Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wrinkled trees

Looking at maple trees, I see that younger trees have smoother skin, while older trees have deeply wrinkled skin.  Trees don't use skin cream to try to hide their wrinkles. I hope that as I age, I can be like that tree, standing tall, unashamed of who I am.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fun with friends

Sometimes I go rollerblading or rowing or kayaking, and I feel, "This is wonderful! I should do this every day!"

Sometimes I don't go anywhere, and I think, "It is so great to have free time, to not have to go places.  I should stay home all the time!"

Lately, I mostly find people annoying.  And, I love having time to myself, to pursue my own agenda, whether it's kayaking, staying home, becoming a druid, or practicing tai chi.  Most of the time, I'm glad I don't have people around to take me away from the things I want to do.  Mostly I look upon social events as chores I'd like to avoid.  But I spent this evening with friends, and so now I'm like, "This was great! I should spend time with people all the time!"

The best part was when my friend and her toddler and I were dancing around the living room singing along to Chim Chiminy.  It has been a long time since I had that kind of fun, and I had forgotten what it was like.

A decade ago, I could be like that with my group of friends, and that's what I loved about being in that group of friends, but then that was over, and I was left hurt and cynical.

Connecting with people in that way is not something you can control.  Sometimes we are blessed to have something like that in our lives; other times, our lives are stripped of people we can connect with.  We do have some choice about to what extent we open our lives to other people, but we can't control what we get when we do open our lives.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sounds emerge from darkness

It's funny how sounds become louder in the darkness.  Often, I turn on relaxing music to listen to as I get ready for bed and then as I fall asleep.  I set it for a comfortable volume while I'm getting ready for bed, and then as soon as I turn out the light to go to sleep, I want to turn down the volume.  That one I've been aware of for a long time, but today I noticed a new one.  I tried eating by candlelight, with the lights off, and I found that suddenly, I could hear the crickets.  Usually I notice them when I'm on my balcony, but not when I'm indoors.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Druid, Quaker, Pagan, and Catholic

Since I became a Druid, I've felt closer to Quakerism, Paganism, and Catholicism.

I used to be a Quaker, and I always liked their values, but the main thing they did was sit in silence, and I didn't get a lot out of that.  Now, as a Druid, I practice daily meditation, so I've found how to get something out of silence.

For some people, Druidry is like a denomination within Paganism.  Others are Druids but don't consider themselves Pagan.  They may be atheist, monotheist, or pantheist.  I  do  not consider myself Pagan.  However, Druidry does have a lot of the same practices as Paganism, so now I feel closer to Paganism.

And though Catholics would probably find this quite alarming and heretical, I am finding, with my background in Quaker simplicity, that the use of candles, incense, rituals, altars, water, robes etc. in Druidry makes me feel closer to Catholics.  Druids even have a ritual very similar to the Catholic ritual of crossing yourself.


There are so many things I want to do.  My job takes up much of my time, and free time seems like a scarce resource.  There are far more things I want to do than I have time for.  They are things I truly want to do, things that I enjoy, things that are relaxing.  And yet, they are work, they require effort, thought, energy.  Sometimes I'm tired.  Sometimes I just don't feel like accomplishing things any more.  But maybe I should allow myself to include in each day more time spent on indulgences, time on just lying around, staring at trees if I'm on my balcony or listening to music if I'm indoors, time reading fantasy novels.

The things that I want to be doing include: gardening, tai chi, Nia, going to the farmer's market, taking care of chores such as laundry, ironing and bills; rollerblading, kayaking, clearing the clutter in my house in order to make my house a sanctuary for myself, reading blogs, writing blogs, writing emails, preparing playlists, spending time outdoors with field guides in order to learn to identify trees and other plants, figuring out what to do with my life, and reading books on topics like nature, sustainable living, qigong, tai chi, and druidry.  Those are just my current things. If I had time, I also would join a Morris dancing group, join the voluntary simplicity group, volunteer for the farmer's market and the community gardens, visit relatives, go to Nantucket, Maine, and the Olympic Peninsula, and take classes in various forms of dance, such as jazz and African.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Maya equivalent of a druid

The article "Learning from Don Juan" in the Spring 2010 issue of COA: The College of the Atlantic Magazine (go to page 11, or search for "Don Juan"), profiles Don Juan Witzil Cima of the Yucatan Peninsula.  The article says, "Don Juan is a farmer, counselor, judge, healer, basket maker, father, teacher, guide, knowledge keeper, and so much more." It seems to me that in his role as a h'men in the Maya community, he is the sort of person that druids aspire to be.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why I refrain from interaction

It seems I prefer  not to talk to people.  If I've observed someone for a while and have decided they are okay, then I will start talking to that person.  But most people don't get deemed okay.  It seems terribly elitist.  I think that part of the reason for it is because I'm hurt by the things people say (such as giving me health advice) so I don't want to talk unless I think it is safe.  Also, I think it makes a difference that I don't have enough people on my wavelength.  If I felt I was part of a supportive community, then I wouldn't mind reaching out to people even though they might say something I didn't like.  It's like, you don't mind eating a bad-tasting thing if it is only 1% of your diet so much as you mind having 100% of what you eat be bad-tasting.

Another factor is fear of awkwardness.  I usually don't know what to say to people.  If I start a conversation with someone, then after saying one thing, I'll have to say a second and a third, and a fourth, and I might run out after the first.  That ties in with the previous reason, because people who aren't on my wavelength say weird stuff that I don't know how to respond to.

Also, I don't know how to steer people away from the things that I don't like.   There's a way to stand up for yourself without hurting the other person, like if someone says something unsupportive, I can say, "Gee, you're supportive," in a way like I'm teasing them for how unsupportive they are being.   But it's only once in a while that I can come up with a good response on the spot .  That's another problem -- I usually think of what I want to say two hours later.

It seems like a negative trait to be so withdrawn from other people, but I don't want to push myself to talk to people just for the sake of it.  To a certain extent, this is a winter time in my life -- a time of quiet, stillness, retreating inward, and yet growing.  The growth that is taking place within is what will be my strong roots when my blossoms are ready to burst forth.  To try to go forth now would be going forth without being ready, so it would not bear fruit.  I used to be more sociable in the past, and a more sociable time will come again, but now is not that time.  I have many great people in my life now, but now, a time when fatigue brings me a feeling of sensory overload just from being around other people, is not the time to add new people.  At least not people who I would have to see in person and go out and do things with.  I don't have the energy for that.  However, I do have many rewarding interactions by computer and phone.

Continuing easing of irritability

As I wrote on Aug. 7, I've been feeling sick, and that has produced considerable irritability.  For four days now, the sick part has been over, though there is still much fatigue.  With the lifting of some of  the physical symptoms, it has become easier to cope with the irritability.  Today was a very frustrating day at work, with many causes for irritability, and yet on many occasions, when I felt the irritation flare, I was able to rise above it.  I thought of calmer, more peaceable attitudes toward other people.  I put a positive spin on it by thinking that today provides us with many opportunities to work on our patience.  I am grateful to the health which has allowed me to return to the disposition that I feel is more myself.  I must remember compassion when those who are sick do not take a positive attitude.  When I do feel irritability, I want to observe it and identify its cause.  It seems to me that the causes are:
  1. Frustration.  Not being able to work on tasks that need to get done.  Working under people who make detrimental policies which I then have to enforce.  Working under people who don't tell you they've invented a new policy, and then act like the policy has always been there and criticize you for not following the policy they never told you about.  All of these are about a mismatch between what I want to do and what I'm able to do.  The solution is to look at the reality of the situation, and consider what I can do within that reality.  Can I change the circumstances to better allow me to do what I want? Or can I change to new goals that better fit my circumstance?
  2. Overload.  When I am very tired, then any task before me becomes annoying.  Even sounds and sights become annoying because they demand sensory processing.  The solution to this is rest, stillness, quiet, darkness.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Melting the black cloud of irritability

The past 16 days or so have been hard.  I've had this sickness residing with me.  Except for one day, it has not been bad enough to keep me abed.  However, it is something that makes me miserable while I keep on doing things.  I hack away at trying to fulfill my responsibilities, and yet I wilt in that role.  I just don't have the impetus to do things.  Along with the physical symptoms comes a black cloud of irritability.  Just hearing people have conversations annoys me.

I think that what would help me is to make sure I get plenty of sleep, and to spend some of my waking hours relaxing.  That's what I have been trying to do as much as I can.  However, sometimes I can't fall asleep.  And I have responsibilities and commitments to fulfill.  I did take a couple days off from work, and I did spend some of my evenings deliberately turning away from chores and relaxing instead, but so far, it has not been enough.

I find my peace in my practice of meditating every evening out on my balcony.  Being outdoors gazing at trees and sky helps a great deal.  During this time, my irritability melts away.  I am grateful that my discovery of druidry has brought me this meditation practice, which in turn has brought me relief from the black cloud of irritability.  Of course, that is not all it has brought me.  In the past, I had various strands of interests strewn about here and there, with little direction.  Druidry has drawn those strands into a coherent whole, and given me the inspiration to pursue those interests.

My responsibility as a druid is to serve the earth and to serve society, but my third (or perhaps first) obligation is to care for myself, so that I can better fulfill the other obligations.  The past fortnight has been a good example of that.  I can't do a good job of serving humanity if I get annoyed every time a human speaks within earshot of me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plant mages, qi, and pantheism

I find Tamora Pierce's Circle novels to be a good source of inspiration for my druid path. In these books, she writes about what she calls "ambient mages," which are different from "academic mages." Academic mages are like Harry Potter. Academic mages have power within themselves, and they seem to rely more on things like spells, potions, and wands. Ambient mages find power in the world around them. Each has a particular element or craft in which they find magic. It's plants for Briar and Rosethorn, thread and cloth for Sandry and Lark, metal for Daja and Frostpine, weather for Tris, vision for Niko, stone for Evvy, dance for Paco, cooking for Jory, wood for Nia, and glass for Keth.

When I was reading Street Magic recently, I was struck by how Briar draws power from plants. As I walked to work, I looked at the trees and bushes all around me, and imagined that magic was flowing into me from them. Not that I was taking power away from them, just that I felt stronger for being in their presence.

Then I took a qigong class. The teacher talked about drawing in strong, healing qi energy from the world around us. It was very much like the drawing energy from plants which I had just been thinking of.

It also fits with pantheism. We pantheists see the divine as something which pervades the universe, and we feel the presence of the divine when we are out in nature, which is sort of like drawing magic from plants.

I don't believe in literal magic. Briar's drawing magic from plants provides a good metaphor for my pantheism, and having that metaphor strengthens my spirituality.

Connecting earth and air

As part of my druid path, I've been practicing the Sphere of Protection ritual. In so doing, I've noticed a lack of connection between earth and air. That is, I have lots of ideas of things to do flying around in my head, but they lack connection with the realities of my energy and time. Having noticed this, I've tried to connect them better. In summer, I always think about going to outdoor concerts, going to county fairs, going kayaking, going to Maine, and visiting my family. But the reality is, I don't have to do all those things to be happy. The reality is, if I did all those things, I would be tired and my house would be a mess and my laundry wouldn't be done. The reality is, those things are not necessary for happiness. I can find happiness sitting on my balcony in the evening, listening to the crickets, and watching the leaves move in the wind.

On the other hand, I do find I great deal of joy in the more adventurous things I've listed. My paternal grandmother once made a comment that when you look back on your life, you'll be glad of the adventures you had, and you won't care so much whether or not you kept your floors clean.

I don't want to spend all the time that I'm not at work doing chores. But I would like to put some time into making my home into the kind of environment that I like to be in, and I would like to live at a slow enough pace that I have some peace of mind and am not constantly pushing myself beyond my energy level.

Lughnasadh of my life

This is the time of year when we observe Lughnasadh. It occurs to me that where I'm at in my life now is at Lughnasadh. That is, Lughnasadh is the peak of the thermal summer (as opposed to the solar summer, which peaks at solstice). We still have a lot of summer ahead, and yet we know summer is waning now, rather than waxing. If the year parallels life, then spring is childhood and adolescence, summer is the middle years of childrearing and career, fall is when we retire from work and our kids are grown, but we still have a vibrant life, and winter is when we decline and die. And so, I'm at the point in adulthood when I'm no longer starting out. And yet, I feel as if I still am starting out. I feel as if I haven't yet found my path. As those who know me will attest, I am always wondering, "what should I do with my life?"

What do I want to do with my life? Over the past few years, certain values have emerged. What has not yet emerged is what I can do to enact those values. What I hope to do with my life is to live those values myself, and to support others who are seeking the same things.

As I see that my life is finite, that I have limited time to do whatever it is I will do with my life, I also see that my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are older than I am, and I probably won't be able to be with them my whole life. I want to take advantage of the opportunity to be with them while I still have that opportunity.