Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fitting the mold

Don't worry if you don't fit the mainstream mold of success.  Who wants to be moldy anyhow?

For those of us with plenty of employment, yes we can be miserable because we hate our job, and because we have so little time and energy.  For those of us without so much employment, yes, we can be miserable because we can't afford to live the way we want to.  But let us only be miserable for those things that truly matter to the quality of our life, and not be miserable because we've failed to live up to some notion of what successful people are supposed to do.

Druids look beyond instant gratification

In my recent post "More on not having it all," I wrote, "Humans have tried to create a world where any desire can be fulfilled. If you want something, just search the internet and enter your credit card number."

I think that the expectation of instant gratification pervades our society.  Becoming a druid has helped me to see things in a different way.

I used to think that if I wanted to learn something, I could just read a book on it or take a class on it, and then I would know it.  When I become a druid, I realized it's not always like that.

Reading a book on druidry doesn't make you an expert on druidry.  Being a druid is a lifelong process.  Every day we meditate, touch nature, listen, read, and think.  Every day we grow, but never do we learn all there is to know.

One of the first things I did when I became a druid was to get a book about trees from the library.  I did eventually read the book from cover to cover, but that does not mean I have now mastered the topic of trees and can move on to something else.  Getting to know trees is a lifelong endeavor. There are many ways to know trees.  Some people are fascinated to learn about the biological processes that take place within the tree, but that is not my way.  Some enjoy poring over identification keys, figuring out the species of the tree before them.  As for me, I love to lie on the ground beneath the tree and look up into layer upon layer of leaves.  I like to photograph trees, to capture the way the light shines through them.  I like to watch the way the trees change with the seasons, to see what emerges first in the spring, which color the leaves turn in the fall, and which tree's leaves stay green the longest in the fall.  I like to leaf through The Sibley Guide to Trees, marveling at all the beautiful pictures.  I like it when I'm wandering outside and see a tree that I did not know before, and recognize it from having seen it in the book.  When I go outside, I'm captivated by the trees surrounding me.  I'm captivated by their beauty.  I'm captivated with curiosity about them.  I love the grace of the sycamore branches.  When I see a tree that I don't know, I'm intrigued and try to figure out what it is.  I don't use the identification keys in the books so much.  I flip through the books to try to match it with the pictures.  If the tree has some unique attribute, I search the internet for that attribute.

But this was not a post about trees.  It is a post about the limitation of expecting instant gratification.  The tree example was to show that if you try to grasp something in an instant, there is much you miss.

Where I live, summer weather is often lovely, but occasionally too hot.  When the weather becomes too hot, I turn on the air conditioner.  I don't like to have to do it.  Air conditioning relieves me from the heat in the immediate sense, but what about the big picture? In the big picture, air conditioning is about consumption of fossil fuels, about contributing to climate change.

A few weeks ago, I sat in a cafe, enjoying a glass of iced coffee with a slice of chocolate cake, with a dollop of whipped cream beside the cake.  What went into getting these things to the table? Who grew, who harvested, who processed, who transported the coffee, the chocolate, the flour, the cream, the butter, the sugar, the eggs?

I think it is the responsibility of the druid to look beyond instant gratification, to look at the big picture, to look at the impact of our actions.

Loving life, facing unpleasantness

When I'm at my job, my soul is dead.  But as soon as I step out of the office, life is filled with beauty.  I step out of the office in the middle of the day for lunch hour.  I lie back in the grass on the hillside.  I slip off my sandals and feel the grass beneath my feet.  I gaze up at the leaves of the sycamore maple.  I see a woodchuck scurrying in the field, and a hawk soaring in the sky.

When I'm home evenings and weekends, I sit on my balcony.  I see the cottonwood leaves fluttering in the breeze.  I feel the breeze caress my skin.  I hear the robins, crows, grackles, and squirrels.  Below, I see the rabbits dining on clover.

I wake up Saturday mornings and lie in bed listening to the radio, enjoying the clever, silly humor I hear on "Car Talk," and "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me."

I love staring into space, daydreaming.  Thoughts form in my head, and in time, they are ready to be born, so I go to my computer and write emails and blogs. I love giving words to my thoughts, expressing myself.

I love putting on a CD and dancing around the living room, my body giving expression to the music.

I love structured dancing too, going to Morris dance practice, trying to hold the patterns in my head, coordinating my moves with other dancers, banging sticks together, becoming a community.

I love going out on nature walks, being fascinated by the trees, seeing herons, hearing frogs.

I love rollerblading, feeling the strength of my body as I move.

I love my life.  Why turn away from all these things that I love, and think of anything unpleasant?

When I'm at my job, my soul is dead.  But as soon as I step out of the office, life is filled with beauty. As soon as I step out of my office, I forget about my job.  The people who know me know that I don't like my job, but they don't really know much about what it's like.  I don't talk about it, because when I'm not there, it's gone from my mind.

But always I have to go back.  I deny the unpleasant reality, but it never goes away.  And so I must  face it.  I must take time away from writing blogs and watching the cottonwood leaves flutter to figure out what to do.

But not now, okay? There's still another topic I want to write about in my blog.  Later.  I'll worry about unpleasantness later.

More on not having it all

Following up on my recent post "We can't have it all but we can love life," I thought about people I know.  It seems that the people who are younger than I am are still pretty much pursing their dreams, doing what they want to do, while the people who are older than I am are in unworkable situations.

  • There's the woman who thought the place she lived for much of her adult life was too hot and humid.  She dreamed of moving back to the colder climate where she lived as a child.  Now elderly, frail, and disabled, she can't live alone.  She has to live with the family member who can care for her.  As a result, she lives in a climate far more hot and humid than the one where she spent much of her adult life.
  • There's the man who worked hard, paid his bills, got married, and bought a house.  Then he got laid off from his job.  His wife kicked him out, and took the house in the divorce settlement.  He has a number of health problems.  He works a part-time job.  His health problems make it difficult to do the job, but he's trying to hold out a few more years.  He wants to do it -- he doesn't want to stay home with nothing to do.  Besides, he needs the money.  He likes his apartment, but he's at risk of not being able to afford to continue to live there.
  • There's the woman who always wanted to put down roots, to marry, to raise children, to garden.  That's what she did.  She wanted to stay all her life in the same town, the same house.  But now she is sensitive to air pollution.  Now, going outside to garden makes her feel sick.  She wants to move to a different place, a place with cleaner air, so that she live life once again.  But she stays.  She does not want to move away from her grandchildren.  Her husband is not eager to move.  She does not have the money or the worldliness to shop for a new house.  So there she stays, where the outdoor air she loves makes her sick.
  • There's the man who can't live on his own due to a variety of physical and psychological difficulties.  He lives with his elderly mother.  It seems unlikely that she will outlive him.  But he has no idea how he will survive when she is gone.
So no, it's not just me whose life didn't work out as desired.  Things happen in life -- financial hardships, health problems, family obligations, loss.  

Humans have tried to create a world where any desire can be fulfilled. If you want something, just search the internet and enter your credit card number.  You can book a trip to go skiing in Dubai.

But we haven't stopped disease.  We haven't stopped financial hardship.  We haven't stopped loss.  We haven't stopped death.   We haven't stopped bullying.  Our bodies still break when we fall.  Sometimes we have to work at tasks we don't enjoy.  

We need to forget this myth that we can have it all.  Stop looking for perfection, and instead, look at the life that is here in front of us.  Despite the hardships and pain, there is much beauty and joy to be found.

Friday, June 29, 2012

We look at ourselves with different eyes

On May 26, I wrote about how the blog posts I most like to read capture a particular moment vividly.  In that post, I was writing in praise of "Pattern" by Angie Smith.  Today I write in praise of "Wrestling with Demons" by Nimue Brown.  The things that strike me about her blog post are:

  • My attention is grabbed when writers vividly describe a moment, as Nimue Brown does in this post.  In contrast, generalizations and abstraction do not hold my attention.
  • My experience is not the same as what she describes, but like her, I have my broken parts.  She has broken parts, and she has a husband who loves her.  I thought that's why people can't love me.  Because I'm not sparkly enough.  But maybe us broken people are worthy of love too.  Really, I think everyone is broken one way or another.  Certainly the people I love are broken.  I don't love them in spite of it. I love them for all of what they are.  So is it possible that I too can be loved, and even by people who see who I am, not just people who admire surface traits?
  • Her blog is one of my favorite blogs.  As a fan of her blog, I think she's a pretty cool person.  But in the moments described in this particular post, she doesn't see her coolness.  How can it be that wonderful people don't see how wonderful they are?

    I remember once, a group photo, passed around to be looked at by each person in the photo.  Each person said the same thing, "I don't look very good in this photo, but everyone else looks really good."

    Perhaps we look at ourselves with different eyes than we use when we look at everyone else.  We see other people as cool, sparkly, wise, funny.  We see ourselves as funny-looking, dull failures.  But maybe none of us are as different from the people around us as we think.  Maybe all of us are broken, but all of us are sparkly too.

    The people I see as sparkly are the ones I don't know as well, the ones I admire from afar.  The people I love, I don't see them as sparkly.  I see their fears, their kindness,  their quirks,  their silliness, their hesitation, their joy, their illness, their courage, their damage, their intelligence.  That's how I want to be seen. I don't want to be admired from afar as beautiful and witty.  I want to be seen for all of me, and loved for it.

We can't have it all, but we can love life

I need to escape my job.

I think about other kinds of paying work.

Nothing excites me.

They say that you should do work that you love.

But the things I yearn for are not things I want to be paid for.  I want to spend time with the trees.  I want to learn to play a musical instrument.  I want to learn all sorts of dancing -- Morris, jazz, modern, contra, African, and more.  I want to run around with toddlers.  I want to go out in kayaks or rowboats. I want to sit beside the ocean.  I want to sing.  I want to hike.

These are the things that tug at my heart.  Sure, there are paid jobs. There are scientists who study trees.  There are people who lead kayaking trips.  There are day care providers who run around with toddlers.  That's not what I want.  I don't want to work at these things, I don't want to study hard at them.  I want to partake of them with joy, on my own terms.   

I think the idea that you have to get paid for your passions is one of those unrealistic expectations they give us. Like the one where people who work full-time are supposed to still have time and energy left over to keep their house clean and cook all their meals from scratch.

I'm angry that they tell us we should be a career woman and an impeccable housewife too. I'm angry that they tell us that we should have a job that we are passionate about.  I'm angry that they tell us that we should find a soulmate and get married and live happily ever after. I'm angry that they tell us that all our dreams will come true if we work hard enough.  I'm angry that if I say I'd like to learn to play a musical instrument, people say, "so do it," as if I must be squandering my time on less important things.  What free time I have, I spend on the things that are most important to me, which is only a small fraction of the things I'm interested in.  I don't do everything I ever dream of doing, but I find joy every day.  I find joy looking at the flowers as I walk to work. I find joy looking at the sunset in the evening.  I find joy evenings after work dancing around my living room. I find joy going out every weekend to walk or rollerblade.  I think a person who has time to pursue all their dreams must not be very imaginative in their dreaming.

Don't tell me I should work harder on pursuing my dreams.  Maybe some people do have it all.  Maybe some people are happily married to their soulmate and get paid to do something they are passionate about. Just because some people are able to do these things does not mean that everyone can.  When they tells us that we can, they are telling us a lie, and then making us feel like a failure for not being able to turn falsehood into truth.

I reject those expectations.  I will live life on my own terms.  Maybe I'll always have a messy house. Maybe I'll never like to cook. Maybe I'll always be a spinster.  Maybe I'll never be passionate about paid work.  But I will live life joyfully nonetheless.  I will celebrate the sunshine and gaze at the leaves.  I will be a druid.  I will write.  My bare feet will touch the grass.  I will dance. I will sing.  I will run with the children.  I will paddle a kayak.  When my health fails and I can't be active, still I will look at the sky, still I will listen to music.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Moments of contentment

I remember when I was in college, long talks. Not just with close friends, but you could just wander around and bump into people, and next thing you know, you have been talking for three hours. We talked about religion, morality, love, sex, gender roles, and I don't remember what else. Inspired by these talks, then I'd go write essays about the topics discussed, and then would go on to share these essays with whomever I got to talking to next.

I miss those days. I miss being able to talk to people who are on my mental wavelength.

I remember when I was in college, the frolicking. Skipping about the campus, climbing trees, rolling down hills, rolling in the autumn leaves, hugging the trees.

I miss those those days. I miss having friends who can be my playmates.

But today, I love the serenity of gazing at the sky.

Today, I am grateful for friends who help me. When I'm feeling too sick to even formulate what I need and who I can ask, I'm grateful for the people who step up and give me what I need, without my having to figure it out and ask for it.

I remember when I was in college, long talks and frolicking, but also, I remember when I was in college, despondency and alienation. Today, I am more even-keeled.

They say work hard and fulfill your dreams. I have not been able to make all my dreams come true. I think most lives are not constant perfection. I think it's not right to believe that all your dreams are supposed to come true. We take what we can get. We do the best we can to make our life what we want it to be. Sometimes, we have moments of contentment. I am grateful for moments of contentment.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

That's their problem, not mine

This morning on National Public Radio, David Greene interviewed Christine Quinn. He asked her about whether she saw any conflict between being Catholic and being gay. When he said, "Your church obviously doesn't officially accept that," she replied, "That's kind of their problem, not mine."

When he asked, "Do you ever wake up and think 'I need to leave this church, I need to leave this faith'?" she replied, "No. Wait, how can you leave a faith? A faith is who you are. It's what's inside of you. It's how you see the world. It's what inspires you. It's what comforts you. It's what uplifts you in the dark days. So you can't leave a faith. A faith is who you are. It's what you have. Why should I leave the church? It's my church. They're the ones who have the wrong perspective."

I like her approach. I need to remember, if people don't treat me the way I'd like, if they don't respond to me the way I'd like, that's their problem, not mine. I can keep on being who I want to be. Well, sometimes I can't be who I want to be, but always I can be who I am. Always there's nothing I can be except who I am.

Low hanging fruit

Sometimes when I'm trying to figure out a better way to earn a living, I think I must be overlooking something that's right under my nose. There are two stories that come to mind.

In one story, a 3-year-old girl was climbing up the side of a high chair, using it as gymnastic equipment rather than as a chair. An adult warned the girl to "behave." The girl's 5-year-old brother said, "That's how she behaves."

Indeed, it is how she behaves. Now she is 29, and though she earns her income from massage therapy, what she is working on the most is circus arts, acrobatics, and capoeira.

Is there something so much a part of my nature that I've been doing it since I was 3? I asked my grandmother, and she said that I always seemed to keep track of people.

In the other story, a professor spoke to new PhD students at their orientation. He said that sometimes students reject a possible dissertation topic because it seems too easy. They feel they should choose something difficult. He advised them to choose what they are good at, what seems easy to them. He said that what seems like low fruit to them may be hard to reach for another person. Let the work be done by the person who can reach the fruit, not by the one who finds it difficult.

Is there something so easy and natural for me that it doesn't occur to me that it's a path I can follow? Maybe there is. My latest plan for a way to earn a living relates to something I did as a summer job when I was in college. At that time, it never occurred to me to pursue it as a career. I think it just seemed too easy and natural, and I thought I should do something more challenging.

My friend the writer said she used to believe that everyone wanted to be a writer. Wanting to be a writer was just so much a part of her that she didn't realize it was something unique. In the same way, are there things that flow so easily for me, that it doesn't even occur to me that they are aptitudes that not everyone has?

Finding and losing the way

We wander the earth through patches of contentment and patches of discontent. There are exquisite moments, moments when we feel life could not be better, nothing is lacking. Then there are moments when we lose our way. We know something is missing from our life. We don't know what it is, so we stumble about in the dark, searching. Then we stumble upon something -- a new hobby, a new friend, a new cause, a new job, a new plan for the future. Elation. At last we have found the way. For a while, life is exquisite once more. But eventually, things crumble. We are lost again. Some good things last for decades. Some good things last only moments. It's the same with bad things. A chronic illness may never leave us, but other bad things will pass away from us in time.

Such is the nature of life. Some things endure. Some things fade away. Things always change, but often we don't know what will change or when.

So often, I've thought I've found a way out. A day of energy, and I think my health problems are gone forever. A new idea about finding a way to escape my job, and I think this one will really work. It has been going on this way for 6 years. So many times my hopes have been dashed. But I keep hoping. I keep thinking this time will be different. Maybe some day it will be.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Teaching children they can make choices

Katia Hetter of CNN wrote a good article called "I don't own my child's body."  She says that she does not force her child to hug and kiss the grandparents.  She does not want to teach her child that she should undergo physical contact she is not comfortable with just to please others.  She doesn't want her daughter to be a victim of sexual abuse -- she wants her daughter to know she can say no to physical contact she is not comfortable with.  When her daughter is a teenager, she doesn't want her to say yes to sex she doesn't want because she thinks she is supposed to make her boyfriend happy.

Several weeks ago, I was present when a mother asked her 3 year old daughter if she wanted her photo taken.  The daughter said no.  The mother said that was okay.  I was so glad to hear a mother treating her child with respect.

It doesn't matter if the photo is harmless.  It doesn't matter if the daughter didn't really understand what she was saying no to.  It doesn't matter if the daughter was just saying no on a whim, and didn't really care about the photo.  What matters is that the daughter learns that she can make her own choices, and that other people respect her choices.  

Yes, there are times when we have to go against the will of our kids.  We have to say no if they wish to run into the street.  We have to teach them not to be bullies.  But it's also important to teach them that they have the right to choose when to be touched and when to be photographed.  It's important to teach them that when they say no, other people are supposed to respect that no.  As women, we have a hard time saying no.  I am glad that there are mothers who are teaching their daughters that there are things they can say no to.

Men disempower women by teasing

Something I heard on the radio a year and a half ago has stayed with me.  It bothers me.  The local public radio station was having a fund drive.  Two men were on the air, asking for money.  A woman who worked for the radio station was also involved in the fund drive, on site with the two men, but not talking on the air.  One of the men said that the woman was giving them dirty looks because she was mad at them for not raising enough money.

Maybe it sounds harmless as I've described it, but when I heard it, it was wrong. It's the way men disempower women.  It reminded me of the way I've been teased by my father and brother.  Men disempower women by making fun of them.  They make fun of us for working hard on our appearance, on cleaning our house, on preparing food, and on organizing family occasions.  They make fun of us for working on these things, yet they also make fun of us for failing to excel in these areas.  We are supposed to excel in these areas without effort.  They make fun of us for being angry or annoyed with them.  And we can't get mad at them for doing so, because getting mad is what they are making fun of.  If we get mad, then we lower ourselves.

How can we respond then? If we can't be mad, maybe we can be cold.  We can say, "Don't be sexist," and turn our backs on them.

But why should we have to be the ones to figure out how to respond? They should not be treating us that way.  The burden should be on them to stop, not on us for figuring out how to respond.


When my grandmother was little, her parents and grandparents raised much of their own food and built their own furniture.  I was imagining living in that time, and being called lazy.  I am tired so often, but it's not really a recognized ailment.  I hide it now, doing a sedentary job, and not having an active social life.  But when my grandmother was little, perhaps I could not have hidden it so well.  And people can't see that I'm tired.  They assume that all bodies work the same.  That I have the same amount of energy as they do, so if I'm not as active as they are, I'm just being lazy.

I am very fortunate not to live with chronic pain, but some do.  And if such people are cranky and unenthusiastic at times, others think it's a character flaw.  They don't realize that they'd be cranky and unenthusiastic too if they were in pain all the time.

Likewise, if someone is suspicious, paranoid, pessimistic, fearful, maybe that person has lived through years of betrayals.

Rather than think less of people for their apparent character flaws, let us have compassion for the suffering that got them that way.

Monday, June 18, 2012


The people I choose --
Friends, relatives.
Each unique.
There is something I cherish about each.
There is something that irks me about each.

Any particular individual will fail to meet all my needs.
But put them together, and there's a whole tapestry.
One to laugh with.
One to be serious with.
One to talk to about my dilemmas.
One to talk to about druidry.
One who is there for me when I'm sick.
One to hike with.
One to dance with.
One to rollerblade  with.
One to discuss books with.
One to tell me stories of the past.
What a beautiful tapestry it is!

Sometimes one wants more of me than I wish to give.
Sometimes, one wishes to give less than I want.
That's the way it is, when dealing with humans who have wills of their own.
We just take what we can get, share what we can.

There will be disappointments, demands, hurts, and misunderstandings.
But despite all that, each of the people I have chosen to keep in my life is a gem.
No one lives forever.
My grandmother is 94.  My parents' health problems only increase with age.
Every moment I share with them is a treasure.


I went to a cafe on a summer day and sat at a sidewalk table.
A man walked by, maybe 65 or 70.
Crooked gait, tousled, shabby.
The kind of person you steer clear of.
Sagging dirty pants held up by suspenders.
Shirt not tucked in, just scrunched up above the waist.
Underwear waistband showing above the pants waistband.
Maybe he's mentally ill.
Maybe he's alcoholic.

His cell phone rang.
I heard his conversation.
Happy Father's Day to you too!
I just went to the pharmacy.
I have to wait for the results of my blood tests.
I miss you.
I'm going to sell all my stuff and buy a ticket.
I'm going to sell the truck, and the construction equipment.
I've got nothing here.
I left my land, my home.
I had everything there.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
No junk food.
No hot stuff.
I love you."

When you see a tousled man, don't forget,
He might be somebody's father, someobody's son, somebody's brother.

He could be my father.
My father is the eccentric old man at his apartment complex,
Lumbering around with his walking stick,
Sorting through the dumpster,
Making sure nothing good gets thrown away.

It's okay to be eccentric.
Eccentric people are interesting.

May no one be lonely.
May all be loved.


Sometimes strangers on the street ask me for money.
They tell me a desperate story.
I think the story is probably all lies.
Sometimes I give them money, sometimes I don't.
Either way, I hate it.

It's important to me to be in a community based on trust.
People who tell lies destroy trust.
If the story is false, and I give money, then I am rewarding people for telling lies.
I'm rewarding people for destroying a community of trust.

But what if the story is true?
The stories they tell are something that could happen to my brother or sister.
If something happened to my brother or sister, I'd want someone to help them.
I want to be part of a caring community, a community that responds to need with compassion.
If I say no to them, I create a cold, uncaring society -- not a community at all.

What to do with people

Some people take the attitude, "I want to go to a movie, but I can't because I have no one to go with," or "I want to go to a concert, but I can't because I have no one to go with." I'm the opposite. I think, "I like Person X. What social event can I concoct so that we can spend some time together?" If I go to a movie or concert, I almost always go alone. The friends I've had never really had the same taste in music or movies as I do, because that's not the basis on which I select friends. If I go to a movie or concert, I do it on the spur of the moment, when my current level of energy/interest demands it. It's too much trouble to make plans in advance with other people, because then you end up having to do things that you don't fit what you end up feeling like at that particular time.

Most of the time, I don't go to concerts and movies. That's another thing that doesn't make for much of a social life. The things that I like doing with other people are having a conversation, going for a walk, or doing household activities like mowing the lawn, writing Christmas cards, hanging pictures on the wall, or going grocery shopping. At the radio station one day, a DJ had a lot of records to file, so I helped. Filing records together was fun. It's not like every time I'm with a person, I want them to say, "Oh, do my chores for me, you like that sort of thing." And it's not like every time I'm getting groceries, I'm thinking, "This would be so much more fun with company." It's that doing the right activity with the right person (and different people are right for different activities) is fun in and of itself, and even when the activity is an ordinary one.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Birthday gifts

In  her June 14 post "Another year older," Nimue Brown takes the occasion of her birthday to reflect on her current happiness, and to contrast it with a bad relationship she was in in the past.

Of her past relationship, she says, "I started to believe I must be an awful, demanding, horrible, unreasonable, ungrateful sort of creature."  I've never been in a relationship that bad, and yet it resonates with me.  I am indeed susceptible to what others say about me.  I know what it's like to feel that doubt creeping into my self-esteem.  Luckily, that is rarely a part of my life, and when it does come, I am able to walk away from the source.

Now that Nimue Brown has walked away from that relationship, she has found happiness.  Writing about the birthday gifts which make her happy, she says, "It’s the taking time for the other person, trying to find something they will enjoy, sharing a good thing, honouring bonds."

Indeed, that is the best gift, for birthdays, and for every day, the gift of a person who thinks of you and makes time for you.  I am grateful to those who have given such gifts to me.

Summer's bliss

In winter, I live buried within turtlenecks, sweaters, and jackets.
In winter, I shrink from the sharp bite of the cold.
In winter, I huddle shivering under blankets.
In summer, sometimes the heat wilts me.  I droop.
But in summer, sometimes it's not too hot.
Sometimes, the sun's warmth is just right.
I bask in it.
In summer, sometimes I find a spot under a tree, cool with shade.
I slip off my sandals, and wriggle my toes in the grass.
I lie back, and gaze up at layer after layer of green leaves.
I stretch out my arms, feeling the grass, feeling the earth.
My body feels alive.
In summer, even if the day is hot, usually coolness comes in evening.
On summer evenings, I sit on my balcony.
The balcony's railings, and the evening's darkness hide me from the view of others.
On my balcony after dark, I can be as I wish.
I don't have to hide my body's flaws or indecency.
I can wear, or not wear what I wish.
Comfortable, no longer constrained,
My body opens to nature.
The soft breezes caress my skin with their feathery touch.
I am filled with bliss.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Exquisite day

Nothing could be more exquisite.  Lying on my back, gazing up at the leaves as my companion eagerly studies the field guides.  Lying on my front, feeling the earth and grass below me -- they feel like God.  A pond full of bullfrogs and lily pads.  The scent of crushed sassafrass leaves.  A butterfly.  The songs of birds.  A waterfall.  Oaks, maples, hemlocks.

The song "Rising Day" by Peter Rowan goes through my head. "Let this morning light our way.  All on a rising day.  Rise up to the morning crystal clear.  Rise up from the shadows of doubt and fear."

All on A Rising Day

I love summer.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June sunset

When I'm sick, I can't imagine wanting to do anything other than lie down.

Then I start to get better, and I start planning adventures.  I'm not quite ready to do things, but I've reached the point where I'm well enough that adventures appeal to me.

Then I get even better, and I'm able to enjoy the present moment.

Two days ago, I was dreaming of trips to take.

Today, I was happy where I am.

We've come to that time of year when it's warm enough to sit outside.

We've come to that time of year when the world is full of green leaves.

I could sit there forever gazing at the green leaves.

As sunset comes, the sky takes on an orange glow.

The trails of the jets take on an orange glow.

They look beautiful, but when I think about it, I'm not glad to have jets in my sky.

What did this place look like to my ancestors 300 years ago?

No jets in the sky.

No city lights to outshine the starlight.

What were the forests like?

What were my ancestors thinking, 300 years ago?

I know enough of family history to know I had ancestors on this continent 300 years ago, but not enough to know anything of who they were.

Knowledge of who my ancestors were as people only goes back about 150 years.

Lives lived 300 years ago, now forgotten.

As we live, love, give birth, lose our loved ones, it all seems so important.

But 300 years later, there is no one who knows what it was like.

The stars in the sky do not know my name.

On the scale of centuries, on the scale of the universe, my life is a speck of dust.

But I am here now, in this life.

To me, this life is big, this life is all there is.

I choose to dance, to sing, to love.

I choose to long for something better.

I choose to read about the lives of those who have gone before me

I choose to write my thoughts for those who come after me.

I choose to gaze at the orange glow of sunset.

Green leaves flutter in the breeze.

In this moment, my life is perfect.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What an interesting world we live in

An excerpt from the Samhain chapter of Druid Priestess by Emma Restall Orr.
Many spiritual traditions take it to the extreme of denying the physical any value at all, either focusing on their own spirit or reaching out to a spiritual force above, either way, eager to transcend the body of flesh and red blood.  Yet such beliefs require a constant watch over the physical, with tight restrictions that affirm its baseness or prevent expression of its instincts of the ebb and flow of its energy.  Then, because the physical can give us such pleasure, pleasure is next to be denied.  Meanwhile, the transcendent force, now perhaps given form and name along with full responsibility for the oppressive rules, promises a blissful salvation that is little more than the release from the chains of suffering that it itself has imposed....Within Druidry, transcending the physical is a very different idea.  Where there is an acceptance that the gods reside in everything, that every cell is vibrant with the spirit of the creative force, where every movement is both a prayer and an expression of deity, there can be no denial of our animal nature.  Our instincts and passions, our sexuality and laughter, our hungers and revulsions are all a part of the dance of life that creates our world in all its beauty.  It is nature -- and to deny any part of nature would take away our ability to perceive its wholeness, its completeness.  And through that judgement, we would be separated from it, cutting the connections that feed us....The concept of dominating nature is an anathema to Druidry.  For although nature is wild and dark, filled with the shadows of the unknown, it is also the physical expression of the gods.  The Druid responds to nature with a poignant reverence, always open to its beauty with wonder and awe.
For me at the moment, the negative side of nature is the ailment diagnosed today which, at worst, could be with me all my life, and which could prevent me from doing some of the activities I love most.

Our bodies decline with age.  The alternative is to die young.  I'm happy to be living life.

In the past, when my declining body curtailed some of my more energetic activities, I slowed down and looked at the trees.  In the past, when my withdrawal from energetic activities cost me friends, I came to choose friends based on what is inside them, instead of based on the activities they would share with me.  Perhaps this new physical curtailment will enrich my life just as my past physical curtailment has.

In this consumer society, we think that if we want anything, all we have to do is buy it.  Many times, we don't even have to leave our homes.  We just look it up on the internet, type in a credit card number, and it gets delivered to our door.  If we feel pain or fatigue, we look for a pill to make it go away.  If we don't like the way we look, we get plastic surgery to get the body we want.  If we are too cold, we turn up the heat.  If we are too hot, we turn up the air conditioner.  We consume, consume, not seeing that we are using up the earth's resources, and some day, there won't be any left.

In druidry, we embrace the whole, good and bad, dark and light.  In druidry, we learn patience.  In druidry, we observe and grow.  In druidry, we know that some things are beyond our control -- the forces of nature, the wills of others.

Yet just as others have wills, so do we have a will, and we can work with that which is around us.  This is what we do in gardening.  We can't change how nature works, but if we understand nature, we can try to bend it in the way we wish.

The people I love were not designed to my specifications.  They have their quirks, but that makes them all the more rich.  They don't always do what I would have wanted, but sometimes they surprise me with beauty I never could have foreseen.

With all its hardships, what an interesting world we live in.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beauty around us

In the blog post "Working with the Three Realms," Bob Patrick writes that after a friend wrote “looking inward you become despondent. Looking around you become disillusioned. Looking up you become devoted," he composed the following in response:

Looking inward I become still.
Looking around I become connected.
Looking up I become awed.

This reminds of the song "Now I Walk in Beauty" recorded by Janice Marsh-Prelesnik.  The song says:

Now I walk in beauty
Beauty is before me
Beauty is behind me
Above and below me

When I google these words, I find that they seem to be a variation of a Navajo chant.  Similar words can be found at and

Similarly, in "Morning Song," Daniel Dutton says

Sun I pray
Let my life begin today
I promise
I will go with beauty round me

I am also reminded of the AODA's Sphere of Protection ritual.

All four of these -- Bob Patrick's words about looking inward, around, and up, the Navajo chant about beauty, Daniel Dutton's Morning Song, and the Sphere of Protection ritual -- are about a serene connectedness to the universe.  It seems to me that this serene connectedness is an essential part of both pantheism and druidry.

What to say to sick people and depressed people

What to say to sick people 
  1. Offer sympathy.  You can say, "I'm sorry you're sick," or "that sucks."  Sometimes you can say, "I hope you feel better soon" but that is not always appropriate, for example, if the person has an illness that will only get worse.
  2. Check in with the person regularly.  (But don't keep waking them up when they are trying to sleep.) Ask how they are.  Show that you are thinking of them, that they aren't alone.
  3. Offer help.  Sometimes you can say "let me know if you need anything" or "what can I do to help you?" Sometimes it is hard for the person to formulate what they need and who to ask, so sometimes it is helpful if you tell them what you will do for them, such as, "I'd like to pick up your medication at the pharmacy for you," or "I'd like to come over and make you some chicken soup."  If you have done #2, then you should have a pretty good idea of what the person needs.  It can be helpful to say what you'd like to do, rather than ask, if the person might hesitate to impose on you.  On the other hand, you also have to refrain from being too pushy, and make sure there is room for the person to decline your offer if it's not what they want.  There are times when a sick person doesn't want help, they just want to be left alone to sleep.
  4. Refrain from speculating about the illness's causes or cures.  When you say, "you would feel better if you [insert your pet remedy]," you are implying that the illness is the fault of the victim, for failing to follow your advice.  There are times when you can get away with offering a cure, if you do it right (e.g. "When I was sick, ginger tea helped me.  Would you like me to make some for you?"), but be careful.
  5. The person doesn't want to feel like a pathetic invalid.  Treat them like the funny, smart, wise, compassionate person you know they are.
What to say to depressed people
  1. Don't be rational and reasonable.  
  2. Don't explain why the person should not feel depressed.  Don't explain that the person has a lot of good things going for them.
  3. Don't explain how to fix the problem the person is depressed about.
  4. Offer sympathy.  You can say, "I'm sorry things are tough for you now."
  5. Offer comfort, such as a hug, a cup of tea.
  6. Treat them like the funny, smart, wise, compassionate person you know they are.  Give them something larger than themselves to think about.  

Living life to the fullest

Last week, while I was sick, I read Tisha by Robert Specht.  Later, I looked the book up on the internet.  I found that many people said that it was similar to Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.  I have not read Mrs. Mike, but I read an article about it, "The Story of My Life" by Peggy Orenstein.  Some quotes from the article:

"It's easy to congratulate yourself on your wisdom, your bravery when things are going well. The challenge is to trust in yourself, your work, your marriage, your gut, when they aren't. I'd thought...that seizing my destiny and finding true love would protect me from pain, bad luck, mistakes, failure....Those things aren't avoidable; they're actually the hallmark of a life richly lived."

"Here was this girl, very young, incapacitated—but willing to fall in love, really fall in love, passionately, without any care for anything else."

It seems to me that these quotes are about having the courage to live life to the fullest, even with all the pain it brings.  In the past few weeks, as I've been sick, I have not felt like living life to the fullest.  I have felt like curling up in a ball and hiding in a cave.  But now, as I start to feel a little better, once again I can find within me a streak of passion.

Sure, I'm still wishy-washy.  If you ask me what I'm passionate about, I'm not sure I could really answer that.  No, maybe I can. I'm passionate about family, friends, the outdoors, dance, rollerblading, music, boats, and the ocean. 

Monday, June 4, 2012


For the past few weeks, it has seemed that I have a very limited amount of productivity.  I'll do useful stuff for a while, and then my productivity will be all used up and I can do no more.

There's a lot of stuff that hasn't been getting done.  It's not that I don't have enough time.  It's not that I'm procrastinating.  It's that I don't have enough productivity.

There are a lot of things I can still do when I'm out of productivity: listen to music, listen to NPR, look at trees, look at the sky, chat with friends and family, write about my thoughts and feelings in blogs and emails, read fiction, watch DVDs, go for a walk, and dance.  If I knew how, I could play a musical instrument, sing, and draw too.

Over the past several weeks, the amount of productivity I've had has been what it takes to do maybe 75% of my job.  So, I give what I can to my job, and then I'm unproductive the rest of the time at my job, and unproductive at home.

For the past week, I have been sick, and on many days, my productivity has plummeted to zero.  Most of the past week has been spent sleeping, reading fiction, and watching DVDs.

Yesterday though, I was feeling a little healthier, and I had a few hours of productivity in me.  I was feeling very weak, but I was up to engaging in a few low key chores and projects at home.

And I was happy.

When I was out of productivity the past few weeks, I was writing things in my blog like "sometimes I ache," "there's a hole in my life," "am I unworthy of love," and "that is what I long for, to feel  as if I belong to this earth."  But yesterday when I had the strength for productivity, I lost all that.  I lost that aching feeling, that feeling of unworthiness.  I was creating things, I was putting things in order, and that made me feel whole.

When I'm depressed, I know that's what I need.  When I'm depressed, I do think that I would feel better if I could be engaged in something larger than myself.  I know that it's what I need, but I can't do it because I'm out of productivity.

It all comes down to being tired and/or sick.  What that means is that I need to do a better job at pacing myself, at getting enough sleep, at allocating time to rest or relax.

I still can't figure it out though, because that means I have to cut activities, and there is nothing I am willing to cut.

Strong female characters

While I've been sick the past week, I've been watching a lot of Wonder Woman.  I have season 3 of the TV series on DVD.  I had not watched it before.  I like it for the same reasons I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I like the strong female main character, and I like the acrobatics.  (Buffy is better though, because it also has deeper meanings and story arcs.)

I like the way Wonder Woman flies through the air and so forth, but otherwise, as a character, the one I like more is her alter ego, Diana Prince.  What I like about Diana and Buffy is that while being strong and smart, they are also nice people.

I think sometimes when people try to write strong female characters, they overdo the strong.  It's like they think that to show that a woman is strong, they have to make her icy like Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine, fiery like B'Elanna Torres and Kira Nerys, or haughty like Princess Leia and Hermione.  They don't see how a woman can be just a nice person and still be strong.  But Diana Prince and Buffy Summers show that you can be nice and still be strong.

The Chumbawamba Principle

Robert Krulwich gave a commencement address at the College of the Atlantic called The Chumbawamba Principle.  The title comes from the song "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba.  (I like the song, and I like the band.)  The song says, "I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You're never gonna keep me down."  Krulwich is saying that you just have to keep trying, that the way we grow and find the life we want is to just keep fumbling onward.

Some of the parts I liked best: 
Designing yourself isn't like being a conqueror. It's not Genghis Khan screaming "Charge!" thundering across the steppes, seizing his prize — no. It's more like you are nearsighted. You like salty snacks, and one day, fumbling along, you knock over a pretzel dish and think, "What's this?" You take a bite and think, "Hmmm! Do I like pretzels?"

It's more like that.

Accidents happen. The trick is to know when you've gotten lucky. To say, "I do," to the pretzel. This works for jobs. Works for girls. Works for most things....

the designing never ends.

The job you choose at first, the man or woman you choose at first, the friends you choose at first, they can change....

You don't become yourself by yourself. You become you, boosted on others' shoulders, buoyed by others' smiles.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Painting our lives

For so long, I've felt weighed down by my responsibilities.  Then I read Nimue Brown's post "Druidic Arts: Responsibility."  Responsibility is not what weighs you down.  Responsibility is what you choose to do about the demands upon you.

Many years ago, I read The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Stephen Brust. The book tells of an artist with a blank canvas.  I read the book at a time when I faced a big decision in my life.  To me, the book said that the future is a blank canvas, and you can do with it whatever you  choose.

As I sit here now, I feel illness and fatigue.  I want to be healthy and energetic.  Normally, I try to proceed as if I am healthy and energetic.  But responsibility means seeing the situation for what it is, and deciding what to do about it.

Today, I am not going to do what I was supposed to do.  It's not because of my own initiative.  It's because a friend told me, "You are sick.  I have asked someone if he will cover for you, and he said yes."  I accepted, because I knew it was what I needed.

It's good for me to accept the help of others, to let go of this independent streak that tells me that I have to do everything myself.

The sickness I have today is one that will get better.  But however better I get, my energy will always be finite.  I keep thinking of more things I want to do.  The artist does not make a great painting by throwing all the paint onto the painting.  The artist makes a great painting by making choices.  I need to stop aspiring to do it all.  I need to choose.

There's a hole in the middle of a pretty good life

At the hospital the other day, the people were so nice.

 A week before, the people at the hotel were so nice.

 It's so striking to me when people are kind. It shouldn't be such an unusual experience.

I am not kind. I want to be like the people at the hospital, the people at the hotel. Instead, I am curled up in a ball, shutting out the world, because I am trying to shut out the unkindness, the pushiness, the illness, the fatigue. I shut out the bad, and with it I shut out the good.

I'm grateful for a comfortable place to live, for the support of family and friends. I am grateful that all my loved ones are safe. But sometimes I feel an ache. Despite all that I have, parts are still missing. The people I care about are far away -- far in miles, or busy with more important things to do.

Maybe that's the way life is. "For Real" by Bob Franke says "there's a hole in the middle of a pretty good life."

Sometimes, I don't ache. Sometimes I feel whole. I've had some joyful times with friends and family. I've had joyful times alone, dancing, just me and the music.

Once, as a kid on a family vacation, I made up some labels for family members. I called myself, and others who, like me, most enjoyed hiking, "Energetic Wilderness Explorers." Those who focused on getting chores done I labelled "Dishy Washy." Those who sat around the house reading I called "Lazy Loafy."

Now I'm older. Now I bear the responsibility of chores. I have become Dishy Washy. Now I bear the weight of fatigue. I have become Lazy Loafy.

When I was a kid, I was only an Energetic Wilderness Explorer. Now I am all three. Energetic Wilderness Explorer, Dishy Washy, and Lazy Loafy are three threads twining within me. Together, they form a rope, stronger twined together than any one would be alone. I am richer, deeper, broader than when I was a kid. I have the power to take on a challenge.

A good druid faces difficulty. A good druid does not turn away, does not refuse to see.

I do not have within me the capacity to do all the things I'm trying to do. That is the thing I refuse to see. I am not willing to give anything up, so I refuse to see that I must. Instead, I am always thinking of more things I want to undertake.

There's a hole in the middle of a pretty good life. There's a hole in my life because I don't have the capacity to do all the things I'm trying to do. There's a hole because illness and injury keep me from hiking, rollerblading, and dancing. There's a hole because I feel disconnected from the people I want to be close to. There's a hole because kindness is rare in my life. There's a hole because fun is rare in my life.

There's a hole, but I am whole. I am whole because I know both sorrow and joy. I am whole because I gaze at the sky. I am whole because I run in the rain. I am whole because people were there for me, helping me when I needed it. I am whole because I take care of myself, whether others are there to help or not.

I miss health and energy.  I miss the people I want to be with.  I miss fun.  I miss them, but I will be whole.