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Rituals of the Year

When most Pagan-y folks talk about Rituals in a yearly context, they are -- or so it seems -- referring to times at the quarters and cross quarters -- or perhaps at the turn of the moon (mostly likely when it's full), when they set aside time to sanctify a space (indoors or out) and invoke the elements and their patron deities, in worship or petition or the like.

In my practice, even those times are more appropriately recognized by what might be considered more mundane rituals, and especially those with a lower-case letter R. Case in point today, the day before dark of the moon.

Those who work with moon energies know that it is constantly changing. Some folks plant by its energies: some simply start root crops as the moon turns from full to dark and fruiting or above ground crops as it turns from dark to full. Others also factor in the position in the Zodiac. I have never done that, as weather conditions trump moon cycles for me as a northern homesteader (short seasons!)


Note: I refer to the moon with the neuter pronoun because, while many see it as female, those in the northern tradition call it "Mani" and know it as male.


But back to my "dark moon approaching" ritual.

We all, unfortunately, generate trash and (hopefully) collect recycleable packaging separately to return to its use stream. We all, or so it seems by the plethora of "wealth" and "abundance" workings and spells, want and maybe even need more. Many, many years ago I read a poem penned by Timothy Leary. Whether or not you were part of the drug culture of the 60s and 70s, he was a media fixture and while I did not specifically follow his exploits, this poem did make quite an impact on me.

The Moment of fullness

Grab hold tightly,
Let go lightly.

The full cup can take no more.
The candle burns down.
The taut bow must be loosed.
The razor edge cannot long endure
Nor this moment re-lived.

So...now
Grab hold tightly
Now...
Let go lightly


 "The full cup can take no more"... If our lives and homes are already full of "stuff" -- be it useful things we no longer need and use, or waste that has not gone away -- where is this abundance, that we petition the universe for , supposed to go? How do we stay "in the flow"?  Seems to me that removing the dam in the stream that naturally allows it to flow will also work with the flow of the ethers.

Putting this into practice, in sync with the moon cycles, seemed to come naturally and fall into place with my "de-stuff-ing" routine that I have been working on for a while. When the moon passes full, I begin focusing on things that I am no longer using that need to give up their spaces. Yesterday we took the heavy old filing cabinet that I had emptied of archived client files from my former design business and placed it at the roadside with a "free" sign on it. Less than 2 hours later, when I got back from my massage, it was gone.


Fridays are my "town days" and this past Friday being the last before dark of the moon, I carried the collected smaller "stuff" off to the charity donation box in town.

Today, the last day that our dump is open before the moon turns, I will be gathering up the last bits of  rubbish from the household bins and carrying them off to the dump. Because of our long-standing "waste minimization protocols" (we consider packaging as much as the items we intend to buy and "vot with our dollars" for items with no,  recycleable or minimal packaging, in that order) it will amount to one can or one (recycled) bag most of the time. The recycles are collected at the same facility: paper, cardboard, glass, metal and #2 plastic. Our town does not recycle the other plastic categories, but I have a friend in a town that does, who takes our small quantity of other plastics to put in her waste stream for recycling.

How is this a ritual? Anything can take on ritual characteristics when done with intent. It is my intent to make room for abundance to flow in.  I keep this thought in my mind as I place the items in the charity box that lives in my kitchen, as I remove the items to take them to town and as I offer them up to the workers or place them in the donation box. I will keep this in mind as I empty the bins later today, as I load the bag or can into my truck and drive to the dump, and as I hand off the refuse and place the recycles into their bins.

And when it's all done, I offer thanks to the Universe At Large for the continuation of the rhythm of coming and going, of life and death, and move forward into the next cycle.

Exciting Classes! and one dud...

Just back from Farm and Homestead Day, a series of workshops put on by the Waldo County (Maine) Extension Service. It was an early day for this gal, an hour's drive plus time to get lost (when I allow it, I never needs it, but when I don't... LOL) and allowing time to have a cup of coffee after arrival at the venue meant I rolled out near first light. It was very strange not to have to even light the space heater for a few minutes to take the chill off before getting dressed -- in "town clothes" at that, but the warmth of the last couple of days was still hanging on a bit. Now that the day is almost done and I am back home, though, the damp and rainy day had conspired with the coming cold spell to suck the last of the extra warmth from the house.

Out of focus shot (in a hurry!) of my grafted tomatoes. They are
supposed to be kept in the dark for the first 24 hours, and warm,
so I was trying not to disturb them too long to get the shot.
Need to let the babies rest and heal!
I cannot say enough good things about the tomato grafting class, nor about Johnny's Selected Seeds, which supplied those of us who chose to buy the optional class materials with a "kit" complete with root stock and scion seedlings! The kit we received included only a "replacement blade" for their spiffy knife (which worked just fine as a knife, solo), a couple dozen little grafting clips, one propagation dome with only the lightweight plastic bottom, as far as non-plant materials go, it also included about 10 each of the Maxifort root stock plants and an equal number of Amish Paste tomatoes for grafting. If you are interested in the process, check out this online copy of the hand out we were given.  I have them covered with a doubled bath towel with the heating pad, on low, under them. There are layers of newspaper between the pad and the bottom of their tray. They need to be warm, not cooked.!

Stevens, left and Howes, right
Another class was on how to grow cranberries.  John Harker of Cranberry Creations gave an Vaccinium macrocarpon ... the low growing ground-covering plant and not Viburnum trilobum the "highbush cranberry. They do like a poor, moist, acid soil but do not need a bog. Our instructor generously shared a 4" potted plant of the Stevens variety with each attendee and -- as a way to motivate class participation -- offered a gallon pot of the Howes to the first student to correctly answer each of several questions.
entertaining and informative class that not only covered getting set to grow them at home, but also lots of history, lore and a bit about their nutrition and some non-traditional uses for the plants (holiday decor, anyone?)

The first class of the day was, unfortunately for me, the dud. I guess I didn't read or retain clearly enough to realize that "Solarize Mid Maine!" was going to be (a) a 90 minute sales pitch for (b) projects that did not extend to my "mid-Maine" location and (c) only involved solar installations that are tied into the grid. Not interested... While I would love to increase use of solar here at Fussing Duck Farm, it will not involve paying anyone to install stuff for us nor will it be tied into the existing grid.

Overall, though, the majority of the day's classes were really worth the drive and the day.

#SeeYourRetirement

I filled out a form some time back for The Principal Finanacial Group that was doing a #SeeYourRetirement promotion. If they liked what you described for your retirment, they said they would illustate it.

I got mine today! love it!!


There Won't Always be More Stuff

I got into a "discussion" -- turned into a bit of a pissing contest, though, it seemed -- on a friend's Facebook post recently. I stated my position on bottled water (none, period) and was called to task by another poster who noted how necessary it was "in emergencies." I allowed as how, maybe, that was ok, but for years Red Cross and other agencies got along just fine and supplied emergency water without the wasteful and now ubiquitous containers.

Later in the discussion, I mentioned that I had all but eliminated plastic packaging in my shopping and was working to rid my home of plastic, though I was frustrated by the inability to recycle broken or otherwise unusable plastic items since the codes are only stamped on containers.

My nemesis all but called me a hypocrite and Luddite because "everything is made using plastic" somewhere along the line, much recycled plastic is just shipped to China to be buried and I was doubtless using a plastic keyboard. Which, I will admit I am. I would honestly love to have one made of a more natural material, IF it were made in a manner that would allow it to last at least as long as my electric typewriter, which I got as a high school graduation present and DID manage to wear out (multiple keys developed metal fatigue) after about 15 years of use. Keyboards, it seems, fail after far fewer years... and that is even with my having an old school tech in the house who is able to disassemble and clean them on a regular basis.

I finally opted out of the Facebook "discussion." I don't need extra frustration in my life. However it brought to mind several thoughts.

1. We all need to consider "appropriate technology" and "most appropriate materials" for all of the things we buy, make and do. Just because it's newer, less expensive, faster, brighter colored or such does not mean we need it. In my mind, the "most appropriate" materials are those that can be easily and efficiently re-used. I use only natural materials for clothing, for example, because when worn beyond usefulness, most often they can be re-purposed as rags. Sometimes the most appropriate materials are those than will decompose.

But even more than that, I think, many of us suffer from the unperceived delusion that "there will always be more stuff" as if stuff actually grew on trees. I wonder, since I have only American attitudes to observe, if this is not somehow an extension of manifest destiny. There was, for a good part of the formative years of our country, "always more land to the west" to explore, and exploit. But like the country, which has filled the land from border to border and has no land over the horizon to expand into, our sources for "stuff" are limited. Even stuff that does, essentially, grow on, or like, trees must be considered finite, for as the population on the earth expands, the resources available to produce crops like wood, hemp, food and even bio-fuels will not only not expand, but likely will shrink.

We cannot continue thinking that "there will always be" more raw materials from which to make plastic, be it for containers or for making "stuff.". We cannot continue thinking that "there will always be" more aluminum or iron to be mined to make cans, or cars or pots and pans.

Use it UP
Wear it OUT
Make it DO
because while maybe YOU won't have to... eventually you progeny will otherwise have to
DO WITHOUT!

Poem from the drive to Apple Day yesterday

Thick yellow carpets linger in cozy nooks
And beg for scuffling feet and joyous kicks,
While nearby, winds wind drifts of orange and brown.
Chromatic vortices fling colored missiles,
Autumn hail plays on the passing truck.

October 18, 2015

Question!

Long ramble ahead. I have often said that it would be easy for me to be Amish, if only one didn't have to be Christian.

How did I get here? Well, it started almost 40 years ago, with a "Question Authority" bumper sticker I had on my car when I joined what proved to be a very authoritarian Christian denomination. I got flak for it, but no, I did not remove and and yes, I did continue to question...not only authority but just about everything. I had come to that particular doorway via previous questions; further questions caused me to walk back out of it and continue down the path. My motto, for a while, became "question everything."

I focused a lot on internal stuff... stuff I was taught or learned along the way. Much of it did not have a "why" behind it; a lot of what we do is habit, absorbed from common culture, from those around us. I heard an anecdote about a homemaker who always cut the end off a roast and set it aside before putting the majority of the meat in the pan and into the oven. She did this all her life. One day a friend was visiting and watched her begin to prepare the meal. Friend was puzzled by the removal of the end and asked why. The woman did not know, but that was the way her mother did it, was the reply; she had not realized this was NOT a common practice. Fortunately, the woman's mother was still living and on her next visit the question was asked, "Why?" Mom replied "I just have a small roasting pan, and they won't fit in unless I trim a bit off first."  I wondered how many similar habits I had, how many unnecessary things I did in a day, in a week...

My Five Daughters (we could have been a sit-com!)
All this came in handy, to me, as a mother of a passel of youngsters. What was important TO ME in raising my crew was not the spotless house my mother kept, but creativity and growing stuff. Being able to let chores that did not, in the long run, matter allowed me to not only claim extra bits of time (and mothers-of-many, for sure, will understand that every little 5 minute increment matters!) but more importantly to let go of the nagging worry about leaving things undone.

And the more I questioned, the deeper I got into things that, while they may not be visible, actually do separate me from the world by virtue of how I think. Take weekends, for example, or workdays. Even folks who have people in their family who do not work "the standard" 9-5, M-F, seem to try to  set aside the standard times off work. And yes, if you want and need to interact with folks who keep that schedule, those times do matter. But more and more, all 24 hours of a day are usable and all week as well. There is nothing wrong with taking a sleeping baby, in a carrier, shopping at midnight or 6 a.m. if it fits your life, and it may make the excursion much faster when the stores are less occupied. And the lake is still there on Wednesday, if fishing or swimming is your thing.

But more and more, over time, and largely as a result of a move "beyond the sidewalks, without electricity but with chickens" I began to sync to the natural world. "Vacations" or down time make more sense in the winter when there are not garden to tend and canning to do. "Daylight 'Savings' Time" is irrelevant when you naturally awaken with the sun and begin supper prep with the gathering twilight, after a trip to the barn to close up the critters. Long summer work days are balanced by extra sleep in the long nights of winter. Changing your clothes every day, regardless of whether they are soiled or not seems silly when you wear older clothes to do dirty daily jobs and save your good stuff for trips to town.

Now, I suspect that the actual Amish would look askance at much of what I have written, with their German heritage and picturesque, spotless farms. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and all that... But this German crone is not part of an extended family and is doing what makes sense to me.

Some of that shows (if you know me, you know how hard it is for me to find clothes for trips to town that do not show a spot of paint somewhere, and if you have had the misfortune to actually step inside the domestic chaos of my many projects-in process, well, enough said) but much of it doesn't. The way I think about things, the basic assumptions from which I operate, my motivation.

So, maybe then, I am wrong. I probably couldn't be Amish -- or whatever the northern tradition Pagan version of that might be -- because even in that context, I think, there might not be enough commonalities to bridge the differences, even if I wanted it to. Which, most likely, I might not. I am not, despite what many folks who encounter me in short increments would assert, a people person. I like my own company and prefer my solitude on a day-to-day basis. Money, necessary as it is to have some, is not even close to my primary motivation; I have quit or declined to accept jobs that would have required me to wear clothes that I consider uncomfortable (grown up lady-type office wear) or which required a daily application of face paint. A position with responsibility, honor and appreciation with low pay seems much more satisfying than one where the employee is just a replaceable cog in the wheel, regardless of remuneration. And so it goes.

Now, in retirement, my meager stipend from my working years floats the bottom line and the Powers That Be bring in a few bucks with art sales and the sharing of a bit of extra produce from time to time and that is fine with me. It means times, like last month, when necessary trips to town skyrocketed in number and frequency, the gas budget bottomed and borrowed from several other "envelopes," panic tries hard to set in and I may wonder where relief will come from. And I may wonder a bit longer than is comfortable, at that, but always, in the end, the Powers That Be come through and a sign sell or something such. And no, I don't go asking, knocking, petitioning, praying or stirring up extra abundance spells. The Gods know the needs. And I know that by showing gratitude for what abundances I do have -- be it three feed sacks full of sunflower heads of varying ripeness, an extra pepper that had been overlooked in the garden, or a big harvest of small potatoes -- and making the most of it all, and of my time, that I will remain in the flow.

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