Saturday, November 27, 2010

Getting involved in the community instead of taking classes

At the simple living group, a young woman gave a presentation about the time bank project she is starting. I don't know what she does for a living, but here she is active in the community, doing something with her life. Why don't I do that? When I try to figure out what to do with my life, I think of a new career field to try and take a class in it. Why don't I just do stuff -- jump in and get involved, and see where it leads me?

But then I remembered about getting tired and sick all the time. For the next three days after attending the simple living group, I lay on the couch whenever I didn't have to be at work. When I was at work, I had a lot of trouble focusing. I do think that I've caught a virus, and it's not solely that the simple living meeting wore me out, but the reality is that when I do something a little extra, whether it's go to a simple living meeting or spend an hour gardening, it's not unusual for me to feel sick for a few days after. I'm doing better than I was four years ago, but I still have to keep reminding myself that all these enthusiastic thoughts about all the things I want to get involved in need to be tempered by reality.

So, don't beat myself up for not being the young woman at the simple living meeting who is organizing projects in our community. I have to live with the bounds of what I've got. But within the bounds of what I've got, I can think about how best to use what time and energy I have, and maybe thinking of this young woman will provide some inspiration, by reminding me that there are other things that can be done besides taking classes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holidays today and tomorrow

I did not really observe Thanksgiving, but today I am observing Buy Nothing Day, and tomorrow I will observe Small Business Saturday.

What I want: a community that shares my values

In my town, there is a simple living group that meets once a month. At each meeting, a speaker presents about a topic of interest, and there is discussion time when they go around the circle and each person talks about how they are doing on trying to live simply. I recently joined this group and have attended their two most recent meetings. I'm excited about being part of this group. It made me realize that what I've always wanted is to be a part of a community that shares my values, to be working toward something in community with others who are working toward the same thing. I loved my job when I first started it because that's what it was. When that changed is when I became unhappy at my job. I think more important to me than what task I'm doing is whether I'm doing it for a purpose I believe in, and in support of a community I believe in.

For the long-term, I can continue to seek a job in a community that shares my values. In the meantime, within my workplace I can seek out people who share my values, and try to work with them to build a community that expresses those values. (That is, to work toward our shared purpose of serving students and treating all with respect, as opposed to the institutional culture that the purpose of faculty is to bring in wealth and prestige, and that staff and students are useful when they contribute to that goal, but otherwise, when they call for teaching or advising, they are an unwanted distraction.)

I think it would be useful to develop that habit of seeking out likeminded people and building community with them, regardless of the prevailing climate.

But I also can't forget the goal of finding a better place. I have a tendency to think that I should make it, regardless of circumstances. I try to do everything I'm supposed to do even when I'm sick. Then I get healthy, and it's amazing how much easier it becomes to do things. I don't have to spend my life fighting uphill battles. Tying in with yesterday's post about working with nature, I don't have to try to garden in the desert. I need to seek out fertile soil for my endeavors, and I need to choose aspirations which match the soil I've got.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Working with nature

I don't want to follow the approach of conquest of the earth -- build bigger houses, bigger roads, fly in airplanes all the time, own many cars. Nor do I want to live in the wilderness, with no shelter or clothing other than what I find in the woods. What I want to do is to work with nature, to create the life that I want in a way that respects nature. For example, in gardening, we work with the laws of nature to coax the growth of the plants we wish to cultivate.

With my health, the conquest approach would be to fill myself with caffeine and medications, to try to keep going regardless of what may be happening in my body. The wilderness approach would be to let sickness run wild. Neither is what I want. I want to work with nature to make my health what I want it to be. I want to give my body the rest, exercise, and nutrients which best suit it, just as I try to give my garden crops the soil, water, and sunlight which best suit them. When sick, I want to do things that will drive away the illness. I want to work with nature to grow my health.

In figuring out what to do with my life, I have to realize that it's not realistic to do everything I dream of. My aspirations are many times larger than my time and energy. I also have to accept that I have a certain temperament and certain abilities. There are some things that would be cool to do, but they just aren't for me to do. But that does not mean I am just stuck with who I am right now. I can learn new skills. I respect the nature of who I am, but within that, I can shape my life to what I want it to be, just as within the laws of nature, I shape my garden and my health.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Walk in the light

We had some mild weather last week. Monday evening, I sat out on the balcony. The balcony of my apartment is just above the entrance of the first floor apartment, and there is a bright outside light to illuminate that entrance. The light also illuminated a part of the nearby boxelder tree. It was like a spotlight on just one bit of the tree, so that one part was lit as if in sunshine, while the rest of the tree was in darkness. It gave me the inspiration to try to walk in sunshine, whatever darkness surrounds me. This connects with my choice of the name Evergreen, representing maintaining vitality through the dark and cold time of year. It also connects with something from Quakerism. One of the first things I learned when I joined Quakerism as a kid was a song with a refrain that says, "Walk in the Light, wherever you may go." It also ties in with the druid ritual in which we imagine ourselves surrounded by a sphere of light.

Sometimes it's too much -- the stresses at work, the fatigue, the illness. But sometimes I can find the strength to retain the spirit of sunshine within myself, whatever goes on around me. And sometimes it takes no strength to retain it, because sometimes life offers such beauty that the sunshine just beams within me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Community moderation

Some of the e-mail lists I'm on are, in my opinion, over-moderated, while others are under-moderated.

What happens in over-moderated lists is I join a group all new and fresh and excited that I've found like-minded people, I put a lot of thought into crafting a message, and I daydream that they will be impressed by my insightfulness, only to get a harsh slap in the face when they tactfully tell me that my contribution not only fails to be insightful, but is in fact inappropriate.

In under-moderated lists, a list may go on happily for some time, and then someone comes in and stirs up all sorts of bad feelings, driving away the people whose contributions I valued most.

Is there no middle ground? I don't think that groups (on-line or otherwise) should be a free-for-all, in which anyone can do whatever they want, no matter how destructive it is, but I also don't think that that things should be decided by authoritarian rule. I think that community members should be able to participate in deciding how the community should be run. I think that if a person's words might hurt others, rather than silence those words, let them be said, and then let the community members express their feelings if they are hurt. In that way, the community learns and grows together. That is actually how it has happened a number of times on one of the e-mail lists I'm on.

It seems to me that Quakers have a good way. Quakers believe that God speaks to all of us. In the unprogrammed branch of Quakerism, there are no designated ministers. Instead, we are all ministers. Anyone in attendance may stand and deliver a message. However, it is also expected that things will be decided by consensus within the community. If you think that God has told you one thing, but everyone else in the community thinks God has told them something different, then you all better sit down and listen to God together for a while.

A nice thing about blogs is you can say whatever you want. You don't have any moderator critiquing you. If people don't like it, they don't have to read it. Similarly, I don't have to deal with the negative people who in my opinion ruin e-mail groups -- I just ignore their blogs.

The same sort of thing applies to real life -- one aspect of getting along with people is leaving them alone. Basically, the amount of time we spend with a person should correspond to the amount of compatibility we have with them. In dealing with other people, enjoy the parts you like, and let the rest be. (There are exceptions, for example, intervening when someone is being a bully.)


Bob -- my supervisor, colleague, mentor, friend -- told us about three and a half years ago that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. For a while, he was beating it. A month ago, it started beating him. Thursday morning, we got the news that that day would probably be the end. He lasted until 8am Friday.

In my more noble moments, I think of what is to be learned from the experience:
  1. In seeing how I feel about people's responses, I can learn what does and doesn't work, so that I can respond more appropriately to others who are experiencing loss.
  2. Awareness of the finiteness of our time here brings an appreciation of the time we do have -- the moments of feeling sunshine warming me, seeing the brilliance of autumn leaves, time spent with friends.
  3. How do I want to use my time here? I want to use it to treat others with kindness, to knit people together into harmonious communities, to build communities based on sustainable living and on treating all with kindness and respect. I want to spend it delighting in the beauty of nature and in the sound of music. I want to spend it dancing. I want to spend it with family and friends. I want to spend it with sunshine on my skin and my bare feet on grass.
In my less noble moments:
  1. I cry.
  2. I get annoyed with everyone. I'm annoyed at the people who go on with their lives as if nothing is wrong. I'm annoyed at the people expressing their memories of Bob who were not even close to him. I'm annoyed at the people who do not offer me sympathy. I'm annoyed at people who offer me sympathy in the wrong way, or sympathy from the wrong people. That is just about everyone, since no kind of sympathy will make it better.
  3. I'm listless at work. How can I do my work when I have no supervisor?
  4. I annoy my colleagues. I feel like I want to do something, and all I can do is to get the news and tributes out there, so I hover too much over colleagues who are trying to do something about it.
  5. Usually at the end of the day, I write down on a calendar what I did that day. I left Friday blank on my calendar. Usually I call my mom often, maybe four times a week. I haven't called her since the news Thursday morning, and I don't want to call her.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Druid name

When I was thinking about what to choose for a druid name, the first thing that came to mind was Juniper. It is a name I have used before. I like the sound of it. It sounds cheery and woodsy. It's relevant to me because I pass many different kinds of juniper bushes on my way to work every weekday, and because there was juniper at a place I used to go as a kid, a place that holds a place in my heart.

I knew though that there were other druids named Juniper, so I figured I would have a second name as well. Juniper Sage came to mind. I've liked the name Sage for a while. It is another woodsy sort of name, and it represents wisdom. However, though it's a name I like, it doesn't necessarily feel like my name.

Trees are important to me. Maples are the most relevant. I am surrounded by maples at home, at work, and in between. I grew up around maples. But people often associate the word "maple" with maple syrup, so rather than just maple, I thought maybe I would use Mapletree as my name, or part of my name.

Then I thought of evergreen. I don't feel as strongly about evergreen trees as I do about maple trees, but what I liked about the name Evergreen was 1) "green" representing sustainability, so "evergreen" representing always trying to live sustainably, and 2) I love the summer, but in winter, I shrink from the cold. The name Evergreen would be a reminder to blossom all year round.

I am using Evergreen as my name now, but I'm not sure I'm entirely settled on it. I may change, or add another part to it.

Another name that resonates with me is Forester. There was a moment when I was about 11 years old when I was walking and looked down to see my sneaker against the grass and the dirt. It was perhaps early April -- a time when it was getting warmer, but the grass was not yet to its summer greenness. Somehow in that moment I felt connected with nature. The name Forester brings me back to the feeling I had in that moment. Sometimes I get caught up in a certain way of thinking, the lifestyle where you have to wear fancy clothes for your job or something. The name Forester brings me back to the way I feel when my feet walk upon the earth rather than upon pavement.

Perhaps I'll be Evergreen Forester.

But maples are also important in my life. Perhaps I'll drop the Evergreen and be Maple Forester. Or Mapletree Forester.

But "Maple" just does not sound like a name I identify with. If I think of someone calling that name, and me answering, it doesn't seem right. The names I can imagine myself answering to are Juniper and Evergreen.

Maybe I'll be Evergreen Mapletree Forester. That's a mouthful though. Or I could be Evergreen of the Maples.

Well, time will tell. I think to a certain extent, you just have to let your druid name come to you in its own time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pantheistic article in Quaker newsletter

A member of a pantheist e-mail list I'm on pointed out the article "I Found God Here," the first article in the Fall 2010 PYM Today newsletter. This article describes what pantheism means to me: that God is not a guy controlling us, but rather is the magic that pervades the world around us.

It's an article in a Quaker newsletter. I come from a Quaker background, and I think Quakerism and Pantheism are similar. The core belief of Quakerism is "that of God in everyone," so Quakers share my pantheistic view of God here among us.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taking stock along the way

Where am I on my journey? Which way do I go next?
  • Things are not going well at my job. I should go. I should get a different job. But do I know what I want to do? There are so many possible jobs that I've contemplated, only to realize that I would like them less than the one I have. There is value in taking a risk, taking the leap to do something new, but there is also value in looking before you leap, in doing some research about what your options are.
  • I have an idea about what kind of job I'd like to get. I think I'm comfortable with it, and yet, I don't seem to be intrigued and enraptured by it. But perhaps it will become more interesting as I get more involved in it.
  • What I am interested in is reading and writing about things related to druidry, pantheism, and trees. These are the things that I fall into doing, instead of the things that I think I should be doing, things like homework for the class I'm taking, applying for jobs, paying bills, cleaning the house, and going grocery shopping. Does the fact that I'm drawn to these activities mean that they are my true passion, that that's what I should be looking to pursue, rather than what I currently hypothesize to be my career interest? Or is it that everyone desires time to relax, and that our work, as enjoyable and interesting as it may be, is actually work, and one needs a break from work from time time?
  • I know that there is more to be done for druidry. There is such a wealth of things to learn and practice. I wrote earlier about doing more related to the healing spiral, and about the nine natural history books I need to read. I practice meditation, movement meditation, and time spent outdoors, but I need to develop those practices, to focus them better. I need to learn to care for my bonsai tree, to see if I can sign up for some tree-planting, to memorize the rituals, and to take a first aid class.
  • I must remember that druidry is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It's not like school, where you just do the boring homework because the teacher says you have to. The goal is to grow in wisdom, knowledge, skills, and health, so that I can better put my values into action. The values I wish to put into action:
    1. To sow the seeds of peace in my interactions with others. To work toward a world in which all are treated with respect and kindness, and all have access to information and to opportunities for learning and growth.
    2. Is there a word that's the opposite of consumerism? Maybe community creationism? To work toward a world in which communities create what they need. In which entertainment is not everyone in their separate houses glued to TVs, computers, and phones, but is people coming together to make music, dance, tell stories, and perform plays. In which food is grown locally rather than shipped from thousands of miles away. In which as much as possible people know how to do things like sew clothes, grow their food, preserve their food for the winter, and build their homes and furniture.
    3. To work toward a world in which we live sustainably, caring for the earth, using renewable energy sources, and eliminating toxic chemicals.

  • So where am I? How do I earn a living, do the things that I enjoy, and put my values into action? It seems like I ought to be able to do all three at once, but maybe that's just a fallacy. In this culture, our stories are supposed to have happy endings, we are supposed to find our true love and live happily ever after with that person, we are supposed to find a career we love, it is supposed to be true that if we work hard enough, we can overcome any obstacle. But that is not reality. Some obstacles can never be overcome. Sometimes we never find our true love, or we love someone who doesn't love us back, or the person we love dies. Sometimes the thing we love doing is not a thing we can earn money at. Instead of trying to force my life to fit the fairy tale, how can I find a reality that works for me? I think I'm already doing my best. I'm exploring various career fields to find which I like best. Not that I will necessarily find the one true career that will be my ultimate fulfillment, but I will find which of the options out there fits me better than the other options do. I do the things I enjoy: spending time outdoors, reading, writing, Nia, and spending time with family and friends. And I am pursuing druidry in the hopes that it will help me grow in putting my values into action. And along the way, I am also working on things to help keep my life running smoothly, like laundry and groceries. Cleaning house is not something I'm a fan of, but I am a fan of making my home a place of peace and beauty, so that I can enjoy my time here.

Taking ownership of the healing spiral

In the druid curriculum I am following, one has to choose one of seven "spirals." I chose healing.

One of main things to be done for the healing spiral is to study a healing art. When I embarked on this path, I sent a couple e-mails asking about whether the things I wanted to study would count as a healing art. I wanted to study healthy living -- prevention of disease rather than the treatment of disease, including diet, exercise, and environmental toxins. I was also interested in practicing Nia.

I never got an answer to those e-mails. Rather than continuing to try to get an answer (I think it only took me a few weeks to figure out that the way to get questions answered was to post them to the e-mail list, rather than to send individual e-mails, so I could have posted my questions to the list), I decided I would just do tai chi. I knew that tai chi was acceptable as a healing art, and I did have an interest in learning it.

I have been learning tai chi, but I don't really have a passion for it. In contrast, I have been devoting the largest part of my druid studies to another part of the curriculum, called the Earth Path. For the Earth Path, I have been doing a lot of things that don't actually count toward fulfilling the requirements. We are supposed to read nine books about the natural history of our area. I have read one so far. I have also looked at thirteen other books -- ten on tree identification, and three on identifying other kinds of plants. These don't count because I did not read them in their entirety, I just used them as a reference and read sections here and there. I have also read five (and just started a sixth) about sustainable living. The curriculum requires that we try to live more sustainably, but not that we read any books about it.

For the Earth Path, I have been pursuing my interests. I have been learning the things that will contribute to my growth. Eventually, I will read the nine natural history books, and they are part of what I want to learn, but they are just part of it.

I should take the same path to the healing spiral that I take to the Earth Path. Just as I will read the nine natural history books, I will learn tai chi. And just as I have read parts of identification books that I will never read cover to cover, and as I have read books on sustainable living, I will also pursue the other things related to healing that I need to pursue for my own growth.

What do I want to get out of the healing spiral? I want to understand my own health problems, and do my best to alleviate them. I want to understand what can and can't be alleviated, and learn to live with that which can't be alleviated. As far as I can tell, Nia makes me feel better. I want to continue to practice Nia, and to continue to try to figure out what makes me feel better, and do do those things. I want to live a healthy lifestyle, to prevent future health problems as much as possible. When I embrace these things as part of my journey in learning about healing, I can embrace tai chi too, to see tai chi as one of many potential tools for maintaining health.

Druid robes

The traditional druid attire is a white robe. I do not want a robe yet, and when I do, I am not sure it will be white. For the day when I am ready for a robe, here is what I have found about where to get a robe.

Samhain, death, and renewal

The Wheel of the Year is supposed to remind us of how things in life change. It always seemed a bit off to me, because the Wheel of the Year is predictable. The seasons always arrive in the same order, and at their expected times. Life is not like that. A person can get an illness, and it never gets better -- there is no spring of good health to look forward too. Or a summer-like time of good health, time spent with family, and financial stability could last for many years, and then it could unexpectedly be over in an instant.

But as I performed the Samhain ritual on November 1, I saw it another way. Instead of individual lives, I looked at the bigger picture. There is a cycle of renewal. Someone in my circle approaches death, but someone else in my circle was recently born. In the even larger picture, stars and planets die, but new ones are born.

The Samhain ritual in the Druidry Handbook includes a part that goes, "The veil between the worlds becomes thin, and the ancestors come close to us. Their voices whisper in the autumn winds. As we stand among the falling leaves and the gray and golden light, let us remember the past and its lessons, and gather a harvest of wisdom to bear us through winter to the new spring to come."

As the old generations pass away, the new generations can seek to carry forward the wisdom passed on by the old generations, even as the new generations are forging new paths, and additional wisdom to pass on to the future.

I am grateful that my grandmother tells me stories about my great great great grandmother. My grandmother remembers knowing my great great great grandmother, but it will not be so long before no one remains who remembers her. However, now I have the knowledge from my grandmother, and I can pass it forward to the future generations.