Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I breathe in; I am alive

It rained last night. It wasn't enough to make a big dent in the drought damage, but it was exquisite. I was grateful driving home in it, thanking the gods each time I had to turn up the speed on my wipers. I ran out into the backyard with the dogs and stood in the last dregs of the day's light, letting cold drops sting my face, and I cried. The dogs weren't even upset about getting rained on, something they normally hate. Muddy pawprints are everywhere.

I have been practicing Mindfulness as often as I can remember for the last week. I'm listening to the CD teaching set, Living Without Stress or Fear, courtesy of the library. It's a Buddhist retreat, and it is outstanding. It's my first real encounter with the practices and philosophies and exercises, and it has been so positive. I've never been able to center or ground so easily. The impact on my anxiety could be life-changing. Kevin says I've been different, better the past few days.

Other than the exercises I've learned to do, I have learned that being fully present in the moment is very difficult for me. Too much energy, an overactive mind, and the overachiever gene are hard to beat back. They can be handy in magic, bringing lots of focus, oomph, and precise tailoring and visualization - but that's not being present in the here and the now. I thought it was, but it's not. In the rain, I think I achieved my first few moments of being truly present in a week of trying. Nothing mattered more right then, it felt such a rare and precious thing to smell and hear that familiar thing, to have it sting my skin, to feel my shoes stick to the ground as dust turned instantly to mud glue, to sense the dogs running happy circles around the yard. It was great to be truly there in a calm moment, rather than just those of intense pain or pleasure or anger.

The ability to achieve peace quickly is undervalued in Western cultures. We're fast and loud and big. This month has been littered with unexpected expenses, none of them impacting my mood. Abraham, the poodle man, had to get a big chunk of speargrass dug out of a joint in his foot, which had been infected by it. My car stereo ate a library CD and had to be replaced. All new tires. The endless heat equals high bills. My phone is dying. The wedding will be much more expensive than I had hoped. All of that, and I have a deep well of peace. I haven't panicked about money. I've gotten frustrated and deeply angry with Kevin, then had calm, productive conversations that led to equitable agreements better than I had hoped for. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel stable, which is something I haven't felt in a long time.

My hope is that the practices of stillness, peace, and mindfulness will let me hear the spirits more clearly, with better discernment, so that we can make progress together in my learning. I had wanted a teacher, but the woman I would have asked told me that what I'm called to has to be taught to me individually, by spirits, and learned the hard way. All too often, there are no books for me, no tidy guides. Perhaps, though, there are guides to equip us with the skills we need to undertake the learning, like the Buddhist monk I'm listening to. And that? That is a really big deal to have outposts in the wilderness so that we can be supplied on the voyage instead of foraging for every morsel, every sundry supply. Something to be grateful for, indeed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Last week, my psychiatrist and I talked about how the hardest thing I am having to learn as an adult is moderation. It seems so wrong to take the longer path, to not superstar excel as quickly as possible, even though I know that the point of so many things is the journey. Pushing and striving has its place, and that place is not in everyday circumstances. In this, being a witch is so good for me. So very good. No book hands down what my spirits need me to know. I must be quiet and listen, and before that, prepare for them, invite them, prepare myself. I must be slow, deliberate, and discerning about who I speak to and how much to trust their words. There are an awful lot of tricksters out there, which is a painful lesson brought entirely by haste.

Magic demands patience for the most part. It doesn't take too many times spending a year living the fallout of raising a lot of energy and throwing it it a poorly thought out working. (Pro tip: Don't ask Brigid for more money at work, a new job, and to finally, truly learn patience all in the same Imbolc ritual. You will get what you asked for, and it will be excruciating.) Books are good for a lot of things, but there come points that there isn't one out there that is for you and your path. Like the Moon card in Tarot, you step into the boat and go where it takes you in the deep, dark night. That takes faith. The faith takes good experiences and bad, so that you know you can handle either and come out alive. The gods and the ancestors are faithful to speak. I am learning to be faithful to arrive and to listen.

My practice teaches such good lessons. Unfortunately, the rest of my life hasn't necessarily started learning them yet. And so when the rest of that outside chaos pushes things off in my practice, it feels like a great, sad failure to myself and to the gods. The problem of never feeling like you're doing enough is a personal one with a high cost. I messed up for the last moon. I made homemade cornbread in the spirit flame's cast iron vessel. I made the harvest altar and decorated it. And then there were a couple of blips in my personal life, and I forgot to actually do anything. The cornbread for Grandmother still got offered, but not in the right way, and not to her so much as to the land. Nothing got done for the God of the Forest. I fail in the small things and fear that I'll never be faithful enough, get the offerings and rituals and secret messages right. Just as much, I fear being enslaved to the whole thing to the exclusion of the rest of my waking life. I fear losing the thin line between present, past, future, and whatever forces operate in the Otherworlds. I've always had dreams and visions, heard and seen things. I can choose not to obey, but I can't not be aware of what they want.

I think of taking off till the new moon, to regroup. But the day is overcast, heavy, and grey as rain (rain!) looms all around. I pray and ask for a break to the drought, for a generous watering for the land and the animals and the fires. If the rain comes, the harvest will surely come with it. If the rain comes, we will be saved. Instead of taking a break, Grandmother tells me to scrub the porch, clean up, quit worrying myself and be domestic. The porch is cleaned of a summer's worth of dust and ashes and schmutz. I will start the bread dough when I finish this, then take a ritual bath in the summer's spicy sweet harvest of sunflower petals, roses, and juniper. I will be forgiven, make amends, and not keep apologizing after everything is smoothed over. I am glad Grandmother is here to guide me, to lead me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The coming harvest?

School is back in session. My friends up north have irksome Facebook posts about the crisp weather while it's still over a hundred degrees here in Texas and my sky is full of pale ecru smoke from the fires nearby. Fall comes in name only here, but I have faith. I am reminded of a line from a poem written by someone I used to know. It's about God and begs, "Come with Your suddenly, and take me away." It is dust bowl dry here. The earth has cracks so deep and wide we have to warn children away from them. We have learned in the last week that pine trees, parched yet rich with sap, literally explode when the fire burns around them. May the gods have mercy on us.

The animals in the fields are dying. They are shipping the cows and horses up north, losing future generations of livestock and livelihoods. The remaining cows huddle together under scrubby short mesquite trees, trying to find shade. The hay stubble they eat has been burnt by the sun past being yellow and brittle to being a warm grey and powdery. This should be our late summer planting season. Fields should be full of fresh, green grass and knee-high cotton. I was going to plant ornamental gourds to grow and dry for next fall's wedding decorations, but it is too hot and the restricted water allotment must be used to water the foundation to keep the house from cracking worse than it has already. The earth has pulled back from the house by several inches and half of the doors can't shut right. Still, I have faith.

Because I believe that fall will come, that it will bring the rains and the healing both the land and I ache for, I built it an altar. The stag, for the God of the Forest, whom I love so dearly; He that I hunt with, that I run with in visions, whose mantle I wear while setting things right - he crowns the thing because there is none other worthy of it. For Him, a bounty of beautiful gourds and carved acorns. Incense wreathed in grape vines. Hand-blown glass hurricanes with candles. A hand-woven cloth with intricately knotted fringe made by Indians in Mexico. There is sacred cornbread for Grandmother, baked in the spirit flame vessel.

It's hard here and now. Trying. Things seem to move with glacial speed, and hopes with good omens keep ending in disappointment. My soul aches for the imagery of harvest and the refreshing transition out of summer. Only what is there to harvest? When your magic work is around the wheel of the year, leading toward a season of harvest and the land is dead and scorched, what does that forecast for one's spiritual harvest? It scares me, but still, I have faith. Perhaps I should scatter mustard seeds over the altar...