Monthly Archives: November 2008

Turning It Over

Posted on by

Last week I took down my Day of the Dead altar. All the novena candles went into in a box, one with my father’s picture on it face to face with the likes of George Carlin, Abbie Hoffman and Isaac Hayes. I still challenge the old guy, even in death. The mini-altar of my old friend Raven Moonshadow, as well as all the other Samhain tchotchkes and pictures of my beloved dead, are stored safely for next fall. My mantle is swept clean of all but a few votives, waiting to be draped soon with the brilliant colors of Solstice.

The beautifully decorated sugar skulls from Oak went onto a plate near the front door, and there they sat while I waited for the right moment to come around. Two days ago it happened: I suddenly felt it was time to release the skulls, and it had to be into the ocean. It was a hazy afternoon, the warm sun filtered through high thin clouds, with a slight breeze. I drove out to the cliffs and found a private spot, then sat there and took my time sending them on their way.

The ocean was subdued, silver-blue like the back of a broad fish, and the sun painted a wide and bright track across it heading west. I had a lot to let go of into that shining water, and when I finally finished my heart felt lighter than it had in weeks. I had successfully made it through the first Samhain since my dad died. I went into the season wholeheartedly and came out of it at the right place and the right time, and the feeling was sublime. With a clear head and a sure step, I headed back home.

That is the beauty of following those intuitive signs that cue us into ritual time. All the while we are working, planning, stressing and strategizing about a million things, there is this whole other clock at work in our lives. Ideally, we are able to respond to both the rhythm of the outside world and our internal rhythm. Ideally, we grow strong and wise by learning to balance the two, giving each its due while keeping an ear to the other.

We do not live in ideal times. Many of us are hanging on by a thread to what we have; for others, that thread has long since frayed and snapped. Some people feel secure one day, only to find the next day that their world has fallen apart. All of us are scrambling, marshalling our resources, trying to get into the best position to weather the coming storms.

I often get caught up in what I call my “To-Do List” brain, staying awake at night trying to figure out things that are simply beyond my capacity to figure out. Sometimes I can convince myself that sleeping is more important than worrying, but not always. Still, there are moments when I am able to rise out of the incessant rhythm of the working world, and listen again to the pulse of that subtle clock.

In moments like that, I know beyond explanation that all will be well. Everything will be resolved in time, and each day, if I am listening, I will be able to hear those soft chimes above the din.

As we go about being thankful this weekend for all that we have, may we feel that sense of being held. No matter how much our bank accounts beg to differ, may we feel how we are even now being carried gently through time by an intelligence, a rhythm, greater than our own. If only for a second. And may we hold that feeling close like an ember through the dark of the year.

How Far We Have Come

Posted on by

Friday I went to the opening night of my daughter’s high school play. They were performing The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s brilliant play about the witchcraft hysteria of 1692 in Massachusetts colony. There she was in the opening prologue, dancing and singing with friends in the woods like any good Pagan child. There she was a few scenes later in court, hysterically accusing innocent villagers of witchcraft. It was a very good performance, and I felt really proud of Jojo, but the play was extremely hard to watch. There was a knot in my stomach the entire time, and I had to coach myself to keep sitting there and not bolt from the theater. Drama mothers do not puke during their daughters’ plays.

It was very moving to watch them wholeheartedly portray such intense figures of fear and hatred, these children of über-tolerant Sebastopol. On the bulletin board outside the theater was an article about the African children scapegoated, beaten, tortured, and driven from their homes because of claims they were “witches.” Obviously the drama class had made the connection between the Salem hysteria, the McCarthy era witchhunts during which Miller wrote his play, and the current plight of children in several African countries where fearmongering in the name of God still leads to cruelty and violence against innocents.

I know these kids saw the play in part as an act of resistance to the ignorance which causes such atrocities to happen. And yet, I kept thinking about Sarah Palin palling around with Reverend Thomas Muthee. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach was knowing that even today in this country, we came that close. That close. Thanks to John McCain’s VP choice and their unforgivable campaign tactics, we were one election away from The Handmaid’s Tale. In my lifetime. I still can’t quite believe it.

There is a sort of conceit in education, an agreed-upon rule, that you teach children history from the perspective that things are better now. Civil rights? Nobody is getting sprayed with firehoses anymore; we are making progress. Environmental education? Let’s raise money to help save the rainforest. It all has a positive spin on it, and for good reason. You don’t want kids to despair. You want them to understand where we are and where we came from, but at the same time feel like their lives matter, that they can make a difference.

The day after opening night, though, I had to break the rule. I had to be honest with Jojo about why I might not be able to see another night’s performance. All those things she’s read and learned about theocracy in the Massachusetts colony years ago? It is just by a hair’s breadth that we do not go there right now. Those tears we all shed on election night? It wasn’t only because we had finally overcome a huge racial milestone in this country. It was because, were it not for Obama’s brilliant campaign machine, things would now be getting much, much worse. The future, it turns out, is too close to call.

The Watery Depths of Dreams

Posted on by

I had the pleasure of spending an hour in the studio with my good friend Thorn Coyle a few weeks ago. Thorn has been doing a great new series of podcasts, called Elemental Castings, where she talks to different people about how their magical and creative practice links in with a particular element. In my case, the topic of conversation was dreams and Water. 

It was a fascinating, and fun, conversation. Thorn asked a lot of really good questions and made some great comments, and I got to talk about some of the stuff that interests me the most about dreams: how dreams tie into consciousness, how re-entering a dream feels sometimes like settling into a yoga asana, and why dreaming feels so much like traversing the ocean. Thorn has all her podcasts up on iTunes for easy access, or you can just download it from her site. Enjoy!