Gray Is The Color

Gray is my hair – turned by time,

Gray is my robe – trimmed in rain,

Gray is my heart – tried by need,

Gray is my art – light and dark tied,

To them, those whose names I carried inward,

I say, “Thou art not mine,

“No, indeed, for I am truly thine.

I am thy servant – priestess to thee all,

But for all that, I speak now of a fall,

A falling failing of the light once in your eyes,

I summon thee not, but if thou wouldst come?

Then to thy guard posts of America, again?”

This I voice, standing ‘neath the sod,

And before the Stone – cup in hand and light,

I feel the wind, hear hooves of horses!

I shut my eyes and turn about,

To Walk once more from inward to out!

In my footsteps, how many do tread?

Shall they be a force for evil to dread?

 

 

 

Each Walk More Difficult

samhain-walkThis is not the blog concerned primarily with the labyrinth I built, the path I walk for those fallen in America’s most recent wars. But where DO I put this, if not here where I discuss what I believe or disbelieve?

I built the Walk of the Fallen in 2003.  Building it and walking it in the first year or two was emotionally and spiritually grueling.  I experienced things I formally did not believe in out there.  Things I encapsulated in my life as ideals, metaphors, archetypes became something else on those sandstone bits embedded in my rocky soil.  I cannot explain my experiences there, nor can I deny them.

For thirteen years now, I have walked in every name of every American or Coalition troop killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a few other places — Ft. Sam Houston, Benghazi, Kuwait — all deaths I consider to have come about as a result of George W. Bush unwisely choosing to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11.  The death tolls, even with renewed combat against ISIL in Iraq, are much reduced.  But still, the names come in.

And every walk is worse in sensation.  It is a a grinding misery and heartbreak.  A decade and a half of war and we are not done.  When will it ever be done?  I should walk daily, as twenty of more veterans die by their own hand daily.  I cannot even find those names, of course.  And my heart quails at those nameless walks.  How many times do I ring the brass bell?  Superstition rears its head — if I ring the bell once too often, does another battered veteran off himself?

I feel like a failure because my energy flags.  My resolve remains, but weakened — it takes me longer to get my tears under control to go out onto the stones.  Sometimes days longer.  There have been other times in the thirteen years when it was difficult, each time feeling like some deeper initiation into — well, into what?  I don’t know till I get there, do I?  Weakness, vulnerability, pain — the lesser mentioned threads of the Hermit’s robe.

The “Skies Are Crying” Fall of the Old Year

samhain-walkAs I wrote, to almost nobody last week, I began my new year at the New Moon. Sure, the family had a good meal — one of the rare red meat meals for me and the Minotaur — and lit a fire in the outside drizzle. We passed around a horn and “toasted, boasted, and vowed” in sumbel style.  There were serious conversations and light hearted joking as well.  We farewell’d what we wanted gone and greeted what we wanted to carry forward.  It was merry and bright around the fire.

But I didn’t feel merry or bright. I drank a bit too heavily of the passed horn filled with mead we brewed two years ago….meaning more than one single slim glassful in my booze-lightweight age. Earlier in the afternoon before the utter failing of daylight, you see, I had gone to the Labyrinth for year’s end rites there. No names, merely a tolling of the brass bell – once for every year of the current ongoing, never-ending wars and then a silent walk to the center. And then a walk back out, slowly — the intent being that as many old pagan traditions say — tis the day they dead can come back to join the living for a night and I would lead them back on that pathway wherein I walked them inwards.

Usually, this is a neutral walk — even on the years when I occasionally gruelingly read the entire list of names of Us and Coalition dead in both the Afghan and Iraqi wars.  But this year, every step back outward felt like I was walking from a place of peace into a sort of hell.  I felt laden with grief and despair, my mood blackened as the astrologically “black” moon invisible in its orbit.  That dreadful sense of “something dire coming” possessed me and the helplessness of it made my chest hurt.  “Death inbound” is how I characterize this feeling and I hate it so much.  And in less than a week — yes, five Americans dead in our ongoing foreign adventures.

Attachment-1Do I believe in prescience?  Lets say my experience makes comfortable disbelief impossible.  It is somewhat typical at the end of the year — whether in October or December — to question, to formally doubt, to make new choices and discard what baggage one can leave in the dust.  I’d like to leave this grief, this fear, this dread behind me.  But it follows me like a shadow, a vampiric shadow that feeds on the anxieties and miseries of this election.  It is not just fear of a President who reminds me of Beast Rabban (Harkonnen); it is the utter cruelty of his followers in being perfectly ok with his denigration and diminishment of women, immigrants, people of color, gays, lesbians, disabled people, poor people.  One would think that those people have never met real people in their lives!

I cast about for newness, for purpose, for connections as I feel more hermitic than ever.  The German ladies I left over the casual white privileged callousness of one of them want me back — well, five of them want me back.  Can I go back?  It dawns on me that the majority wants me back because I told off the domineering one; but is that the role I want in a circle I had considered friends?  I tell myself it wouldn’t be my only role, but I still fear just becoming a “novelty” of some sort to women I wanted to be friends with on common basis of work, family, and so forth.  I was too under the weather this year to go on the 2 1/2 hour drive a Day of the Dead party; and stricken to realize how few friends I have and all of them very far away.

And yet I find myself considering cutting more connections even in online life.  I am so angrily sick of the Apple i-Phone nonsense of touch-pad failure and no word on Apple acknowledging or fixing it in ever more impossibly expensive phones, for instance.  Thus, as my phone begins to give me grief, I consider shutting off the account entirely and “bundling” in a old school house phone with the equally hated Comcast/Xfinity.  This means I’d be largely disconnected from all online associations – my aging Mac Mini stutters when I use it, and if/when it fails I may not even replace it.  A whole group of semi-connected associations will fall away like autumnal leaves then, too.  I have found that nobody wants to write old style letters…nobody at all.  For years, I’ve sent fifty or more holiday cards on various holidays and got back fewer than a dozen.  Connection apparently is not allowed to take longer than five seconds or cost even forty five cents?

It troubles me that we have the promises of technology about never being disconnected, but it feels as if as humans, we are more disconnected from each other, more isolated than ever before.  Recent reading has told me I am not the only one to notice this with a sense of despair — Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe attributes this biology/psychology skewing trend with facilitating lasting PTSD, depression, and suicide.  We seem to be forgetting how to be people for each other!  So my end of year does feel very dark as the cold rain falls daily now and colored leaves fall to leave monotone firs looming like wraiths in the gray sky.  I remind myself that gray days mean I must try harder to find something light.

But I feel like embracing the darkness, exploring every shadow and misery is what I really will be doing this month before I put up the lights and decorations for Yule.  I’m not looking for a sunshine enema.  I’m looking for the cause of the darkness, I think.  Just typing that makes me want to slap myself for grandiosity.  But there it is, I just can’t get around the feeling and sensation that, to coin off of Tolkien, one must go through the dark mines of Moria to find light on the other side.

It may take some time.

 

Birthday Month – How Do We Age?

FullSizeRenderMy mother is 81 this year. I saw her last when she was 50. I look at myself in the mirror now, at 63 and it is her features I see in many essential ways. But when I wake in the morning and sit up to take my coffee cup from my husband, my mind’s eye does not see that image. I no longer see myself at age 23, when I was wed, either. I see and “feel” myself – oh, maybe 40? But lately, the last three years or so, I can feel something slipping into feeling oh so much older.

I notice it particularly on Fridays. Fridays are now when I most commonly walk the Labyrinth with names of men or women often younger than my youngest child. Sometimes, now, I walk it with no names in hand at all — I am trying to set a new habit, you see? Every day around 20 veterans suicide, I have no way to find their names to add to my bitter books. But I know they are gone and they deserve a walking.

I walk, singing, now amidst the fallen leaves and rusty pine needles. And I feel so very old. It is not, as one might think, the hurts to the body that alone age us. At 40 I had nerves dead of spinal injury and still felt young and hale, if in pain! In 2003, the year I built the Walk of the Fallen, I was 50 and I grew strong and muscular hefting big stones and digging soft soil lined trench.  I wore out several pair of heavy gloves.  I felt crazy hearing the air hum with voices of people who could not possibly have been there.

And then every week, several times a week, I took a cup and a list and walked – thinking for the nation that was busy “going shopping” or whatever else they were told to do to NOT think about the sons and daughters of the not rich 1% who make up the nations volunteer military.  Sons and daughters dying, bleeding, suffering, coming home in boxes, or in still-breathing pieces of what they used to be – before the war.  Sometimes, in the first three years, I came back into my own house, shivering even in summer, to collapse in exhaustion of a sort I’d never known.  But I kept going and got used to it – as used to it as one can.

But the war(s) are going on 15 years old with no end in sight.  The names are reduced in number because Afghanistan and Iraq are not done, although neither Presidential candidate mentions it — well, except for Trump blaming the twin wars George Bush began on Hillary Clinton.  So for the last couple years, onFridays in particular, I notice I feel very tired and aged from the second I open my eyes.  Yesterday I lingered till almost dark for the Friday walk, and then realized it was pouring a cold heavy rain.  So the walk waited till today.   And again, it seemed I’d need a set of jumper cables applied to get me moving.

I built the Walk in a fury, in heartbreak and in grief.  I wanted someone to care and practically nobody did.  Finally, within a few bitter months, I simply wanted to feel like the men and women whose names I cupped in my hands felt welcomed home, remembered — not so ignored as it seemed the general populace left them to be.  I was ashamed, not only of a President starting wars with no strategy to finish and get the military out, but of my nation for not caring that the blood of the military 1% was being spent so carelessly, thoughtlessly, heartlessly.  Fifteen years of war, with no real peace in sight.

What ages me?  The carelessness, the thoughtlessness, the heartlessness of my nation, that I carry in my shamed hands once a week.  The faces I saw in my sleep or in waking visions while treading sandstone age me — I’d happily have let slip my own cords to life to save one of them.  But that wasn’t my option.  I had no option.  Neither did they, “volunteer” military aside.  Education too costly, jobs too sparse — old men who send young men to wars they profit from, while none of their own dear ones go in harms way —  war and shame age me.

And looking at my world?  I am glad to be old instead of young.

Gratitude 29 July

50thI am a Viet Nam Era veteran, my husband is a Viet Nam veteran who served in combat in Viet Nam.  I am grateful, that in the course of finally seeking aid with his PTSD, he began going to a Tacoma Veterans’ Center.

Today, they had a ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Viet Nam War there, giving certificates and pins to veterans who served in that time.  This is in response to an order from President Obama, that from Memorial Day 2012 through Veterans’ Day 2025 — in some way, veterans groups and centers across the country should pause and note the service of the seven million veterans who are still living out of the nine million who served in that turbulent conflict and misery.

I am very grateful I was there today, when this local (and among the first in the nation) centers established for and by Viet Nam veterans noted that service and honored men and women who likely were never welcomed home from difficult, dangerous, often fatal duty by the citizens who were wrapped up in the political turmoil of the time. It also broke my heart to see men and women of my generation get teary eyed at such a simple thing as a pin on a lapel and a certificate of thanks.

It would make me much more grateful if the 99% of Americans who do not serve in the military and don’t even KNOW a military member would realize that abusing the soldiers who take an oath to obey their Commander in Chief and go to the wars declared by our civilian government   is cruel and futile. Soldiers do not choose their wars.

Lights, Intention, Action: The Limits of Metaphor – in Magic, as in Gardening

I am in that “zone” for two hours, until my phone shakes me out of it. That place where the rain gently pattering sounds like every drop hits a tin roof.  My husband made me promise to take breaks, thus my phone’s alarm blaring in upon me.  “How,” a friend once said with a very dubious look on her face, “Do you ever maintain a magical focus for those long days of magic/garden war-making; it is impossible!?

waxingNo, not really.  It becomes quite simple.  I set a mood to prepare myself, I tell myself my goals, both pragmatic (getting rid of that one little bastard weed) and magical (setting the magical hounds of death upon Boko Haram) .  My little fire survivor candle-woman, who inexplicably makes me think of the goddess Freyja, holds aloft her candles while showing me her “waxing moon” face.

Later, outside, as the chill of February (which doesn’t kill the weeds I am after!) makes my ankle ache and my titanium-clipped neck throb?  I will call that face, those lights back to mind.  I will hold the warm glow in my mind for 30 seconds and continue.  And if that is not enough?  I will recall another deep cobalt glow beside the Lady Lamp on my desk, she who never removes her regard from a blue marble looking globe beside her.

Watch-lightIt always makes me wistful, this lamp – and I completely understand theism of various sorts as I see it.   How comforting to think some might Being watches and sees and cares!  But of course, I do not believe that — I tried for years and always failed in some manner.  I think “that” which answers prayers, those that do seem answered, is US.  People, our Will and determination — which, obviously, is not usually focused enough to do any good at all.  But I do think, now and again, there is a laser-like beam of determination possible.  Therein lies magic!

TargetThat is what my day in the gardens of the house are about: a laser, a focus, a constant considering of my goal.  I had one weed in mind when I had the failing rain “name” them all Boko Haram in the confines of my gardens.  It is a pretty little thing.  It puts up a spike that blossoms sweet smelling white flowers.  The seeds form long and slender, and when they dry they fly off the stalk like a botanical ‘bouncing betty’ mine effect.  They are nigh indestructible by easy means for a mostly organic gardener.  If I hoe them up and leave them on the ground, they re-root by the next day.  Even in frosting nights, they survive unrooted and the flower spike grows on out of the withering body of the plant, and makes the seeds all the same!  Thus, every bit of the plant must be put in a bin; my composting is not hot enough to stop the process or kill the seeds.  They will go off to the county composting unit!  So how like Boko Haram — wildly producing, hard to stop by anything short of absolutely lethal means.

So it is easy, on my hands and knees, pulling these out of the ground — sometimes so thickly grown that the roots remind me of mushroom mycelium — less than an inch across, barely out of the cold soil and there will be a white flower bud at heart, already ready to blossom into death for the garden plants around it! How like Boko Haram!  Other weeds are safe this day for the most part; a Zen like focus on this one plant makes me see them and little else.

I get ready to sink my sharp garden tool to sweep loose soil so I can finger rake out a patch almost a foot square.  I stop just in time, so focused on killing my little green target I almost missed that they were atop a slab of iris rhizomes.  I would have sunk my tool into them and killed or damaged them.  Oooooh — collateral damage!?  And here I kept hoping my magical strike was “surgical”!  Oh, so wrong, I was.

When I choose to pull out a bunch of these intermixed with seedlings of Nigella (“Persian Gems”), am  I destroying something in Iran?  No, of course not.  Or is it?  If I am doing  sympathetic magic where one thing equals something else — do I have to name other things specifically, or is the damage a carry over as soon as my monkey mind makes that leap of connection?  I am experimenting with hope of sending that laser will of connection to smash murderous men.  Even I must beware of collateral damage, perhaps?

But I won’t get them all, will I?  Not every weed.  I won’t kill something else to get those little green bastards.  Not intentionally.  So, later with the next sunny day there will be chemical war — high acid vinegar shot onto leaves whose roots I could not pull!  So the metaphors that focus me and keep me on task as my body accrues pain that will keep me wakeful after darkness brings me inside?  They hobble me as well.

What would political entities do then?  Ted Cruz would bomb it till it glows as he said – he gives not one damn about collateral damage.  I, on the other hand, am a “why” person.  I ask “Why?” all the time.  Why is Boko Haram so murderous; is it really religion?  Or is it power and money named as religion?  More than sorcerers, witches, and magicians use proxies, eh?  Finding the why can sometimes stop something dire in its tracks.

Somalian pirates are pirates because their economy based on fishing was derailed by no way to keep other people from fishing out their coastlines, for instance.  Caring enough to prevent that could have helped keep the Somalian people from resorting to ransoms for richer countries citizens?  Is there something like that for the Boko Haram killers?  Or are they as I suspect the ISIL murderers are — a few religious fanatics who love power over other people, and a lot of pure sociopaths and psychopaths who want to be loosed upon a human fold like rabid wolves?

For the people they victimize, there is little time to consider those philosophical, socio-political niceties.  The “wolves” of either group simply need to be gone, dead, or too afraid to show their craven cruel faces.  So, my break is over.  The croissants that were rising as I worked are baked now.  I will eat one and return to the misting rain, the cold earth ‘neath my knees, and wreaking havoc near, and of course in theory – afar.