Wildseed Within Ends

This will likely surprise none of my remaining readers, but this will be the last post on Wildseed Within. As with previous blogs, I’ve greatly appreciated the space WW has provided for exploring my spirituality and for connecting with others who are exploring similar spiritual landscapes. But I’ve developed answers for many of the spiritual questions I grappled with in my 30s, and continuing to work those values, views, and practices out in public no longer seems very interesting or desirable. First, as Modern Minoan Pagan author Laura Perry notes in a recent post, it’s nearly impossible to translate spiritual experience into a blog post:

There’s a thing in religion called mystery. It’s often written with a capital M: Mystery. It’s what happens inside you, how you are changed by interaction with the divine. And no words can contain the Mystery. It’s an experience, not a solid object that can be weighed and measured.

Moreover, I feel that some deeply formative, beautiful spiritual experiences about which I’ve written lost a bit of their sparkle in the telling.

I treasure the online friendships I’ve made in the Pagan blogosphere, but at present I feel a strong call to sink my roots into local, face-to-face communities and to focus my limited time and energy in a few significant areas. Recent activist gardening work, growing as a mental health clinician, engaging with my UU church community, and taking care to finish raising my kids and nurture my marriage in a mindful and earth-centered way come first to mind. A middle-aged approach to take perhaps, but if aging means knowing my limits, such that the experiences remaining to me are deeper, then I’m all in.

I imagine that I’ll keep writing about something, because I always do, but I can’t authentically keep writing about Paganism, because I no longer think I am Pagan. If I’ve learned anything from facilitating public ritual for “Pagans” at my local UU church, it’s that Paganism isn’t a religion. Instead it’s a collection of interest groups with (sometimes) related views, values, and practices. (OT: Not unlike the Democratic Party.) To be honest, I’ve struggled to create circles that both (a) appeal to Wiccans, shamanic practitioners, drummers, New Agers, Goddess worshipers, neo-animists such as myself, and other Pagan-curious folks who show up; and (b) induce the altered states in which magic happens. If at some point in the future I decide to engage with Pagan-flavored spiritual community again, I’ll be looking to engage with communities based in a shared practice, not in Pagan identity.

Please accept my deepest thanks for your time and attention, which are the holiest gifts any of us have to give, and let me know if you’d like to stay in touch.

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Saving wild violet seeds

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The patch of wild violets growing just outside my front door reminds me of a neighbor friend who gave me the first of the plants. She was a retired educator who enjoyed baking, gardening, traveling, and storytelling. She wasn’t perfect, but she was thoughtful, joyful, and grounded in what matters, and she died nearly two years ago; cancer, by the way, can fuck right off.

I think of my friend, when I see the violet patch in bloom. And so the plants have become keys to my memories of her. Not some symbolic, abstract violets, but these particular plants are the keys to those memories, whose roots I have watered and whose seeds I have continued spreading.

I don’t really wish for my friend’s spirit to rest in peace. Instead I wish for it to continue creating and delighting those of us who remain. I wish for those wild violet seeds find their place or make one.

 

Walking with my Dog is my Most Sacred Practice

“Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters, finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.” –Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful metaphor for walking explains why walking daily through my neighborhood with my dog Poe is my most sacred practice.

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Because I walk with Poe, I know–from bodily experience, not from faith nor from reason–that the moon was full two nights ago and that Orion is still visible in the night sky. I know that the days are lengthening, and that the first of this season’s mountain laurel blooms opened early this year, around February 6th:

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Yesterday I noticed agarita, anemone, spiderwort, and redbud in bloom, tended by bees. Because I walk with Poe, I witness the trees through the seasons. Right now new leaves are unfurling on Arizona ash trees, but elm, pecan, and deciduous oaks have yet to leaf out.

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Because I walk with Poe, I know where screech owls and herons tend to nest in our neighborhood, and I’ll be among the first to notice when the bats return next month.

Because I walk with Poe, I meet human neighbors with whom I don’t have much in common and probably wouldn’t talk to otherwise. Mr. Hunter comes first to mind. He’s an older neighbor in his 80s who hosts a weekly Bible study in his home. His wife self-publishes Christian fiction. During the last election, they put up a yard sign for Ted Cruz; my family put up a sign for Beto. Our worldviews and lifestyles stand poles apart, but I enjoy seeing Mr. Hunter, whenever Poe and I meet him during a walk. Mr. Hunter scritches Poe’s ears. We talk about the weather, animals, gardening, my family and work, and his great-grandchildren. Our conversations lack even a trace of bitterness. I find instead that they’re flavored by very old, very pagan values of hospitality and reciprocity. Our meetings feel deeply sacred.

These are fair-weather days for walking in Central Texas–spring is easily our most pleasurable season–but important to note that sacred walking is not a fair-weather practice. I submit to winter and walk on cold days, with every arrector pili muscle contracted and every hair on end. I submit to the sun’s strength in summer, when the only safe and salubrious times of day to walk are before 10 a.m. and after dark. I know the direction of the wind and the temperature of the air each day because my skin knows.

I experience a sense of place and belonging, when Poe and I walk through our neighborhood. I’m grounded, connected, and relating with intention to the human and more-than-human world around me. I’m aware that the very real world of spirits is here, right now, and not somewhere else, far away. This is it!, to borrow a Zen Buddhist proverb. To experience this world as radically alive, all I have to do is keep walking and pay attention.

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Weedwalking for Imbolc

Here in Central Texas, where our winters are short and mild, Imbolc marks the beginning of spring, making this the perfect time of year to go weedwalking. If you know what you’re looking for, there are quite a few wild edibles out there right now.

Texas filaree, for example:

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Or henbit growing together with wild onions:

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This morning I noticed lots of chickweed, dandelion, wild lettuce, and cleavers, too.

Weedwalking gets me outside, where I’m generally happiest, and invites me to slow down and pay attention to my sensory experience of the many plants with whom I share the environment.

Attention, I believe, is holy.

Weedwalking is not for sale, so no need to buy manufactured foraging kits, and it’s about much more than finding food. I’ll save you the disappointment of discovering yourself that, unless you’re lucky enough to come across wild strawberries, most foraged foods are not even especially tasty.

Except for this one, chile pequin:

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Score! Picked a few, said thank you, and headed home. Time to make chili.

 

 

Winter Solstice 2018

“The Rebirth of the Sun,” adapted from Starhawk’s story in Circle Round:

By this time of year, the sun has grown old and tired. All year long the sun has worked hard, rising and setting, shining and shining, day after day. The sun has fed us throughout the year, giving energy to trees, flowers, and grasses so that they can grow and feed animals, including people, in turn. All year long Sun’s gravity has held tight to the spinning ball of Earth and the other whirling planets of our solar system. Sun has grown dizzy from watching it all! The days have grown shorter and the nights have grown longer because the poor, tired sun can barely make it up in the morning before needing to sleep again, by this time in the year.

Night, the Great Starry Mother, knows this. “Come to my arms and rest, child,” she says. “After all, I am your mother. You were born out of darkness billions of years ago, and you will return to me, when all things end. Let me cradle you now, as I shelter every galaxy and star in the cosmos.”

So Night has wrapped her great wings around the sun. Night is long, and Sun rests. Wrapped safely in Night’s arms, Sun grows younger and younger. For though these may be the longest nights, they are not the last. Sun rests and grows brighter and stronger, to be born out of Night once more.

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In our Solstice circle at First UU last night, we drummed and chanted and lit 365 candles to encourage Sun’s rest and returning strength. We kindled flames for the gifts and joys of the past year as well as for the challenges we faced and our regrets, for fire casts shadows, even as it offers protection and warmth.

A church member made this epic Yule log cake to share afterwards:

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Yes, those are meringue mushrooms with glittery cinnamon tops.

I hope you’ve had some wonderful Winter Solstice celebrations of your own, dear readers!

A Good Enough Wisecraft

What do you want from your wisecraft? I don’t know about you, but from mine, I expect results. In general, my Wisecraft should support an ecstatic relationship with the world as it is, a world full of many different people, processes, and stories. It should help me make meaning of mortality, of the wheel of birth and death, to borrow a Buddhist term. It should support me in living well, in flourishing, in becoming fully human.

But wisecraft isn’t practiced in general. Which chants do I sing for that? Which herbs do I burn? A leaf is not just a leaf, you know. Which stories do I tell? To which spirits should I make offerings? There are so many from which to choose. Choice is freedom, but a sea of choices is enough to douse even the brightest flame.

What I want from practice is an experience, a feeling, one that comes from getting lost in the singing, the burning, the storytelling, and the offering. In other words: time to stop haunting all the options and actually turn up at the altar. The magic won’t be perfect, but it will work, and it will be enough.

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A word of power: VOTE

“Happy for the outcome; sad he had to be treated so badly,” a woman commented on my mother’s Facebook post in celebration of the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh. My mother and her friend teach preschool together in deeply conservative Northeast Texas, where I grew up. Lots of nice, white Southern ladies live in my hometown, ladies who these days seem to be even more passionately Republican than their husbands are.

It’s tempting to excuse their choices. I know these women. They taught me grade school, I attended parties they hosted, I sat next to them in mass on Sundays. They never did me ill; some of these women were even occasional sources of kindness and encouragement during my childhood. And yet they helped elect a self-proclaimed sexual assaulter to the White House, and now they openly celebrate the confirmation of an accused sexual assaulter to the Supreme Court.

It’s tempting to be wounded by their actions, but to take recent events personally would be to misunderstand. The nice white ladies with whom I’ve shared the red soil and green trees of the Piney Woods are just publicly performing their submission to the patriarchy’s display of power. If they’re compliant, at least they’ll fare better than people of color, or so the thinking goes. It’s an old deal, but a rotten one, since we women, all of us, are subordinates and sex objects under the system, and compliance is no guarantee of safety.

It’s tempting to be wounded by their actions, but the next election’s only 29 days away. This is no time to give away power like that. We must dispel fogs of discouragement and despair. We must gather the red hot rage of betrayal and injustice and channel it into our most potent prayers and spells, all of which contain the same word of power: VOTE.

2999130055_8697986e51_bPhoto by Theresa Thompson via Creative Commons

Approaching Autumn Equinox in Austin

Autumn Equinox 2018 approaches; time for a pulse check. What’s unfolding with the living world where I am?

Daylight hours are noticeably decreasing. In summer months I see sunlight peaking over the horizon when I arrive for my shifts around 6:30a, but now it’s still twilight when I walk in to the hospital in the morning.

My family and many others are adjusting to the people and rhythms of a new school year. Homework must be done, lunches must be packed the nights before, and busses and carpools must be met the morning of each school day. There’re backpacks to pack and school clothes to wash. There are practices and back-to-school nights to attend and forms to fill out. *So many* sign-ups and forms.

The 16-day streak of triple digit temperatures that we experienced around the time of Summer Thermistice has subsided, bless it. High temperatures are in the 80s F this week, and September storms, which have the potential to swell into Floodmakers this time of year, have arrived. We’ve received a couple of inches of rain over the past week, and it shows with our plant neighbors. They’re all so green and refreshed!

Silverleaf nightshade, frogfruit, purple bindweed, and rain lilies are in bloom:

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Silverleaf nightshade (Balcones District Park)

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Frogfruit (neighbor’s yard)

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Purple bindweed (another neighbor’s yard)

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Rain lilies pushing up through the rocky soil of the Edwards Plateau (Schroeter Park, Mesa Woods)

Pecans are still green, but prickly pear, American beautyberry and Texas persimmon fruits are ripening:

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Prickly pear (Schroeter Park, Mesa Woods)

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American beautyberry

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Texas persimmon (Schroeter Park, Mesa Woods)

Tx persimmon fruits have large seeds, but their flavor is really a treat: sweet and raisiny, like the sweetness of last spring condensed and simmered down all summer into richness. Bet it would make an amazing jam. Scat signs say that foxes living in a nearby park really enjoy it, too.

Fungus folk are of course loving the recent rains:

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It’s the beginning of our second planting season here in Central Texas. Autumn Equinox is a good time to start cool weather plants like kale, broccoli, parsley, and cilantro.

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Lasagne composting in progress. Saving that bare spot in my herb box for parsley.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are beginning to migrate south for winter. They’ll fill up on nectar from tubular red flowers like salvia, Turk’s cap, and firebush and on sugar water from feeders before they go. Monarchs will begin migrating south soon, too. Toads are out hunting at night and snails are actively foraging this time of year.

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Poe and I so appreciate that it’s now cool enough to weed walk in the middle of the day.

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Autumn Equinox in Austin

Themes: rain, creeks, floods, Waters of the World, education, second planting, second flowering, cooling, migration

Correspondences for Ritual:

  • Direction: West
  • Time: Twilight
  • Colors: greens, purples, browns, red
  • Plants: purple bindweed, beautyberry, rain lily, Texas persimmon
  • Animals: toads, snails, migratory insects and birds

Some stories are better than others

Some say bluntly that there is no afterlife. That our lives are a “one-way trip.” Easy to assert, because it’s almost certainly true. Anyone else remember those care-free slogans of the 2008 Atheist Bus Campaign? “There probably is no god. Now stop worrying. And enjoy your life.”

Atheist_Bus_Campaign_(2968124420)Photo by Dan Etherington via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, if only it were that simple for all of us. Smells more than a little like trivializing to me.

My nine-year-old daughter is having trouble sleeping, she told me a few nights ago. “I can’t stop thinking about what would happen if I lost you,” she told me. “Why can’t we still be together even if you die? I can’t lose you!” And, tearfully, “Can’t we just go back and relive our lives? It’s going so fast.”

I held her tight while she cried, after unloading so much anguish right at bedtime, on the very night before school started. Then I tried floating my own version of the crappy Atheist Bus slogan: “Our bodies return to the earth to feed new life, but the qualities you’ve inherited from me, the values and experiences we’ve shared, the love we share, those will be with you always, no matter what. We live on through the effects we have on the world,” I sermonized. I also tried a UU response to her questions, one of those responses that begins with, “Some people believe…” and ends with, “What do you think?”

All true, but not ringing true. Still in my arms, she sobbed afresh.

Then, bless my heart, I remembered to try telling a real story. I told her a story from Starhawk’s Circle Round, about meeting Grandfather Deer and offering him an apple. About being carried by Grandfather Deer to the edge of the Sunless Sea, where a guide would ferry us across the Sea to the Shining Isle for the price of a story. Our ancestors waited for us there on the Shining Isle, and God Hirself, too, stirring a cauldron of stars. Look it up, y’all, it’s a good story.

My daughter’s tears slowed, and her muscles relaxed. She began telling her own version of the story, in which we each had our own favorite places on the Shining Isle, but where there were doors between her place and mine. “I’d like that,” I said, “I’ll leave my door open for you.” Eventually she climbed out of my lap and into bed.

The kinds of questions my daughter asked, if you take the pain they express seriously, can only be acknowledged and answered by stories. And some stories are just better than others.

158901175_27c2ef1717_oDoorway by Tony Hisgett