been on our own.) the caffeine and the exhilaration of being in friggin' LONDON kicked in, and matt shepherded us expertly onto buses and tubes (eek!!!) and on to the wonder that was downtown.
i find cities uncomfortably crowded, and england's cities (and towns and villages for that matter) are even more than ours, as the british sensibly keep their countryside pastoral and their humans in human communities. i didn't see one single solitary trophy house neighborhood with vast empty acres of Chemlawn. i'm sure they exist, but they're not the norm.
but for someone who lives in the sticks, the crowded streets (and the pickpockets who infest them) could be dismaying if not in the company of someone who so coolly and cheerfully negotiates them as matt did. in the first hour he saved my life at least a couple of times. you do NOT stumble off a curb into a london street. ever. british motorists are far more courteous than american ones, but london is a traffic madhouse. exceptions for klutzy american tourists don't exist. don't take it lightly.
but once i figured out that the two-feet rule does not and cannot exist, the beauty and variety and splendor and OLDNESS of the city swept me away. we wandered, jaws dropped, past classical statues, monuments of historical figures, gorgeous edifices built hundreds of years ago and still functioning briskly, brilliant gardens, fountains, palaces, arches, towers, and churches.
oh yes. churches.
i would never have guessed how admiring i could be of christian monuments until i went to england.
and until i met westminster abbey.
i was so busy gawping at the OUTSIDE that i didn't even really pick up on matt's insistence on going in before us so he could see our reaction to the inside. oh my gads.
there's something almost obscene about that amount of opulence. every single inch of that place is a masterpiece, some master craftsman poured his entire life's toil into creating some little piece of stone carving on a pillar or flying buttress hundreds of feet in the air, utterly exquisite but impossible to grok in the immensity and splendor of the whole. and westminster abbey is not about restrained elegance. it smacks you right between the eyes, over and over and over. your neck aches with staring upwards (as the design intends, constantly re-drawing one's gaze to heaven) and yet the eye-level stuff is equally compelling.
i'd walk several miles just to stand at the tomb of elizabeth 1 and bloody mary (and i had no idea they were interred together!) but that was just one out of hundreds of shrines. mary queen of scots. shakespeare. chaucer! i stood at CHAUCER'S tomb! (that one made me snorfle up a little in sheer awe.) lewis carroll's rabbit hole spiral. shelley. mad bad and dangerous to know byron. so many. so many i came to see and send kleos, so many i recognized with awe, so many i'd never heard of before but boggled at their resplendent resting places.
not only did it knock my socks off as a tourist and delight me as a student, it gave me much food for thought as a priestess of the kthonic theoi. on one level i get the need to make a mark, to leave something behind. but on another i'm totally dismayed at this degree of 'worship my dusty remains.' and yet as passionate lover of history, i'm so grateful that so many DO create these foolish, hopeless, gorgeous testaments to Life, so that i can stand there centuries later and say 'omg. some tiny essence of their physical DNA is here, right here before me. damn!'
i was particularly fascinated by the variety of ways the artists depicted the deceased. some had eyes peacefully closed, many were disturbing open but white and dead, others painted with a startling semblance to a living gaze. many were on their backs with folded hands, but some were up on elbows, heads on hands in poses creating a feel of utter ennui with the whole situation. which of course is totally fitting. (matt says 'um, that would be piety, suz.' but it didn't look pious to me.) i was intrigued by the choices of footers, the animals upon whom the tomb figures' feet were propped, and delightedly horrified to learn that small carved children kneeling under the tomb meant their children, and if they were kneeling on skulls it meant the kids pre-deceased the entombed.
and that's just the dead people. i don't even have words for the architecture, windows, altars, pews, chapels, lecterns, nooks, crannies, crypts, doorways, organs, pillars, beams, ceilings (oh, the ceilings!!!)
it was an insanely perfect First Big Thing To See.
i wish so much i could have taken pictures. but they wouldn't convey it. maybe it's best that it couldn't be.
by 5pm we were so tired we couldn't see straight. matt tenderly led us home again, tucked us into his incredibly comfy four-poster (complete with purring kitties) while he slept on the couch. and we slept like lambies. and woke up to fresh bread, a vast array of jams and honeys, fresh french-pressed coffee, golden sunshine, and our host offering us a glittering choice of prospects for our first full day in england.
khairete
suz

3/3/11 09:32 am - oh thank theoi!

it's time for my monthly 'i love moondark' posting! the first day of the 3 days of moondark is dedicated to Hera in my personal devotions. today is the last day of the moon cycle, time to tie up loose ends, consider what i got done and pat myself on the back, reflect on what i didn't get around to and make a game plan to do better next time. my fresh start is in the making. i'm so grateful that i get this regular reminder to take stock, to pay attention, to be present in my own life (why is that so hard for me???) and to let the goddess of necessary boundaries help me define and focus my intentions.
Io, white-armed goddess, most beautiful of those who grace Olympos' starry heights!
Io, Gamelia, goddess of marriage rites, who has blessed me with a mate beyond peer!
Io Boophis, Lady of the fathomless dark eyes, Queen of the infinite velvety blackness between the stars! Queen of Heaven, i sing your praises and offer you milk, honey and oodles of timai!
khairete
suz
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