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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