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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Solstice!

Gifts: this beautiful song from JPC, rewritten and performed by her husband Craig Olson; three poems from Sara at Pagan Godspell; poems, prose and pictures from Catherine Kerr and a wonderful story from Kim Antieau of the Church of the Old Mermaids. Enjoy!

-N

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BODY/MIND/BRAIN: Treehugging, Pushing the Limits and Being a Geek

Well, tis the season, once again. It's been a bit of a strange one, overall - the first time in years that I'm actually living with my folks, getting to them and my sisters again after years of being the cool absentee sister who swooped in for the holidays and then was gone again. There's been a fair amount of familial strife in there, but for the most part it's been fairly painless. It's also the first time I've observed the winter solstice as a holiday, not just an interesting astronomical event. I've been poking around for some small thing I can do by my currently solitary self, haven't found anything yet but I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out in time.

Usually the tradition is that on the evening of my mother's birthday (Nov 30), we all go out as a family and pick out a Christmas tree to take home. This year, however, my dad had helped with a Christmas service as a nursing home on that day and was just "too Christmassed out" to do anything else dealing with the season. So we left it for the time being and went on about normal daily matters until just the other day, when my mom went out by herself and came back with literally the biggest tree we've ever had. To get it into the stand alone took quite a bit of finagling, with my sister and I both lifting it into the thing, then me holding it up while she tightened the base. Yep, that "treehugging" in the post title is quite literal. And this is going to sound either impossibly dorky or hippyish or both, but it's really something of a zen experience - your senses are completely taken up by the tree: the feel of the needles on your arms and face, the heady scent of pine all arond you. It sounds silly, but that was probably the first time I'd felt really in the spirit of the season. It probably speaks to my pagany soul in a way - that of all the many and varied traditions in my family about this time of year, the one that sticks the most is the tree itself.

I also made what I consider a pretty damn huge breakthrough this past week. I've been following a running program lately that has me running for a few minutes, walking a bit and then repeating the process for 30 minutes 5 times a week, and on Wednesday evening I decided that I'd had enough with the stopwatch for then and that I'd just run and walk as the mood struck me. After running for a little while it occurred to me to just see how long I could go on running -to test the limits of my endurance, if you will. Now, keep in mind that I had NEVER run over about 5 minutes straight before that I remember, but I'd been keeping up with the program and thought I could maybe manage between 5 and 10 if I paced myself right. Well, that night I ran for 20 minutes straight, without stopping once. This may seem small to some, but to me it was like finishing a marathon. I felt like a goddess.

Lastl and briefly: I got a laptop! It's a brand that no one knows about yet, which is why I could get a machine with such great specs for such a great price. Hopefully the novelty of it will be slow to wear off, helping me get back into the habit of posting more often. But for now I'll bid goodnight - or rather, good morning, on this very new Solstice Day!

-N

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MIND/BRAIN/SPIRIT: Knitting, Entrepreneurship and Awareness

I have been knitting like a fiend these past several days. I'm making a sweater (my first!) for my sister out of this absolutely luscious yarn - soft, fine alpaca, in a deep jewel-toned watercolory mix of blues and greens - and have already finished most of it in just a few days. My mother is astounded with how fast I can knit, and truth be told I'm surprising myself a little - I actually knit so much that I broke the skin on my thumb yesterday (but it's since healed over and is getting nicely calloused). It got me thinking, however - the main drawback towards making an attempt to sell my creations, online or in local boutiques, has been the fact that it wouldn't be worth the time it would take - I always assumed that if I charged no more than the price of the yarn plus the cost of making it in minimum-wage hours, it would add up to far too much for anything larger than a hat, pretty much. Lately, however, I seem to have become a faster knitter even than I used to be, and so it just might be worthwhile (as well as an interesting experiment).

The experimental part would be tied into the fact that I'm going to start taking classes in business with a concentration in e-commerce in the spring. It might be interesting to see how much natural aptitude I've got at this before I officially learn anything about it, and how much better I can get once I am actually schooled in the subject. The first thing to do, at any rate, is to collect a number of patterns and designs that are mine enough (that is, altered enough from the patterns on which I base my creations) to sell without being a plagiarist. I also need to get everything that's been floating around in my head for years and actually put it down on paper. I think the hardest part will be pricing the stuff - I was looking on etsy.com the other day for pricing information and saw stuff that I could make in a couple days tops (read: a lot closer to the beginner's level than I am) priced for $120, $150, upwards of $200! If we go by a scale based on fineness and complexity of the garment, the sweater I'm making now would be at the upper end of that range, simple based on the gauge (number of stitches per inch, which translates as fineness of the knitted fabric)!

So yes, that's my newest project thus far. I've had the bug before and slowly get closer to actually doing something with it every time the cold season rolls around. I'm pledging now to have sold at least 10 large pieces (sweaters, shawls, etc) by winter solstice in 2009 - how that will be accomplished remains to be seen.

Awareness is next on the list of graces, and it's a toughie. On the one hand, I think it's absolutely essential - as children of the earth, one of our responsibilities is to know what's going on with our mother and all the rest of our siblings, and to do less would be to deny our connection to every other being on this planet, and to the planet herself. On the other hand, sometimes it can be just too painful. There was a time when I simply stopped reading the newspaper (apart from the crossword) because the glut of bad news - wars and rumors of wars, brother killing brother, and all the rest - was too much for me to handle along with the stresses of my own life. Too many horrible things over which I had absolutely no control; it was a choice between continuing to be aware of what was going on in the world and not crying every morning when I read the news.

I am older now, though, and somewhat stronger. I've come to the conclusion that anyone who can take the emotional pain of knowing about tragedy without being able to do anything about it simply must make themselves aware of the goings-on of the world - for the simple fact that the more people ignore something bad or wrong, the more leeway it has to continue. The world turned a blind eye towards Hitler and his rise to power and terror in his own country, and only took notice when he started to seriously threaten the rest of the world. We as a planet cannot afford to make anything close to the same mistake again.

So awareness is definitely on my list. Next up is caring, which should be up soonish, as I'm on break now. W00t!

-N

Sunday, December 7, 2008

MIND/SPIRIT: The Lake Isle of Innisfree


Well, this was going to be a post about awareness, the next grace on Sylvan's list, as well as some general updates and such. However, I've been somewhat distracted from that - as I was reading through the day's postings, I noticed that the article on pomanders linked to through JPC's blog was entitled "Golden Apples of the Sun." Being something of a lit. nerd, I remembered that this was a line from a poem by W. B. Yeats, but couldn't remember the rest, so I looked it up - the poem is called "The Song of Wandering Aengus" and is a beautiful, complete story in only three stanzas that I won't spoil, so click on the link and read it now.

However, as lovely as that poem is, it's not my favorite of Yeats'. My favorite is much more popular and over-anthologized, but even the glare of too much popularity can't obscure the gentle evocativeness of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," which is as follows:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of linnet's wings

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
Yeats wrote this when he was a young man of about my own age (23, I think) living in London. At the time the Irish were still quite looked down upon by the English, and Yeats, with his Sligo accent (in the West of Ireland - somewhat equivalent in American terms to that of the Deep South or mountain areas) must have been especially marginalized. Also, the island he based his dreams on was not viewed as such a picturesque place by the locals, who gave it the unseemly name of "Rat Island" before he rechristened it, and the last I knew, they were still calling it that, unaware of the dreams of a tiny, peaceful Avalon drawn for the world by one of their countrymen. Whatever his neighbors called it, it could still be the focus of Waldenesque daydreams for a lonely young man living among strangers in the middle of a cold, dark, grey city.

I won't go into deep detail about the imagery of the poem or wax on much longer about how it is the perfect escape. I'll only say that this tiny, perfect picture of a peaceful life spent in the midst of nature is, essentially, what I want my life to be. It is what I have longed for through all the long hours of work and study in the past several years, the dream I barely dare to wish for because it doesn't fit in with the plan of what other people want for me. It is nothing like the streamlined, modern daydreams of my father and sisters, full of nice cars and big houses and power in the form of too much money - but it is my dream, and I know that I am not alone in wishing for it - there must be others who, too, "hear it in the deep heart's core."

-N

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SPIRIT: Assertiveness

Unlike the previous two graces I considered, I don't feel like the word "assertiveness" has really any negative connotations that go with it. Moreover, it's definitely something I need to try and work on these days. I'm not sure if I consider it a true virtue to live one's life by, but it is at the very least an important character value that I know I need more of.

Assertiveness, roughly speaking, is the happy medium between being a doormat and a bully. It is saying what you like, going after what you want and being unafraid to try and influence people toward your aims, but without being rude, overstepping their personal boundaries or forcing them to do what you want - basically, getting what you want and being damn nice about it. 'Nuff said.

The area in my life that I think I most need assertiveness is in my relationship with my father. It's not a terribly healthy one - our conversations all seem to consist of him stating and restating what he wants for and from me in increasingly louder tones and me standing there sullenly, answering in single syllables and praying to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. Before I moved back here a few months ago, I'd lived on my own for four years, seen the world (well, parts of it), and become an independent adult woman in my own right. Suddenly being back here, though, staying in the same house, eating at the same table, sleeping in the same room that I spent my miserable teenage years in somehow causes me to revert to that same moody, sullen, troubled, silent, sad little girl I was back then anytime my father and I clash wills. I am struck dumb, unable to say what I think or feel or want in any way that makes sense to either of us. I feel like a stupid child, as I'm sure I must appear in his eyes - a silly little daydreamer who pouts whenever anyone mentions that her dreams might not be worthwhile, and who won't put real work towards anything that might actually lead her somewhere.

The thing is, though, I do have goals and dreams that are worthwhile. The two main ones at the moment are to get myself fairly secure financially and to continue my education, and the overall goal is to strike a happy medium between these two - not to put one (and the rest of my life, pretty much) on indefinite hold while I rush headlong towards the other, as he seems to believe I will do in either case (towards more schooling, if I should do as he wishes, and towards a dead-end life in low-wage jobs if I should go against him).

The problem here, of course, is that I can type all this out fairly coherently to a (mostly) anonymous internet audience, but I can't get up the guts to speak the same words, quietly and calmly, like an adult, to my own father.

I got an unexpected hint tonight that I probably need to say more of what I'm thinking, and damn the torpedoes. It came when my dad was reading the Bible before we ate dinner (yes, they do that every day), and the passage for the day was about Moses and the burning bush. There's a part where Moses is all "but um I like can't speak good 'n stuff, pick someone who's more...uh...ella...eloquent. Yeah." and then YHWH is like "honey with ME telling you what to say, you gonna be making speeches like they was Grandma's cookies, 5 dozen at a time AND all of them damn good!" Well ok fine they were speaking some strain of ancient Aramaic, but the gist is still there. Anyways, it was just a little bit of a two-by-four - I say often that I've got the exact same problem with words and use that as a crutch and an excuse for not speaking my mind, even though I know that with the right intent and the Big Mama telling me what to say (once I ask her nicely) I could speak words that would shake the planet.

It's getting late and I need my sleep, so I'll call it a night. To sum up, this one's got more than a fair chance of being on my final list.

-N

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BODY: Valerian is not to be trifled with

Maybe it's the fact that I took the valerian with no real need for it, just a curiosity about what it did and how it did it. Maybe if I really did have problems with sleeping, it would be a godsend. Maybe if I didn't have to wake up at a specific, rather early time and instead could just sleep till my body wanted to wake up, it would just result in a really good night's (and morning's, and early afternoon's) sleep.

However, as I have no huge problems with falling or staying asleep and I do have to get up at ridiculous hours for work, I think it would be safe to assume that the valerian kinda kicked my ass. I woke up alright, drove to work and clocked in feeling kind of meh...and it went downhill from there. I got a nagging headache that got steadily worse, and I became the Coffee Zombie, making lattes and mochas seemingly only by muscle memory, barely aware enough to mutter "skim or whole milk with that, sir?" and the occasional "I need drugs in my braaaaaaaaain." After a couple hours of this, my coworkers feared for their lives and sent me home (no but seriously, they're awesome dudes and told me to go home and sleep).

When I got home I stumbled up to bed and slept soundly for the next 4ish hours, with some very strange dreams. The only detail I can remember is that at one point I was sitting in the kitchen with my mother, and across the table from us was my grandmother, her mother, who is dead. She was a ghost, having some kind of trouble manifesting, so all I could see of her was her bathrobe (which has passed into my possession and which I wear to bed every night) in the shape that it would be on her body but empty. For some reason it was very dangerous/bad to touch her, and so I was crying into my mother's shoulder and trying to hide, and my mother was telling her not to touch me and to go away, and she didn't understand why. It's still kind of creeping me out.

Anyways: bottom line, I think, is do not take valerian unless you actually have a need for it. If I do have real trouble with sleeping at some point in the future, I'll give it another try, but until then, I'm not touching it.

-N

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BODY: The quickest update ever

Oh dear gods. Valerian, when brewed on its own for a good amount of time, is VILE. I had a milk chaser and brushed my teeth and tongue with baking soda and I can still taste it a little. All I can say is, this damn well better work - if nothing else, at least it'll help me remember to brush my teeth at night. Glah.

-N

BODY/SPIRIT: Activism, etc (and more valerian)

Well, so much for writing every day. Meh. I have a feeling I should put a virtue along the lines of diligence or orderliness near the top of my eventual list. In the meantime, there's lots of stuff running through my head, so excuse the rambliness/unclear nature of this post.

When I first think of activism, I think of marches and protests and yelling and waving signs and possibly getting arrested. This is the image we have been given, for better or for worse, by today's media and government of "activists." I'm not saying that this is a bad thing at all - in fact, we may need more of it than ever these days, depending on how things go in the near future - but if you think about it, there is a much broader spectrum of things that you might be considered an activist for. This could be as "little" as, say, recycling, or choosing to buy from certain businesses and companies because of their environmental and ethical standards, or signing a neighborhood petition. Basically, activism might be defined as going (even slightly) out of your way to demonstrate or make heard your beliefs and ideas.

While I'm not sure that any sort of activism that I don't already do pretty much subconsciously even should be a part of my life right now from a perspective solely based on my getting my life back together (more than what I do now could potentially take a lot of time away from work and, in the spring, school), I feel terribly selfish for even thinking this. I believe that the vast majority of us (at least in the US and other rich countries) need activists - people coming out and yelling at us about how horrible the real state of things is - to jolt us out of the complacency that it's so easy to fall into. Whether or not this is included on the final list (still need to decide how long that will be) depends on if other things on the long list turn out to be more important for me now rather than in general. We shall see.

So the valerian tea wasn't actually all that bad to taste - it could be the smallish amount I used, the other herbs in the mix or possibly the relatively short brewing time - but neither did I notice a huge effect. I was slightly more restful and calm, and although I of course do not remember how long it took me to fall asleep, I definitely wasn't lying awake for hours like I have before (although I haven't done that much recently anyways - having to be up before sunrise certainly helps with insomnia ;P). I'm brewing another batch, this time with a cup of water to a scant tablespoon of herb and have let it sit for about 45 minutes so far - hope that has some effect other that stinking up the kitchen like yeah whoa.

Briefly: when I turned on my Pandora station today, this song popped up first thing. I thought it interesting, considering that it is a full moon tonight :) Also, check out this video (yoinked from Beth Owl's Daughter's newest post) on a few things Bush and his cronies are trying to make happen before they're ridden out of town on a rail (now THAT would be an awesome late birthday present!). This is the kind of thing that makes me want to be a "real," yelling, out-there activist - this kind of thing cannot be allowed to happen. Of course, many things like it already have slipped by under the radar - I'll post the link to the bill/whatever it is that makes the president the sole real power in this country in the event that an unspecified emergenct situation is declared. But enough doom for tonight.

A quick prayer/public request to all the gods, goddesses, other beings and friends paying attention: T is in not-so-good straits. Send good thoughts and hugs his way, and help him know that he is going to pull through - and help me be the best friend and biggest comfort I can for him right now.

Goodnight, all!

-N

Sunday, November 9, 2008

SPIRIT/BODY: Acceptance (and valerian)

When I did my primary research on this topic (that is, googled "acceptance" and looked at what came up), the results mostly seemed to fit one of two topics. The first is a positive look at the word and what it connotes: acceptance is, basically, learning not to sweat the small stuff and the so-called "unchangeable" everyday problems that plague us, as well as learning to love oneself just how one is. There's a basic problem here, at least for me: right now, I do not especially like where I am or what I am. Even though my life is by no means a bad or uncomfortable one, there are aspects about it that I do not like and that I wish to change. If I worked hard to love where I am right now, I would have no reason to continue to work towards the goals of changing my situation and myself. One of the sites I found says otherwise, that in fact "[a]cceptance allows change":
"Think of acceptance of yourself like being okay with where you live now. You may want a bigger house one day. You may dream about that new home. But there ARE advantages to living in a smaller home if you only took the time to think about it. It is possible to be happy with the home you're in now, while still dreaming and working to make your new home a reality."
The inherent problem with this as I see it is that if you truly are completely happy with your life, you will have no desire to change it. If there remains the desire to change it to something "better," then by definition your life is not as good as it could be and thus you yourself are not as happy as you could be. This type of acceptance seems to be either an excuse to stay in the (not quite ideal) circumstances of the present, or else a sort of temporary, false acceptance until the circumstances you really want are achieved.

The second topic is nearly the same thing, but with a key difference: the things one learns to accept are neither good nor unchangeable. Here, acceptance is used to mean the mental process that an abused spouse might go through - convincing themselves that "it's not really that bad, this is just life, I just have to learn to live with this."This is part of the mentality that Christianity has used to keep the downtrodden down for centuries, as well as something I've seen in my own friends, and I abhor it to the core. Nothing more need be said there.

There might be a third type of acceptance as well - that which helps us realise that a friend who has died is in fact not coming back to us, or that the choices we have made in the past cannot be rethought and changed, that they are what they are and all we can do is live with the world that results from them - that is, the past is in the past and is truly unchangeable. This type of acceptance might be best defined as the opposite of regret, and is as I see it the only definition worth giving more thought to. Acceptance in this form may make it into the final list -we'll see.

In other news, I bought a handful of valerian this evening, and some tea made of a teaspoon of that and a pinch each of chamomile and mint is steeping right now. I'm assuming I'll need to have some kind of a chaser - everything I've heard about valerian says it is rather vile, and the whiff I got when measuring it out certainly seems to back that up. I'll post the results of that experiment tomorrow. Goodnight!

-N

SPIRIT: Overhaul, plus the makings of a tradition

I have been rather lax of late with this blog, and the few bits I have written don't quite fit what I want this blog to be all about - that is, detailing the process of changing myself, inside and out, into the woman I want to be. Without a set format for what to write about, it seems, I can't quite find the inspiration or drive to actually sit down and write. Thus, I'm going to take a page from the book of certain other bloggers I admire - namely, the wonderful Dianne Sylvan, who is right now doing a fascinating little series based on the alphabet, or as she puts it, "an alphabetical exploration of the aspects of my spirituality that are important to me." Of course everything she writes is awesome, but I especially like the idea of limiting one's choice of topics, for a while at least - it both cuts down on the indecision, the "too much to write about" that often plagues me when I take up pen (er, keyboard) and forces me to still be creative but within certain bounds, making it more of a challenge that way.

I'm not going to copy her exactly in doing the alphabet thing, but I think the idea of having a certain list of things to write about could definitely help me get back some inspiration. Therefore, I'm going to direct you all to this page for a moment. It's an article by Sylvan on creating one's own ethical code, choosing those specific virtues or "graces" that are most important to you, and setting them up as a standard to live one's life by. It's a wonderful idea, and very useful to those of us who don't have a default set list or scripture to draw from.

At the end of the article, she gives a list of 81 virtues gathered from various traditions with the suggestion to think and meditate on them and decide on a list of the ones that are most important to you to be your own personal code - which, I've decided, is fairly vital in order to have any kind of a direction in your life, something I need badly right now. Thus, for the next 81 days (or so), I will attempt to meditate on one of these virtues every day (or less often, seeing how other things go, but at least 3 or 4 a week), starting with the first of the list, "Acceptance," hopefully this evening. In case I need a break from that (and I probably will), please send me requests for what herbs or natural methods to try next, as I've done with nettles, or anything else you think I should write about.

-N

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Not sure what to make of this

So on Friday morning I was leaving for work as usual. I hadn't slept wonderfully and had forgotten to brew my tea the night before, so wasn't in a great mood to start with. When I went out to actually leave, I found that my mom had left her van parked behind my little car and I couldn't get out. My dad was awake but still in his nightclothes and didn't want to move it for me, so he just handed me the keys and told me to do it myself. Now let me say that this van is not small, and the biggest thing I'd ever driven before is my dad's Prius - and our driveway is narrow and steep and generally silly. I did not want to drive the van anywhere, let alone try and finagle it on this tiny stupid driveway enough so I could get around it without running over the holly bushes. Let it also be said that while my dad refused to actually move the van for me in his nightclothes, he still came outside and watched me do it. The culmination of all these facts means that when I was finally able to get my own car out, I was, fairly or not, rather furious.

It wasn't a terribly cool morning, so there was no frost or fog on the car windows whatsoever when I got in. However, in the short time it took for me to back out of the driveway and start off down the street a little, I could not see out of the car for the fog. I tried using the wipers on the windshield and wiping the driver's side window with my sleeve, even rolling down all the windows in an attempt to equalize the temperatures and clear things up, but to no use. It was only when I calmed down a bit (yay for Enya CDs!) that the windows cleared up enough for me to actually go anywhere.

How on earth do I explain that? Has anyone ever heard that when you're angry, you put off more heat or something? It's just a little mindboggling.

-N

Sunday, October 19, 2008

MIND/SPIRIT/something like that

So I might have to makeup a new topic heading for these posts that are not quite worldly enough to be MIND but not quite SPIRIT material, just random musings. MUSE, perhaps? Anyways...

I was talking to T the other day, and he brought up what I think is a very interesting thought. Basically it goes this: pretty much every task or project, large or small, that you takes on reflects somehow on your entire life, or rather how you want your life to be. Specifically, in my case, T wondered if all the work I'm doing on the garden is a metaphor for what I'm trying to do with my life in general.

When I started, the place was not quite a mess and had a decent basic setup, but it was a mix of boring bare dirt that was heavy and compacted from being ignored for too long and ugly invasive overgrown old foundation plantings. The first thing to do was to uproot and throw out everything I didn't want and dig up the soil, throwing everything in to an ugly, albeit temporary, chaos. This part is the most backbreaking and the least immediately satisfying - especially discovering bucketfuls of gravel in the soil that make it impossible to do quick work with the big shovel and force me to crouch down and pick each one out with a trowel - but even more so overall, as each day of work just reveals more of what still needs to be done. Deturfing the new flowerbed means I need to dig up all the newly-exposed soil there. Digging up and loosening the soil means I need to amend it and plant before the frost, as well as moving a good volume of soil somewhere else, as decompacting it means there seems like about twice as much as there used to be. And at the end of the day, it still looks far worse than I want it to, with mounds of bare soil everywhere - very unfinished.

Making all the plans for the future is a bit more fun, but still just as hard work. All the pretty plans and drawn-out diagrams, while certainly fun to put together, have to work with the existing space and criteria using plants that will work in the area, considering all colors and textures of each plant (flowering, fall color and any winter interest). I want the garden to be lovely and useful in all seasons, flowing gracefully through the year without any "down time," as well as being low-maintenance (taking care of itself, basically) and pleasing not only to those people who see and use it most often but everyone else who might come across it. It's going to take some years to get it to that point, and I realise that no one else is going to want to work on it, as least not as much as I'm willing to do, so I need to commit to this now.

I'm sure I could go on with this and find many more metaphors and probably some interesting revelations, but right now I need to go finish packing, as I'm leaving for a visit to Ohio early tomorrow morning. Yay!

-N

Monday, October 13, 2008

BODY/MIND/a little SPIRIT: Just some loony musings

This morning I began to have a strange feeling. If I had to place it in my body I'd be torn between putting it in the pit of my stomach and at the nape of my neck, just at that place where if someone grabs you there, your shoulders automatically hunch up. A couple of times I felt physically ill. I shrugged it off on the fact that I'd just eaten egg salad one time and found dozens of nasty white grubs in the turf I was digging the other time - but these things do not usually affect me, especially the grubs - I've been digging and de-turfing for a while now and come across hundreds of the little buggers in the past few weeks, and this is the first time that the bile has actually risen in my throat at the sight of them. I even got rather weepy a couple of times - I was thinking about W, it's true, but I thought I'd gotten to a point where I can think about him without instantly breaking into tears. But most of the time it's just a sort of eerie quiet nagging - or, as a song that just played on my Pandora station puts it, "a vague feeling of dread." Very apt.

While poking around on the intarwubs today I noticed on the nifty little gadget that my friend now has on her blog that it is, in fact, a full moon tonight. Now, let me say that I have not been keeping track of this at all, but it does seem to me that I've noticed before, at times when I felt undefinably uneasy, that it turned out to be a full moon. I've definitely had many times when I just felt "off" for some reason, even way back when I was a young'un - I verbalised it then as a feeling that "something's going to happen" but nothing ever really did, that I recall.

Noticing this possible correlation today, I did some more poking of the wubs and, while I can't find any definitive scientific studies or that kind of thing, there are a lot of comments on public forums from people saying that they feel different around the full moon, particularly mothers saying that they can track their children's behavior by the full moon, or rather that they can guess when the moon is full by how their kid is acting (it makes a difference - if you look at the calendar and expect your child to act up around a certain time, I assume that you will be more likely to notice instances of acting up around this time). Other people say that they can never sleep the night of a full moon, and wake up with the night sweats in a cool room.

There's also the thought in the back of my mind that I am feeling this way because there is something I should be doing right now, something thatI am neglecting or forgetting, and this unease is just a reminder to do it. As soon as I sign off here and drink my warm milk, I think I'll go light some candles and ponder a bit, maybe figure out what that something is. I definitely want to keep tracking the mood and matching it up to the seasons and moon phases, if there is a match. I probably won't do it entirely here, but instead write it down in a notebook and summarise my findings. Goodnight for now.

-N

Sunday, October 12, 2008

BRAIN/SPIRIT (I guess): Jobs, injuries and some musings on fall

First off: I have a job! Woohoo! It's a full-time (and, I am assured, frequently overtime) position as a barista/cashier at an awesome coffeeshop on the Duke East Campus. I work 8-4ish 5 days a week, and lemme tell you I am NOT a morning person at all, so the fact that I have free coffee literally at my fingertips pretty much makes up for the fact that I have to get up by 6:15 to be at work on time. It's decent pay, too - a lot better than the 3.50/hr I was getting at Young's, even without tips here. Once I get a paycheck or two I'll start posting about setting up accounts and budgets and earning credit and all those money matters - not terribly interesting things to write or think about, but definitely things that one needs to know.

Secondly, the reason I'm inside at the computer in the middle of the day when it's bright and sunny outside and I still have a lot to finish in the garden before winter: I'm not sure exactly how I did it, but I must have pinched a nerve in my leg or something - there's a shooting pain running from the outside/back area of my left hip all the way down to my ankle whenever I step on that leg or try to use it in some way - that is, pushing the shovel into the soil. I tried switching legs, but digging apparently uses both of them pretty thoroughly, so I'm SOL for now. As well as that, my mom accidentally took my keys when she left for church, so I can't even go into town and chill - I'm stuck here at the house, hobbling around with just the cat for company.

Having nothing else to do, this obviously has me thinking a bit. This time of year, when it's still warm (well, warm to my Ohio-accustomed body; the locals are all in long pants and sweaters already) but the leaves have started to turn and fall and the noontime shadows get longer and longer - this is the time of year I feel most restless. Part of the reason is that this time of year more than almost any around here, you can actually see the wind - every time it blows, it catches the leaves and picks them up and carries them along, so you can clearly see its path and not just guess vaguely at it when it ruffles the grass in summer. The sight of a stream of leaves being carried along by the wind has always raised my blood and quickened my pace a little - heightening the desire to follow them, to chase the wind as far as it goes. I've never really done this - hikes and camping trips quell the desire temporarily, but I'm always promising myself that someday I'll do it for real, just pack up what I need and take off, following whatever path is set before me and never stopping, only pausing for rest before jumping up and off after the wind again.

And now I'm literally stuck here, alone and bored, unable even to lose myself in physical labor as I usually do, at the very time when sitting around is the last thing I want to do. I can't help but wonder if there's a lesson here somewhere - the problem is, I'm not quite sure what it is. Ostensibly there's the message of "you need to settle/slow down a little, whether you want to or not" but that's only the most immediate thing to do. Am I being told that the dream of wandering around as the wind blows me is childish, and it's time to give it up for more adult things, or just that in order to achieve that dream, I must first spend a period of...dormancy? preparation? something along those lines.

Of course, the message could be something along the lines of "suck it up, get dressed, go outside and work through the pain, just get on with your life, as you always do." Then again, it could also be "if you just suck it up and ignore your body, you are going to end up getting hurt even worse, as you always do."

I think the first thing to do, in any case, is allow myself a little more time to heal and sit back with a cup of tea, keeping a sharp eye out for any more messages. If any come along, I'll be sure to write about them here.

-N

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BODY/MIND: Digging is hella good for you!

Apologies for the nonexistent post yesterday - I have been working like a dog for the past couple of days, and LOVING it. My parents asked me when I first came back down here if I could do anything for "the grounds" - they're thinking about selling the house in a few years, and the lawns and gardens and various other areas around it leave quite a bit to be desired. We live pretty much in the woods, which means grass does not grow well even in the areas that we do bother to rake, and the rest is ankle-deep in oak leaves year-round. Way back in the woods there's nice stretches of moss and wild ginger and such, but the area nearest the house needs to look much more cared-for, both for our enjoyment now and also for when the house goes on the market.

Right in front of the house there's a little bed with some established boxwoods and an azalea, and a roughly semicircular area that used to be split into three "slices" when my sisters and I all lived here, and we'd each have free rein with our section. That's long been overgrown with some boring, uber-invasive liriope and all the other flowers had died except for a huge spindly Brazilian blue sage, which I tried to salvage by dividing the huge-ass clump of roots and putting it in several pots, but we'll see next spring if that did any good. Then there's the sidewalk, some sickly lawn and the "natural area," which started as a place we were too lazy to mow and is now a kind of rocky leaf-covered desert with a few trees here and there and the ugly concrete well cover.

First thing to physically do was rip out the liriope and all its roots (and lemme tell you, it did NOT want to go) and dig up the entire front garden area, avoiding the bushes, to loosen up the soil. Still working on that, but right now there's about a 4x8 space that's dug up and loosened to a depth of a foot, pretty tough going as our soil is heavy red Carolina clay and full of stones. I also convinced my parents (well, I convinced my mom, and now my dad just has to put up with it XD) to cut out some of the lawn and put in another bed across the sidewalk from the existing one. I laid the edge I wanted out on the lawn with stones and cut about half the turf off that area today - OMG! Grass is evil, not only because it's a monoculture that sucks the soil dry but because it personally hates me. I worked for at least a couple hours basically just scraping the grass off this area, not even started on digging it yet. I think I might need one of these for that.

Digging is fantastically good exercise. I have to use my legs to shove the spade into the ground, my arms to pry the soil up and lift it onto my pile, and my abs and torso constantly to stabilize the whole process. As a result, I hurt like a mofo, especially my back, since I'm constantly bending, twisting and straightening again, and my forearms, from prying the stones stuck in the soil loose with my hands and then throwing them to the side. But it's definitely the good kind of hurt - I can feel myself getting stronger, can actually feel my muscles getting harder. Just a little bit, but it's there. So I don't feel quite so bad for skipping my runs for the past couple of days, especially as I'm starting work in the garden at 8 or 9 in the morning and working for several hours straight at a time.

Besides all the physical labor that has to be done, the main real work is actually planning what all is going to go in the nice new beds once they're done being loosened and mixed with fertilizer and such. This is not a small project. I've got to take into account the fact that my mom doesn't like to do work in the garden, and my dad usually doesn't but on occasion will do far too much. They both like foliage and fragrant plants, especially as my dad is colorblind and can't tell the difference between red and green, but can certainly appreciate nice shapes and contrast. On the other hand, the garden needs to look physically appealing and inviting to everyone who views it. So basically my job is to figure out, of the certain plants that will even grow under these conditions, what is the perfect mix of architecturally interesting plants, fragrant plants and regular flowering plants, and how do I arrange it in such a way that it needs the least amount of care? Added to that, I need to make the garden interesting all year long, and any one plant blooming at any particular time needs to fit in with everything else - the color scheme will change from season to season but everything needs to flow together seamlessly, with one plant coming into its prime just as another in the same space fades for the year. Now, don't get me wrong, it's a fascinating project, and exactly what I've been studying on my own for years and years, but it's SO HARD. After thinking and drawing and researching for about a month, I'm just starting to get a set idea of what I want where for spring alone.

My mind has been so busy - trying to get to sleep last night I kept thinking of all the different plant combinations I have in mind for a particular area. Nettle tea has definitely helped - I've got tons of energy and the mental stamina to research plants for hours on end while I'm not working outside. I'm now drinking 3 or 4 cups a day; still not using the full cup of herb as suggested by Susun Weed, though, about 1/3c per 3c water and it seems to be working just fine. If it's worked this well with this little (relatively), however, I'm wondering it I won't be something of a hummingbird once I try it full-strength. Whatever happens, I'll be sure to document it all here! And I'll post pictures of the work in progress and the rough plans I have as soon as I can take them.

Goodnight, all

-N

Saturday, October 4, 2008

BODY/SPIRIT: Still More Nettles, and some thoughts on church

This'll be quite a brief post, as I need to get some sleep before going to church with my parents tomorrow and I've only got a couple of points anyways. First off, I've noticed that in the few days since I've started drinking nettle tea, I haven't gotten any new zits and the ones that were there seem to be fading nicely. There wasn't all that much to start with, just the lingering effects of stress and the hormonal switch from going off BC, probably exacerbated by talking on the phone for hours on end, lol - but the fact remains that the only factor in my life that's changed in the time it took for what was there to start to clear up is the fact that I've started drinking the tea. It's not completely conclusive yet, of course, but certainly seems promising. I've also found that the tea tastes better when cold and stronger than most regular teas, and the pint I had today in the afternoon gave me the energy to make quite a start clearing out some ridiculously invasive groundcover in the front garden.

Second - yes, you read that first sentence correctly, I am going to church tomorrow. It's not exactly my cup of tea - especially when stuff is mentioned about "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess" - no thank you, sounds a little too Borg-y for me - and during Communion, when I have to sneak out and hide in the bathroom, as it's quite a small church and the sight of the music director's daughter pointedly sitting in the front row and not going to the altar would cause some tongues to wag, and I don't want my dad to have to answer awkward questions. But I do love the music.

One of the reasons I'm going tomorrow in particular is that my dad has asked me to sing a particularly lovely old hymn that fits my voice nicely. I've sung in church before and always get complimented - I don't say this to brag, but to point out a fact I'm only beginning to realize myself - that I have a wonderful gift that I can use to make people feel closer to...well, whichever name you care to use, it all ends up as the same One anyways. That's why I still love "church music" - old hymns and classical masses in particular send such a shiver up my spine that I'm certain the air would be full of all kinds of beings hanging there vibrating with every note, if I could only see them. I feel that all music, particularly those pieces written specifically for the purpose of making people feel closer to their god(dess), whether it be Christians to YHWH, pagans to the Lord and Lady, or anyone else you care to think of, has the ability to connect anyone with their particular deity of choice, through the universal language - the simple combinations of notes that somehow strike a chord (pun, sorry) in all listeners' hearts.

A pagan friend of mine disagreed with me on this point, and disliked it immensely whenever I sang "church" music. Whether it was a hymn in English or snippets from masses in Latin or Russian didn't matter, just the fact that it had ostensibly been written to honor and glorify the Christian god made it entirely unpalatable to him. This hurt me a little when he told me - not only because those are some of my favorite songs to sing, but also the fact that he couldn't see how almost any song can be used simply for the pure joy of music, to revel in the voice or talent that your own gods and goddesses gave you, whatever you choose to call them. When I sing songs about Jesus in front of the congregation, they're seeing him, I'm seeing my own Goddess, but we all end up in the presence of holiness, and that's really all that matters.

-N

Friday, October 3, 2008

BODY/BRAIN: More Herblore on Nettles, Running (plus some turtles)

So I drank a pint of nettle stuff today (a little too strong to be called a tea, a little weak for an infusion); didn't notice the too-many-thoughts thing again like the other night, but that may be because of the fact that's it's much more noticeable when one is trying to clear the mind and sleep rather than doing daytime things. I haven't exactly been exploding with energy or anything, but I am definitely more awake and alert than some days recently. I think I'll stick with the same recipe for another week or so, at least, and keep tracking any progress (or lack thereof).

After my current stash is used up, I'll definitely be getting some more, not sure if I'll be going back to the local store, though - as nice as they are, I was doing a bit of poking around on the intarwubs today and realized that if I'd continued to buy from them I'd be overpaying rather a lot, especially considering the amounts I'd buy if I keep up with this. The local store prices their stuff to reflect the fact that most people are only going to buy an ounce or two at a time, and for those who are just making a cup of tea or such every couple of days, that's fine - but I do want to see how drinking the full infusions makes me feel, and it would add up pretty fast. However, Mountain Rose Herbs has a huge selection of happy organic herbs for much more decent prices than I'd first seen - 1 lb of dried nettle leaf is $8.50, versus about $18 at the local place. Shipping might drive up the price again, though, but at least I've got an idea of about what the price should be if I buy specifically in bulk rather than by the ounce.

Speaking of nettles, here's a brand-new article from Susun Weed! Go read it!

On running - I've been trying to start back up running again, with middling success - I was doing alright at actually getting my ass out of bed around sunrise to run a few miles, and then my euphemism came around and previous experieces of literally crippling cramps (I was lying on the floor screaming for about 10 minutes) as a direct result of exercise scared me off, although I know I should have tried to keep up with yoga or something. However, Aunt Flo is gone again and I AM going to get up and run tomorrow, rain or shine. This means I'll probably have to sleep in my running clothes with my shoes right by the edge of the bed and three or four alarms set, but damn it I am running! It's too late to do this before tomorrow, but I also want to check out the nice running trails nearby and bribe myself to get out of bed with the thought of running along a river or something.

And a last thought to leave you with: I went down to the Eno (the town river/protected park area) today, just to sit and dip my toes in the water for a while. Peering across the river (trying to get used to my brand-new glasses XD) I saw what seemed at first glance to be part of a stacked-stone wall sticking up out of the river near the opposite shore. However, a second look told me that it was actually a log almost completely covered in turtles sunning themselves - about 20 of varying sizes, from about the size of my hand to as big as a dinner plate. The log wasn't all that big, either, so they were pretty much stacked on top of each other in places! Turtles aren't terribly cuddly-looking things normally, but these were totally snuggling up to one another and it was just too damn cute! I was all like "d'awww!"

Goodnight all, sweet dreams of cuddly turtles,

-N

Thursday, October 2, 2008

BODY/BRAIN: Herblore on Nettles




Was doing a little research on nettles to try and back up what I'd remembered, and see if I could find anything else. First off, I went to Susun Weed's fantastic site, which is an absolute wealth of information about herbs, weeds, womanhood and sooo much more - I can spend hours there! But for now I was looking for one thing in particular, so I mostly restrained myself to these two pages. A quote from the first:
"[Nettle] stimulates the kidneys, cures diarrhea, stops internal bleeding, cleans the blood, and is an important source of iron, calcium, and vitamin C making it valuable in anemia. Nettle tea has been used to treat asthma,wheezing, and shortness of breath. The tea is also diuretic and has been used for cystitis and high blood pressure."
and the second:
"Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) builds energy, strengthens the adrenals, and is said to restore youthful flexibility to blood vessels. A cup of nettle infusion contains 500 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of bone-building magnesium, potassium, silicon, boron, and zinc. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, and K. For flexible bones, a healthy heart, thick hair, beautiful skin, and lots of energy, make friends with sister stinging nettle. It may make you feel so good you'll jump up and exercise."
Sounds great! But I noticed one problem. The dosage given on the first page is 2 t/c of boiling water, steeped for 10 minutes and then taken 1/4 c at a time, 4 times over the course of the day. This is pretty much directly contradicted by the other page, which promotes drinking not teas but infusions of herbs - 1 oz by weight (about 1 c by volume) of dried herb brewed in a quart of water anywhere between 4 hours and overnight, and subsequently drunk over the next 36 hours. The first seems like a surprisingly small dosage, but the second seems like almost too much. I've decided to go somewhat in-between, and right now am brewing about 2 T in a pint of water, for about 30 min before refrigerating. I'll drink a little tonight to see how the taste is and finish up the rest tomorrow morning.

Most of the sites I saw didn't say much else that was new, but I did find this interesting video on Youtube. A quote from about halfway through:
"It keeps your mind very very active, too; I drank a whole thing of nettle tea one night and I couldn't go to sleep all night - my mind was just ruminating, ruminating, ruminating..."
Aside from the fact that "ruminating" is a fun word to say, I think I can already back this up a little. Last night the small amount of nettle tea I had (1/2 c, if that) didn't so much make me feel zomguberawake like coffee might, I DEFINITELY had the whole thoughts-randomly-filling-the-head bit - it was more than a little overwhelming at one point, actually, although that might be more the effect of hormones right now. A cup of warm milk (yay tryptophan!) and a little chilling helped, but yeah...this is NOT a tea to drink a nice warm cup of right before bed. I'll be trying valerian in a while though, so stay tuned for that ;)

On price: if I were to go with the recipe from Susun Weed's article on infusions and drink a quart of the stuff every day, it would run me about $35/mo - that's about $18/lb in my local healthy hippie store, figuring I'd have to buy that much every two weeks or so. However, the good several scoopfuls I bought myself are enough to fill a jar that I think holds 1 c, tamped down a bit, and cost me a grand total of 45 cents. So far it looks like I've used barely any at all - dried herbs are fluffy! - so I'm guessing this much should last me about 2 weeks, if I use it every day. Not a bad price at all, considering. More tomorrow on the effects of drinking a cup or more of this stuff at a time.

-N

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A couple notes on format and such-like things

So I've decided to take a tip from many other more experienced bloggers and institute specific topics on which to write, based on the aspects listed in the first post. I don't know yet if I want to do it by days of the week, so for now I'll stick to writing about whatever comes to mind or seems most pertinent, and label the blog with the heading/tag that fits the best, trying to stay on-track as much as possible (we'll see how that goes...I am a rambler of legendary prowess). Topics are below, VERY tentatively named:

  • BODY: everything dealing with exercise, diet, and the putting-into-practice of the herb lore and such that I'll hopefully be learning
  • BRAIN: everything that can be classified under "knowledge" (not necessarily "wisdom" ;) ) - that is, the actual herb lore itself, learning to deal with the mundane realities of life like budgets and jobs and making do with what you have, etc etc.
  • MIND: the aforementioned art, music, culture, literature, etc etc. This might be a discussion of a book I really liked or a show I went to or a great idea I had. Basically, the not-necessarily-practical workings of that muscle between my ears.
  • HEART: no Captain Planet jokes plz :P I can't think of a better name for this one right now - basically, everything about interpersonal relationships.
  • SPIRIT: various meditations on pagan-ness - perhaps stuff like my thoughts on sabbats, esbats and different seasons, attempts to better learn things like runes and tarot, or essays on how I'm trying to carry stuff over from circle to everyday life. All cosmic two-by-fours will go here.
Questions? Comments? Personal experiences? Ideas for better titles (please!!!)?

And before I forget, my first actual update (!):

BODY: So I went to the local hippie healthy store and bought some dried nettle (Urtica dioica) to make into tea. It's supposed to be chock-full of iron and calcium and vitamin C and lovely things like that, and basically works like a wonder-weed: gives you loads of energy without making you crash, strengthens your immune system, makes your hair, skin, nails and all of the rest of you healthy and vibrant and glowy and stuff. I made some tea tonight with about a teaspoon or two in a cup of water and sipped a very little, but then remembered that I might not want energy this late at night and so stuck it in the fridge for tomorrow. More on that later.

For now, goodnight.

-N

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The start of a long road...


As I look back over the crazy roller-coaster ride of the past several months of my life, there's one particular thing that stands out vividly. It's not huge in and of itself, but if I take it for the defining statement of my life recently, it certainly says quite a lot. In all the conversations with my friends about my life and circumstances recently, there's one phrase which has come up every single time:

"My life is SO fucked up!"

Crude? Obviously. The only way to describe the situation? Obviously not. I could say "crazy," "hectic," "unexpectedly shoved into a handbasket," "feeling like Fate dangles desires in front of me just long enough for me to think they're within my reach before snatching them away;" "covered in bees" or many more, but none that quite express the degree of the situation so succinctly. And the fact that the same phrase kept springing to mind and tongue over and over during these months tells me that it is the right one to describe the situation at hand.

Speaking of the "situation at hand," I'm not going to use this blog solely as a sob story about how horrible everything was, although I may mention certain bits as time goes on. The main purpose of the blog is to identify the problems in my life that caused it to be so very fucked up in the first place, and not only to remove them but to replace them with ideals from the following list, which will most likely be edited, as my views are also an ongoing process:

  • To be healthy: to be fit and strong enough to fully enjoy the physical aspects and activities of life and to know how to nourish and protect my body in order to keep it that way. This includes not only physical exercise and diet but knowledge of herbs and natural methods so that I can do as little harm to the earth as possible while keeping my body strong;
  • To learn to deal with whatever job situation I have at the time in order to cover all my basic expenses and keep my life organized while sparing as much time and money as possible to help those who are worse off than me;
  • To balance practicality with creativity and spontaneity - to fill my life with art, song and all other forms of beauty I can think of or find, not forget to treat myself once in a while, and generally keep life fresh;
  • To keep up and strengthen all my various existing relationships, from family to friends to lovers, while continuing to make new connections;
  • To continually further my understanding of the natural patterns and forces at work in the world and the universe through my chosen pagan path;
and overall

  • To find happiness, peace and wisdom enough that these things saturate me and spill over into the lives of everyone I meet - what I think is the defining characteristic of every woman who we might describe as being like a goddess.
Not all of my posts are going to be as uppity as this one probably sounds in parts - my road, as I see it, starts way down in the mud of day-to-day reality, and the first leg of the journey is going to be a whole hell of a lot of slogging. So the first thing to do before starting a long journey is to get a good night's rest, which is exactly what I'm going to do now. Goodnight!

-N