Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Winter Walk at the Turning of the Year


4 PM Christmas Day 2012: My husband, nineteen year old son, and seven year old daughter take a walk across the fields and woodland just before sundown. Apart from the honking chorus of a flock of geese, the woods are  still, but not silent.

 

A chickadee natters in the brambles and a crimson cardinal and his drab mate flit across the trail and into the lower branches of a maple. Up the hill, a buck and his doe bound uphill white tails flashing. I look through bare limbs down the sweep of the hill to the stream that flows at its base and to the rising sweep of land on the other side.  Above bare limbs, a waxing moon emerges from the clouds and sails above us.
 

This land is like a chalice--holding the trees, the animals, the sleeping life within roots and dens between its slopes. And as I pause and give thanks, it holds me as well.

 

A few months ago in the glory of fall and summer foliage, all of these small and beautiful details would be hidden. But in the Croning months, the time of severity, all that has fulfilled its purpose has been swept away and repurposed in the earth. Winter gives us the space to be still, to note the small details, to see more deeply and with greater clarity to the roots and depths within and without.

 

May this season of returning light bring you all the warmth of friends and family and the invigorating clarity of the winter woods. Blessings!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Samhain to Yule: Light in the Darkness

My coven celebrated Little Yule in a joyous ritual held at my home during which we welcomed two new members. The Yule tree sparkles with ornaments and multi-colored lights, and the house is perfumed with the aroma of holiday baking. The winter solstice and Yule are almost upon us. With the coming light, three months of shadow work is drawing to a close.  

 This season's shadow work began with an icy wake-up call from the Crone on Samhain night when I found myself in my very own bedroom confronted by a messenger dressed in black who tore chunks out of the  door to a very real crawl space behind my bed, then told me to "wake up." (See, When the Crones Pay A Visit, You Better Pay Attention) 

About a week ago, I performed a chakra cleansing meditation, felt marvelously calm, had a good night’s sleep and took a day trip with my children.  When we returned, happy and fresh faced, I ordered Chinese, put my feet up and thought, “Wow—a whole night and day has gone by—without at tap or a nudge.”  Later that night, as I boiled water for tea, I decided to open the last fortune cookie.  The message inside read, “Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.”    If I’d known what was around the corner, I would have stopped chuckling.

 The shadow work that I have been engaged in since Samhain has led me deep into my personal darkness with the ultimate aim of nurturing the light within me.  I have meditated, read, journeyed, journaled, and attended illuminating workshops and transformative rituals at Between the Worlds, an interfaith esoteric conference.    In The Gates of Yesterday and Tomorrow, a powerful ritual held at the conference, I promised in sacred space to let go of what I didn’t need and to move forward.

I returned from the conference feeling energized and enriched. School’s almost out! Yule is almost here!  I’d been working hard! Surely, I’d delved deeply enough, changed enough, moved forward enough. But the shadow work I’d chosen to perform wasn’t finished.  I had to demonstrate that I had the strength of will to go beyond my comfort zone and deep clean the house of my spirit. All that work had certainly opened me up for a test that made me dig into the core of my being on many levels. It was a test that I could only pass by casting away self-doubt—it was a test that I almost failed.

Just after Samhain, I’d prayed for fruitful vision quests hardly aware of what was ahead but willing to accept the Crone’s charge to “wake up.” I am not typically a lucid dreamer.  Therefore, when I have a dream where I see with clarity, speak with authority, feel the sensation of being pulled from the soles of my feet to  the skin of my back, I’m pretty sure that I’m being spiritually PMed.

I walk barefoot through the dingy rooms of a dilapidated Victorian house at the top of a steep barren slope with several narrow sets of dirty, old concrete steps.  It is an unpleasant house, upon the drab silent outskirts of a faded disagreeable neighborhood.

The rooms are dim-- the kind of twilight that greets you on a cold, dreary day. I feel squirming underfoot and shudder with revulsion as I realize that I am walking upon tiny mice and insects. Vermin infest every room. 

The house is filled with rusting—whispered secrets, scampering, evasions, and shadows. I know that I need to “wake up” and pay attention to details.     I want to destroy this infestation because I realize with disgust they infest my house.  It may be shabby, dank and inaccessible, the steps to the road may be treacherous and far below—but it is mine nonetheless. I know that it’s my job to clean it.  The job is so huge I want to run away, but I can’t.  Either I clean house or give up and accept defeat.

I feel a very real physical tug like the pull of tide. My body tingles with energy. The room darkens. Just ahead is swirling pulsing vortex of red light.   I know that place is not meant for me—that it’s not a safe place for me. I no more want to enter that vortex than I want to put my hand in an InSinkErator garbage disposal.  But this is my opportunity to get rid of all the psychic vermin once and for all.  It’s my choice.  . Words come to me. I speak them with authority and conviction. I speak from the center of my will and push energy through my solar plexus, “I banish you! Back! Back! Back!”   The darkness and vermin resist.  I push harder.  I feel and see the vermin coalesce and begin to stream away from me into the vortex.

I wake and reach for my husband’s warm, anchoring presence.  I snort softly.

Of course what I want and what I need are at odds. If I were a house—I’d want the world to see me as accessible, well kept, and full of cozy warmth. What the Crone has shown me is a structure far from this virtuous vision.  My outward self—my conscious effort and in fact a good deal of who I am and want to be and become is invested in being this welcoming home. But the Crone sent me farther inward, to this shadowed structure, to fulfill my promise and evict (if I so willed) pain and burdens that I need no longer carry. After the darkest night, the light waxes—in the heart of the shadows my own compassion and will to move forward create light. As I fall into true sleep, I feel a toddler’s delight in her first steps.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Samhain to Yule

  Samhain to Yule --The Journey Inward

Soul-searching N: A penetrating examination of one's motives, convictions, and attitudes.

A deep or critical examination of one's motives, actions, beliefs, etc.

Adj: displaying the characteristics of deep or painful self-analysis.

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

 

 

In my last post, “When the Crone Pays a Visit, You’d Better Pay Attention,” I related my Samhain experience of a mandate from the Crone and a deceased  family member to “wake-up” and start the new year with a difficult and necessary spiritual house cleaning.  As anyone who has found themselves in my predicament knows, this is no easy task.    Shadow work, which could also be defined as soul-searching, is really a quest to find, acknowledge, and/or root out doubt, guilt, baneful thoughts/intent, self-loathing, and old grief  (just to name a few lurkers in my own dark places).  

 

Soul searching is fraught with danger and sacrifices, but also with self-knowledge and positive transformation.  As in any quest, the goal is to grow from the chosen initiate and become a hero/heroine.  We are, in a sense, on a quest to save ourselves from all that holds us back and keeps us form realizing our potential and doing the work we are called to do in this incarnation.  It’s hard to make spiritual progress.  It hurts to forgive and to ask forgiveness.  It is hard to commit—to become the hero/heroine of your spiritual quest.

 In Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the central character’s primary purpose is to separate from the ordinary world and sacrifice him/herself.  To answer the challenge, complete the quest and restore balance.   The balance I restore (see, I’m thinking positively here!) within myself will be reflected in my words and deeds and will (in a small way) resonate across many planes of existence.  My personal shadow work will involve ritual, meditation, and journeying to speak to my totem spirits and guides.  It will also involve reaching out and making changes in the way I interact with the physical world.

Quests also involve mentors, guardians, and guides. My mentor is the goddess as The Crone.  From our first encounter, she has provided motivation, insights and training.  The Crone is a tough coach. She  tets me, and expects hard work and commitment. But she also believes that her guidance will have positive results.  

Soul searching is a transformative process involving many steps.  Much to my solar Leo’s chagrin, my Virgo ascendant insists on asserting itself here.  Stripped down to bare process these steps are: initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, and closure.  Because linear time is irrelevant to beings from other planes—and a mandate from a goddess is a very big deal--I have a strong, feeling that this quest is likely to be cyclical in nature and go on for a very long time.  As I continue on this journey, I will share my progress.  But for now—what I share involves: initiation--my  recognition that I have been selected to complete my quest; selection--my selection of an area I need to address; exploration of the sore spot in order to gain new personal knowledge; and formulation, when the seeker starts to evaluate  gathered information and a focused perspective begins to form. 

 For me, walking in nature is a meditative process.  I learn a great deal by being attentive to what I see and perceive physically and spiritually. I look for synchronicity (another Jungian term describing the alignment of universal forces with one's own life experience). I take in what I can and, later, meditate upon "co-inciding" events or alignment of forces in the universe to create an event or circumstance. Part of my quest involves becoming intuitively aware and acting in harmony with these forces.

 

The wrath of Hurricane  Sandy and the cold fury of the nor'easter that followed has --ironically-- been followed by mild, spring like weather--much nicer weather than we will experience in March and April. But the silence of the woods, the barren limbs, and the shorn stubble, and the sun setting before five o'clock in the extreme southwest reminds me that the Brandywine Valley is locked in The Crone's embrace. 

It is a Saturday in mid-November when I walk into our woods.  The woods are so still!  The breath of plants, birdsong, and the powerful energy of growth has stopped.  On the surface, like a blanket of snow, the earth is still.  A flock of black birds   perches upon bare limbs--dark, silent silhouettes.  Two women on horseback greet me and bemoan the overcast.  I rather enjoy the muted sky and the silence.  This is an excellent atmosphere for the shadow work which The Crone has charged me to complete. 

 

I clamber over the tree brought down by Sandy that keeps most people from taking this path; walk on past unharvested soybean fields where I stoop to pick up the blood-red and pumpkin orange berries of Bittersweet. Attentive to the changes of this cycle, I ground and center before turning a sharp left and walking down the steep path into the heart of the woods. Into the now barren womb.  This is the realm of The Crone.  The wise woman who understands the reality of letting goes of stripping away. The leaves are all but gone. The forest floor is carpeted with their fading golden and ruddy glory. 

As I walk the leaf strewn path I  speak softly of all that I was lost--my mother, father sister, brother--of all the old wounds that cause me to wake and cry silently in the middle of the night. I say, “I acknowledge you. I loved you. But you are gone." or "You hurt me," and   (most difficult) "I am guilty of inflicting this wound."  There is grief I must release or be forever chained to the past,  hurt that  I must acknowledge and release like leaves that flutter to the  earth to be renewed in soil and new life.

I walk and touch old griefs.  If I have done all that I can to heal a painful event—I must let it go.  If there is something I can still do—some swallowing of pride—some contact that would help heal a wound—I must think about how I can accomplish that task. Are these hurts monsters to be defeated?  Some are for sure.  Some, like my estrangement from my only brother, are griefs that I must acknowledge and accept.

 

There is beauty and truth in the severity of this season, as there is beauty and truth in the severity of self-examination. Bare, smooth silver limbs of beach and the rough, scored limbs of  huge tulip poplars are exposed. But there is harmony and stillness after the great storms of November passed.

 

 

Here is rest. Here is silence.  Every curve, knot, and twig--seemingly dormant--yet here too is life!   The silence is palpable as I leave the path and walk up the rise to the majestic tulip tree.  This is my friend.  Its deva calls to me. I place my offering of Bittersweet on a cairn of stones that I have built up over the years as an offering to the nature spirits of this sacred land. I run my hands inches away from its surface and feel its heat --the energy it has stored deep within. As I run my hands downward toward its roots and feel the pulse and energy increase.  Here is the hidden treasure--the heart and source of the tree's life.  It beats deep beneath the earth and deep within the bole of the tree. I place my hands upon its rough, deeply scored bark, close my eyes and feel and visualize the pulse of life--steady and deep.  I hail the presence of Tulip Tree and ask its blessing. As I open my eyes I feel the air pulse and shimmer. Rarely have I felt so at peace--so lightened.  My offering has been acknowledged.

 

 



I walk up the hill, turning once to look back--knowing that I have to move forward. I climb the rise leading out of the woods. As I reach the woods borders and look toward open meadow--I freeze. My eyes lock on the eyes of a solitary white tailed Buck who stares at me as intently as I stare at him. Is the buck a new totem animal that I need to journey to for guidance? He is the Horned God. -- The God of joyful virility, radiating power and life force--even here in the Croning months. But he is also cautious, poised to recognized and avoid danger. As he turns and bounds back into the woods, he reminds me that the life force is never far from us—but we must be poised and aware. I will take all of this in meditate, and journey, journal and continue on my quest
 


Sunday, November 4, 2012

When the Crone Pays A Visit, You Better Pay Attention


 
 Samhain 2012--I wake in pre-dawn hours, my heart pounding.  I've placed photographs of my beloved dead on my altar, placed welcome offerings of my dad's favorite candy and whiskey, and lit a candle.  I’ve  asked for my ancestors and any supportive powers to PM me in my dreams. I am anticipating something like the  warm and loving messages I received during Audience With the Ancestors, a Samhain ritual performed by my coven (Grail of the Birch Moon) and  member covens of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.  Something along the lines of" I'm fine," and, “follow the way of love.” But the Wise Woman, the Crone, (the matriarch of matriarchs) has visited me in the darkness of night, in the waning of the moon, bringing the chill of winter and a stern message.  It's not what I want, but it is the strong medicine that I need. 
I have never been a lucid dreamer.  So, when I find myself in my very own bedroom confronted by a messenger dressed in black who is--shall we say--brutally frank, I'm pretty freaked out.   First, the specter makes sure that I am icy cold (which certainly gets my attention), then she dissolves the headboard of my bed and tears chunks out of the  door to a very real crawl space behind it while my father (who passed in 2008)  tells me to "wake up."
 This dream is not a nightmare—but its message is certainly stern.  So, I wake to a room not quite as frigid as the astral room. When my heart rate drops to normal, it's time to figure out my spiritual game plan.
 As I’ve said, the crawl space is quite real and exactly where it was in the dream. There are a lot of things in that crawl space—old manuscripts, old books, old clothes, old memories good and not so good—things that I'm not quite ready to part with because they hold a part of me for good or ill.
As the space is behind the very large, very solid oak headboard of a behemoth bed, I can’t get at it without putting in a lot of effort.  I put that stuff there for a variety of reasons—nostalgia, the hope that they’ll be repurposed, and even (in the case of the manuscript)  because I couldn’t bear to look at it but couldn’t bear to throw it away either.
Clearly, it is time for me to do some shadow work. But I don't want to!  That's why all that stuff is packed away in an almost inaccessible physical space and in an equally inaccessible space inside of me.   I have a hunch that the Goddess and my dad expect a New Year’s cleaning that involves more than sorting through the tangible junk that lurks behind that closed door.
As I do a lot when I’m working through “things,” I take a walk in the woods and farmland around the Brandywine River Valley.   Sometimes, the land and the beings that inhabit it, have lessons to teach me. Sometimes the process of walking in the quiet countryside helps me find my way to an answer or at least  helps me pose questions that point me toward more clues.
 The woods have turned towards winter. A cold breeze rattles bare limbs.  Dry leaves spiral down onto damp, cold earth and fields of dun colored corn stubble. In the meadow, horses stand in groups, nose to nose. A maple tree felled by Hurricane Sandy lies across the path pressing down the electric wire enclosing the pasture.  It branches are filled with the tight knots of next year’s  buds-- life and potential that will never be realized in its current form--although it will be transformed and used. Nothing in nature goes to waste. 
Near the last unharvested soybean fields migrating robins chirp with alarm, then fall silent as a local red tailed hawk wheels overhead. I'm like the robin, chirping, alarmed. Then, silent...listening...watching.
The woods hold death and danger –felled trees, downed leaves, and the feathers left from a kill--this is a cycle. I must embrace this--for it is my story as much as the tree's or the bird's.   But it was also full of life. In strong roots that held firm despite Sandy's fury.  In the animals that are foraging or hibernating.  In the last red clovers blooming low to the ground.  In the Red Tail soaring high above crying its glorious “Keeyerr!”  I whisper, "She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes." 
It’s time for me to touch, to draw out, acknowledge, and change. Nature is filled with harsh truths that I need to apply to my spiritual habitat.  I have held on to old grief and hurt too long.  I lock them away, unexamined, because they are too painful to acknowledge, but too much a part of me to easily relinquish.
It’s time to ground, center, pray for compassion and take them out of the darkness. It’s time to do the hard work of removing barriers that give false comfort and open the door to that shadowed place within myself.
Shadow work is as painful and healing as the nettle plant. Sometime the sting has to come before healing can begin.
When I get home, I know what I must do.  This is my first task of the new year. Mastering my fear, I must open physical and spiritual doors, reach into the darkness, and bring what I’ve stored and hidden into the light to be examined, sorted, kept or discarded. 
At fifty-two, (to paraphrase the Bard) I’m a tree approaching winter. A tree shaped and weathered by many seasonal cycles.  My roots are strong, deep, and I can withstand this shadow work.  But I am still a vibrant, sexual, life-embracing woman. I acknowledge shadows and darkness and will to examine the things that I have hidden with care…but I will not hide there –I will open the dark door, embrace the Crone and embrace this new and powerful cycle of my life.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Samhain--lifting veils

November marks a time of transition and turning inward. The veil between the worlds thins, dry leaves rustle, cool darkness falls early and we turn inwards as well.   It is a time of leave-taking. Fall migrants ("snow bird" humans and other species) depart for warmer spots on the globe, and trees and animals prepare and slow down.  While acknowledging and taking leave of warmth & light, Samhain is also a time of remembering and welcoming our ancestors and seeing to  "shadow work" as we examine, come to terms with, and/or heal the  darker aspects of our natures.

The "Feast of the Dead"  is also a part of my Celtic heritage. My ancestors left food offerings for the "wandering dead". Today,  we might light  a votive candle, put in in a safe container, and place it in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. We might also place an extra chair and place setting, a glass of wine, or even some Halloween candy, for the unseen guest.  Apples, candied and otherwise, have always had a strong association with Samhain/Halloween.

Wonder about wearing costumes,  bobbing for apples or pumpkin carving? My Celtic ancestors buried apples along roadsides and paths for wandering spirits who had no descendants to provide for them. On this night of magic when the veils between the worlds grew thin, people hollowed out turnips and carved them to look like protective spirits, dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits. Crops unharvested by Samhain were left as offerings to the Nature spirits. 

My ancestors built bone-fires (bonfires).  After slaughtering the livestock that would be their food for the winter, they feasted and threw the bones into the fire as offerings for healthy  livestock in the New Year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.   It is a time for us as well to do necessary shadow work, and cast aside all the hurts and burdens that we no longer need to carry with us into the future.

Wishing you all a blessed  Third Harvest.



Monday, October 15, 2012

It's a dark, misty moisty day--but right now I am glowing! Solstice Moon Solstice Sun HAS ARRIVED and Ellen's magnificant illustrations just shine! After almost two years of work and planning, we have a finished product--a beautiful book--that we are very proud to present to you.

You can order Solstice Moon Solstice Sun,  posters, and cards at:
www.brigidsherathpress.com.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hi everyone.  Thanks to all those who purchased books on  the Owls Wing's site!  The books have shipped!  We should have them by Oct 8th or 9th. 

We now have a button for ordering  Solstice Moon Solstice Sun, Yule cards, and posters on our website www.brigidshearthpress.com .

Blessings!

Maire & Ellen Durkan

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Second Harvest


 

This Saturday, September 22 at 10:49 a.m. EDT, the Wheel of the Year turned to the Autumnal Equinox.  At Mabon we stand at the crossroads of bounty, warmth, and light and scarcity, cold, and darkness.  Like Ostara, Mabon is one of the few times throughout the year that true balance can be observed in nature.  The days are still mild, the light is golden, asters and goldenrod brighten roadsides and meadows while the fall migrations of birds and monarch butterflies begin. 

 

The second of three harvest celebrations, Mabon is a time of thanksgiving and celebration but also of reflection.  Along with the actual harvest from our garden, my family reflects upon what we have planted, tended, and harvested in our lives. My seven year old has learned to read. One son has brought back a new harvest of experiences from his first trip to Europe; another fruits of spiritual growth; another harvest of new friendships. After nearly two years, of writing & illustrating—my daughter Ellen and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Solstice Moon Solstice Sun, our illustrated pagan children’s book celebrating Yule and the winter solstice.  

Because of its associations with the harvest, the apple is a perfect Mabon symbol.  Beyond harvesting the bounty of our own garden and processing baskets of tomatoes and garden herbs, our family takes an annual trip to a local orchard.  We return with enough Golden Delicious, Honey Crisps, Galas, and Empire apples. Over the next two days our household takes part in epic apple processing and makes around a hundred jars of apple sauce, apple butter, and apple jam.  Teamwork in action!  Over the years this annual event has become a Mabon family tradition.  The delicious aroma of cooking apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg and the positive energy created as we work together fills and blesses our home.

Family and friends look forward to their annual gift of homemade applesauce.

Another way that we connect our family to the Second Harvest is through the hunting animals that represent the season.  As the summer season slowly fades and an autumn chill returns to the air in Delaware, thousands of migrating raptors will travel south over Delaware on their way to warmer winter climates. During the season of Second Harvest, we make two to three weekly trips to Hawk Watch Hill at Ashland Nature Center, an established raptor migration monitoring site, train our binoculars skyward, and observe and count hawks, falcons, eagles, ospreys, and vultures.

 
On a mild September morning we might witness the spectacle of hundreds of migrating broad-winged hawks as they pass over on their way to the tropics or the awe inspiring sight of a mating pair of Bald Eagles spiraling upwards on a thermal to find the currents to carry them south.  It is also a great way to be out in Nature and enjoy the beauty of the fall wildflowers, migrating Monarchs, zooming dragonflies, and the changing Fall foliage.

To top off the season, we make full use of the bounty of musical talent in our family, and host a Harvest Home music jam celebrating the gift of friends, family, music.  Using the bounty of our gardens  and produce from our local growers’ markets, we prepare homemade seasonal foods,  and on a cool early October night—enjoy the warmth of music and friendship as bluegrass, Celtic, and blues, jazz and eclectic music fills the house.

Mabon is also a time to celebrate our local Pagan community. Delaware’s Pagan Pride celebration occurs around Mabon and includes a food drive to share the bounty of the harvest. This Mabon was particularly important for me as we dedicated our new Assembly of the Sacred Wheel coven, Grail of the Birch Moon on September 22nd.

Watched over by the Great Ones, we dedicated our coven in a secluded meadow surrounded by autumn wildflowers, trees just beginning to change color, the only sheer cliffs in Delaware, and the hum of autumn insects.

Celebrate Mabon yourself! Be thankful for the things you have, and reflect upon the balance you have achieved and what needs balancing, honoring both the darkness and the light. Invite your friends and family over for a feast (the bigger the better!), and count the blessings of family, friends, and community.

 

 

Friday, August 24, 2012

From Brigid's Hearth with Love


The weather here in northern Delaware has finally turned from scorching hot to comfortably seasonable.  We are still picking baskets of tomatoes, but the yield has declined just slightly.   As I process them for soups and sauces, my mind is already looking forward to Mabon and out annual trip to the orchard for glorious fresh Honeycrisps and Ginger Golds to turn onto apple sauce and pies. 

And, of course, summer’s end means back to school. My youngest and I visited her first grade class room, met her teacher, and signed up for after school activities.  For my three homeschooled boys, this week first week of school brought them back into daily math, and language arts, but it also means that they'll soon be out on Hawk Watch Hill at Ashland Nature Center participating in the annual migratory Monarch butterfly and raptor counts.   Hawks and eagles circle and stream--sensing the time has come to move south with the passerine migrations. 

The local countryside is transitioning as well. Cicadas crescendo everywhere. Bees and insects are busy among Goldenrod and Asters--flowers that make the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest season.  Late afternoon sunlight is already taking on the rich honey-gold luminescence you don't find at any other time of year.

And, after much weeding, thinning composting, and tending Solstice Moon Solstice Sun is almost ready for printing.  What a harvest it will be! 

 

 
There are many people who have supported us and I am grateful to all of you who encouraged us with words, thoughts, and donations as we worked to make this book a reality.

 

Special thanks to my daughter Ellen for being the amazing artist and person that she is.  There would be no book without her.  Special thanks also to my loving and generous niece Lauren Geaghan, graphic designer extraordinaire, who took over the task of making sure that Solstice Moon Solstice Sun is ready for the printer and brought us through this last leg of the pre- publishing journey.   And  thank you to Brigid, our patroness,  who inspired and tended our creative fires and guided the forging and crafting of our words and images.

 

As a special thank you for reading and supporting, here is one of Ellen’s stunning visuals.

 

Blessings.

PS Don’t forget the launch.  November 2, 2012—5-8 pm. Film Brothers Co-op.  2nd & Market Streets.  Wilmington DE
 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The "Why" & "Wherefore" of Solstice Moon Solstice Sun


“Changeless, yet changing, from mountain to shore,

a circle of wonders for us to explore!”

Solstice Moon Solstice Sun


The first of the Wheel of the Year books, Solstice Moon Solstice Sun tells the story of  one of nature’s  great turning points--when the hemisphere experiencing the winter solstice turns from the darkness of the longest night towards longer days and the promise of spring. 

The winter months are a time of rest, when the Earth’s energy is stored in roots and within the slowed metabolisms of hibernating animals.  All life must adapt or perish.  Just like little Owlet, winter can weigh us down and we need reassurance that balance will be restored as earth circles the sun. 

Like Owlet and his mother, our ancestors, were keenly aware of the natural world. They told stories to explain the transition and observed the winter solstice with festivals such as Yule and Saturnalia.

Along with humorous touches (Mama Owl’s fluffy pink slippers and a mouse infested house) Solstice Moon Solstice Sun features traditional symbols and powerfully symbolic characters.

The Characters—touching past traditions while relating to the present

Solstice Moon Solstice Sun’s animal characters and woodland setting were inspired by the gently rolling countryside of the Brandywine River Valley and characters from European folkways that are part of our heritage.

Owlet: Like any little one, Owlet misses his friends (who are hibernating), is tired of cold, gloomy days, and longs for a change in his routine. He reaches to his mother for a reassurance that the seasonal cycle will continue and that he will be reunited with his friends.   

Mama: A wise owl mommy, she knows that words alone aren’t enough for a little person and takes him into and through the heart of nature-- a sacred space--to experience the change. Owlet follows with perfect trust.

The Mice and Owlet’s friends: Children will adore finding the mice hiding in every illustration and will giggle at the illustrations of the Bear and Woodchuck families.

Ellen’s magnificent illustrations of the Oak King, the Holly King, and the Lady reflect the strong spiritual and cultural traditions this time still holds for many.

The Holly King: Lord of the Winterwood, The Holly King represents withdrawal and rest—the dark half of the year when the sun’s light is waning (mid-summer solstice to winter solstice). He also represents the old year and the sage. Traditions like displaying holly sprigs come from the Holly King legend. The Holly King is also depicted as Father Christmas (or Santa Claus), driving a sleigh pulled by eight stags/reindeer, dressed in long robes with a crown of holly on his hair. His plant is the holly.

The Oak King: Lord of the Greenwood, the oak king represents growth and expansion-- the light half of the year when the sun is waxing in strength (from the winter solstice to the mid-summer solstice).  In this story he also represents the newly-born New Year.  His plants are the oak and mistletoe (another symbol of this season).

The Lady: Lady of the Greenwood/Lady of the Winterwood, Mother Nature, Mother Earth. However your tradition chooses to interpret her, she gives birth to the child of promise and hope.

Solstice Moon Solstice Sun nurtures a conscious connection to nature

As Earth revolves around the sun, each object and living thing tells endless and varied stories that help us understand the wonders of our planet and our connections to what exists upon it and beyond it.


If we’re patient and attentive, we often discover the greatest lessons and wonders in the smallest things—a snowflake—a butterfly sipping nectar from a flower growing in a window box, and sometimes a huge event is as quietly glorious  as the sun rising a minute earlier in a  pale winter sky.



Solstice Moon Solstice Sun fulfills a need within the community

Solstice Moon Solstice Sun fulfills a need for well written, beautifully illustrated stories that help children dream, wonder,  explore, and love  the natural beauty all around them—even in the midst of a city. For what they love, they will fight to preserve and protect.

The purpose of our stories and illustrations is to recapture, in some small way, a toddler’s wonder and joy as he plucks a dandelion, blows, and watches the fluff soar away on the breeze.

As followers of nature-based spirituality, it is our duty to nurture this wonder and, in the process, to refresh and strengthen our own awareness and connection to the Earth. 

Spend time talking with  your child about Solstice Moon Solstice Sun’s pictures and words, about the characters and how they feel, how the events reflect the  passage of the seasons, and how this story relates to their own life and experience.   Like Mama Owl, take your child into nature.

Opportynity Grant

Great news!  The Delaware Division of the Arts just awarded us an Opportunity Grant for Solstice Moon Solstice Sun!  The book should be in our hands by mid-September!  I've put up the PayPal info on the sidebar :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Long Pig II

The proofs for Solstice Moon Solstice Sun  arrive tomorrow!!  In the meantime,  I'm submitting a bunch of my short stories to the Delaware Division of the Arts for an artist fellowship.

Here's the second of the Long Pig shorts.


Long Pig II
I stretch my consciousness across billions of galaxies wheeling and pulsing with energy and life --with void and death.  I count them as a hen on a planet yet to be will count her eggs.
The one we call Trickster snickers and remarks, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”
 But I take my job seriously. I am Death. I am Change. None deny me my due.    
On the still non-existent Hen planet, some will call me Cerridwen, Hel, Pele, Kali, Tiamat, The Stern Mother, and The Crone. I am the ravening sow who consumes her young.  I am the liberator of souls who dances the rhythms of life and death until love and rage are one. Adorned with a necklace of fifty severed head, I dance upon my husband’s corpse, upon your corpse, and the corpse of every being who was or will be.  
Time and space are running out for this here and now.  It is stretched to its limit and touches the realm where myths are made.  I number each existence on planets that have been, are, and will be.  Rage rises against the cruelty unleashed and the lessons unlearned until I am consumed--taut as a boil ready to burst.  This universe quivers—suns sing their death songs.  I strain and roar. Mass collapses into mass. Each dying world becomes a bead upon my necklace.
. The dying universe surges in its death throes as  I devour dark matter, suns, nebulae, planets, satellites, blood, bone, sinew and  atoms until all that’s left is a conflicting silence---hot and throbbing with potential.  
     Eons pass. Bound to their galaxies, suns and planets form. Life evolves.  I am imagined on the Hen planet and worshipped in many forms.  Right now, it amuses me to incarnate where my worshippers are (as yet) unaware of my identity.  I survey them upon a reviewing stand   beside a lovely young woman crowned with a rhinestone tiara.  A satin sash draped across her chest reads, “Pork Princess.”   She is my handmaiden, for I am Cerridwen, the Great White Sow.  Humans admire my solid majesty—the long thick muscles of my groomed length. My pungent female scent attracts and alarms them. They cannot resist me.
The satin sash draped across the wide barrel of my torso reads, “Supreme World Champion.”   The crowd clusters—one bears an offering. I raise my huge head and grunt a deep, guttural warning.  He backs away in reverent fear as I thrust my snout into the cauldron of mash and turnips.   Fourteen pendulous pink teats hang beneath the swag of my belly where my unborn children squirm—waiting to burst forth.  All of the energy and potential of life is coiled within them—within each being.  It will erupt and will be stretched to its allotted limit, before I consume it so that the cycle continues. 
In this moment, I am inclined towards clemency because these beings appreciate me and because my body teems with life.  Besides, I do not wish to harm my handmaiden who smells of sweet lavender soap.  For now, she is The Maiden.  But I will always be the Stern Mother and the Crone. All will know my rage and my fierce consuming love.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our author/illustrator page!  Good things are happening today for us.  A steady rain has given plants and animals the water they so desperately needed before the next bout of 100 plus weather,  AND,  thanks to my wonderful niece Lauren (graphic designer extraordinaire), Solstice Moon Solstice Sun is  formatted  correctly and is ready to go to the printer!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summertime Blues and Blessings


Although it is slowly losing ground to the darkness, the sun is still almost at the height of its strength.  , The brutal heat in the Brandywine River Valley and up and down the entire East Coast of the USA  leaves us in no doubt of Sol’s influence upon Earth's climate.  The violent summer storms that took lives and  left millions without power while temperatures soared, remind us that (despite our technology) we are not the rulers of this planet—that we are all subject to the forces of nature.

The cicadas have begun their buzzing crescendos.   The pea plants are shriveled, faded parchment.  The ground is hard and cracked, and the local corn crop is in trouble. Ironically, the air is full of moisture and our squash and pumpkins are thriving--which just proves that what defeats one thing makes another thrive.  

This Saturday, was the worst for the sheer intensity of the heat but one of the best for bringing people together.  Hundreds of people crowded the banks of the Brandywine River around Smith’s Bridge picnicking and looking for relief. The river was so low that waders looking for relief stood knee high where the current is usually fast and the water several feel high.  Even the most reluctant, waded in. 

Just down the road, friends and family got together for a pond party at a local farm.  We all went for a dip, enjoying the  the water's refreshing embrace and the laughter of our children as they clung to the rope attached to an old Sycamore, launched themselves, and drooped (whooping) into the welcoming water.  When we emerged, the air was pleasant against our wet skin.  We shared our picnic food, laughed, and chatted as a quickening breeze brought in cooler weather without the violent storm that we feared.  This is the best of summer and of life-- laughter, togetherness, and finding a way to embrace nature even on a hot hot summer afternoon.   

When the heat index is over 100 F and the sky is a blue-white haze, it’s understandable that we yearn for cooler weather;  like maybe a blast of wintry polar air to cool things down.

But if you’re prepared for the heat and have water to drink and to play in, getting out even on a very hot day can help us  appreciate the intensity and beauty of summer.

 I hope that you are all enjoying a beautiful mid-summertime.  And if you’re still yearning for cooler weather, here’s a sneak peek at an illustration from Solstice Moon Solstice Sun to help you cool down.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rose Walking

I have a bit of Rose in me. Though I haven't put a ball of yarn in the fridge...yet.

Rose Walking

Springtime in the farmlands was sunlight, soft showers, the rich scent of newly turned earth, and robins searching for worms. Rose walked the trail she knew so well. Purple and yellow violets, delicate wild geraniums, and comical Jack in the Pulpit hemmed its border.  She paused. Just here was the spot where she and Adam, her high school sweetheart, had made love on a plaid blanket before he was sent off to Vietnam.
She rubbed her back.  That pain was starting to shoot down her right leg again, but the farmhouse was just ahead.   She hurried up the gravel path, stepped onto the wide green veranda and opened the door with a sigh of pure pleasure.  She smiled and inhaled the soothing scent of dried lavender and Murphy’s Oil Soap.   She was safe.  She was home.
`           Peace flowed from the old polished floorboards, the plaster walls, and the big oak beams that supported the ceiling. Cozy, her calico cat, purred on an old cushion in shaft of golden sunlight. The grandfather clock ticked like a heartbeat, while a mockingbird sang arias from the weather vane on the roof.  She hoped a lady bird was listening.  She hoped she would pick him the way she had picked Adam on the dance floor in 1967, the week before he left for boot camp.  The summer of 1967 had been a good time, a good vintage and one she would always savor.  She’d had her share of lovers; there was Adam--her soldier boy, a hippie named River, and that young professor of philosophy…Larry.  They had all been beautiful as she had been beautiful. They had been so in love with being in love, in that fragile and wild time before Herpes, AIDs and Hepatitis C crushed the juice out of free love.
Then there was John, her other young professor--so witty and cynical.  At the party, everyone thought that he was brilliant and talked about his book on Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations.  Academia wasn’t her bag. She’d dropped out of college to run an organic farm.  He was a practical Capricorn. She was an Aries—impulsive and adventurous.  But they had wanted each other from the first look. They talked, argued, and laughed for hours.  Just before dawn they found an empty bedroom and made love, while a June thunderstorm shook the house.
Afterwards, she shivered with delight as he stroked the curve of her waist and murmured, “Your skin is as soft as rose petals.”   It was a romance novel sort of thing to say, but he’d meant it.  He had served her breakfast in bed and given her a bouquet of Tiger Lilies.
One autumn later, she’d made her own wedding dress and had twined the garland of flowers she wore atop her long auburn hair.  Trailed by the wedding party, they walked to the edge of the cornfield where the Unitarian minister married them before God, Goddess, and their Presbyterian and Jewish Parents, while Indian summer heat raised beads of sweat and the ladies’ high heels pushed into the dirt.
`           Within a year she was walking and walking, up and down the hallway as her contractions grew closer and longer.  Then, she was walking up and down the hallways of this house year after year jiggling each of their five children.  Soothing, singing, rocking them back into a gentle world of dreams.
Now the kids were grown, flown away.  Busy with their own lives.  And still she walked in the woods and farmland where she and John had raised them--tracing the paths of their lives, wandering along the banks of her memories. 
She began to forget things.  She lost her neighbor’s name and groped for specific nouns—unable to topple the high blank barrier and grasp the term “parking meter.”  They had both laughed the time she’d put the ball of yarn in the refrigerator, but she’d seen fear flash from John’s eyes.  Now, she saw sadness in his eyes when he thought she wasn’t looking.
Rose glanced at the clock and wondered why the polished brass pendulum had stopped swinging.  The mockingbird had stopped singing and the room had grown dark. She groped for a switch. Her chest tightened.  Who the hell had moved all of the lights?
She called for him then.  ‘John?  John!”
The door burst open. 
“Rose!  Damn it!  You can’t take off without telling me!” 
He cupped her face, tilting it so that she had to meet his eyes.  “Don’t you know how frightened I was?”  He kissed her forehead, “You can’t just wander the whole way over here in your nightgown in the middle of March!”
He made her feel oddly guilty—like a little girl caught with her hand in the cookie jar. “My goodness! I was just checking on Cozy.”  Her brow creased, “Cozy? Now look!  You’ve scared her off.”
     Jon gathered her into his arms.  “You’re freezing.  We have to go home now Rose.”
“But Cozy!”
 “Honey, Cozy’s been dead for ten years.”
Rose stared at him blankly. He sighed.  It was no use.
 “Tell you what. You pick Cozy up, and we’ll bring her with us. Okay?”
            Rose beamed and sighed with contentment as John slipped on her coat.  
Then, she lifted Cozy as John opened the door for her. 
“Come on sweetheart; it’s getting dark.”
She paused. “I don’t think I want to go on this walk.  You go.  I’ll stay here.”
The arm encircling her waist tightened slightly. “I have a surprise for you.  You have to come with me honey.”
She looked up into her lover’s face.  “Where are we going?”
            Pain flashed in John’s eyes.  “For a walk, honey; just for a little walk.”




 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Cover, Dedication page, and Wheel of Year Illustrations




The time of gathering has begun!




Ah Mid-Summer! The world is a riot of colors against a backdrop of summer greens and sky blue.

Here in northern Delaware’s Brandywine Valley, it means brilliant orange Tiger Lilies brightening roadsides, blackberries ripening, the perfume of honeysuckle, yellow squash blossoms, and loads of sugar snap peas, greens, and herbs for the dinner table.  

The days have become hot and humid; filled with growth and green.  Around here, the saying goes that the corn should be “knee high by the Fourth of July,”  but this year early June’s warm days and ample rainfall will make the corn crop waist high, or even shoulder high by the time we’re watching fireworks.  

The summer solstice radiates vital energy.  The sun’s power has waxed to its fullness.  But even as the “Oak King bows down to the ground,” and nights are  gradually lengthening, the summer continues its rhythm of growth and ripening,

The compost bin is full and cooking.  As I turn it and inhale its unmistakable “aroma,” I remind myself that it too will help the land--providing fertile soil for next year’s crops.

Pea seeds planted on St. Patrick’s Day have twined up their wire fencing. Delicate tendrils shot up along with a riot of white pea blossoms which ripened into sugar-snaps for our table.

I’ll miss our cooler season crops now that 90 plus degree days have arrived.  This year we’ve planted more herbs and the spearmint, especially, has been a delightful addition to ice tea and --that coolest hot day cocktail—Mojitos.
As the temperature rises, and people and lettuce wilt in the heat, most living things crave its opposing element—water.

This summer solstice, while the temperature soared towards 100 degrees, we clambered into “The Breadbox” (our unairconditioned 15 passenger van) and took a trip to Cape Henlopen State Park on the Delaware shore. Earth, air, fire and water met at the ocean edge creating the perfect combination of refreshing shore to land breeze, firm sand, warmed waves, and brilliant sunlight. 

As much as I love cumulus clouds drifting above a sun-warmed seascape ,  I’m grateful for seasonal balance.

Like a high tide, the sun has reached and receded from its most northern point in the sky and (minute by minute each day) our part of the earth begins to receive some relief in the form of night's healing  darkness.

It also means that we are in the home stretch with Solstice Moon Solstice Sun’s layout! As soon as Ellen finishes getting the copy looking the way it should, we’ll send SMSS off to Taylor Specialty Books.   

We’ll post pictures real soon.