Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Austerity: 2010's most searched for term

John Morse, president and publisher of the Springfield, Mass.-based dictionary, said "austerity" saw more than 250,000 searches on the dictionary's free online tool
Austerity, the 14th century noun defined as "the quality or state of being austere" and "enforced or extreme economy,"

Let's look at Webster's definition for austere:
aus·tere adj \ȯ-ˈstir also -ˈster\
Definition of AUSTERE
1a : stern and cold in appearance or manner b : somber, grave
2: morally strict : ascetic
3: markedly simple or unadorned
4: giving little or no scope for pleasure
5of a wine : having the flavor of acid or tannin predominant over fruit flavors usually indicating a capacity for aging
— aus·tere·ly adverb
— aus·tere·ness noun

Doesn't sound like much fun but is it such a bad thing?

Morally strict... who's morals? Pagan Morals? Would it be such a bad thing, if we were to have Pagan austerity? Where by we only used cloth shopping bags, paid more attention to shopping local whether that was local produced food or arts and crafts or services. If we worked to plant more trees to help with carbon capture? If we worked for bike paths and quality sidewalks that would encourage people to walk more than drive? If we did our best to live lightly on the earth and in the process we lived a simple life and enjoyed life's pleasures, love and each other and the glow of a fire or the warmth of a cup of tea or the way the moonlight can create a soft blue glow? Would that really be so bad?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Louisiana Christmas Traditions

BATON ROUGE, — Louisiana has three traditional Christmas celebrations, says State Archivist Florent Hardy.

In addition to Dec. 25, the date celebrated in Louisiana since 1718, there's St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 5 and the Trappers Christmas in late February.
In New Orleans, the original Christmas celebrations included attending midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

"At that time, Christmas was a very religious experience," said Hardy. "After Mass was la Reveillon, a big feast that featured a menu of wild game (duck, venison and turkey), daube glace (a jellied meat), eggs, oyster dressing, chuck roast, homemade raisin bread and cakes."

While everyone was at Mass, Papa Noel paid a visit and filled the stockings of the children with a trinket and some fruit and sweets.

"On Christmas day, you visited la creche — the manger scene. Gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day," Hardy told people at the YWCA Connections luncheon in Baton Rouge.

Not everyone gave presents on Christmas. Families of German descent living in
Robert's Cove in Acadia Parish celebrated St. Nicholas Day, gathering at homes to await Kris Kringle and his threatening sidekick, Black Peter, who was said to collect bad children in his sack.

The St. Nicholas Day celebration was suspended around World War II, but has been revived in recent years. These days, a choir accompanies St. Nicholas, Black Peter and Santa Claus to homes in the cove. All the children are given treats, the choir sings German Christmas carols, and sweets and beverages are served.

The Trappers' Christmas in Barataria was late because Christmas was a very busy time of year for the fur trappers, Hardy said.

Santa had a handful of names, depending on what part of Louisiana a person called home. To those of French heritage he was Papa Noel, to those of German heritage he was Kris Kringle or St. Nicholas and to the Cajuns the gift-giving figure was a woman called La Christianne.

"Along the River Road plantations, St. Nicholas arrived on a donkey and left goodies in the shoes of the children left out on the porch," added Hardy.
The familiar Santa who arrives via a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer was created by author Washington Irving in 1819. "He couldn't figure out a way for St. Nicholas to travel around the world in one night, so he came up with this idea of him flying through the trees," said Hardy.

Howard Jacobs created a Louisiana version in "Cajun Night Before Christmas."
"Now in Louisiana, we know Santa, Papa Noel as he's called, comes in a pirogue pulled by eight alligators," Hardy said.

Another tradition in the River Parishes is the Christmas Eve bonfires on the levee, lighting the way for Papa Noel.
"The tradition of the bonfires began with the Marist priests at Jefferson College in Convent," now called Manresa, Hardy said. "It was originally celebrated on New Year's Eve."

What started as simple bonfires in the 1800s grew into such huge creations that their height had to be limited to avoid damage to the levees. Multiple generations join with friends and thousands of complete strangers for a huge celebration.

Further north in Natchitoches, the Festival of Lights has been celebrated since 1927. Begun by the city's superintendent of utilities, today's celebration runs from Nov. 20 through Jan. 6 and draws more than 100,000 visitors. It features more than 300,000 Christmas lights.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Stocking Stuffers

For all those kids who have so much... consider these as stocking stuffers.

Fonkoze (fonkoze.org) is a terrific poverty-fighting organization if Haiti is on your mind, nearly a year after the earthquake. A $20 gift will send a rural Haitian child to elementary school for a year, while $50 will buy a family a pregnant goat. Or $100 supports a family for 13 weeks while it starts a business.

Another terrific Haiti-focused organization is Partners in Health, (pih.org), founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, the Harvard Medical School professor. A $100 donation pays for enough therapeutic food (a bit like peanut butter) to treat a severely malnourished child for one month. Or $50 provides seeds, agricultural implements and training for a family to grow more food for itself.

You can donate on line and print out the confirmation and tuck it in a stocking.

Full Moon in Eclipse Winter Solstice 2010 - New Orleans

2010 Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse - St. Louis Cathedral Jackson Square New Orleans

Photo Composite by Matthew Hinton / The Times-Picayune
A total eclipse of the moon is seen in this composite of seven photos on the date of the winter solstice by the center spire of the St. Louis Cathedral beginning at just after midnight before becoming totally eclipsed around 2 am in New Orleans, Louisiana Tuesday December 21, 2010. On the first day of northern winter, the full moon passed almost dead-center through Earth's shadow. According to NASA the last total lunar eclipse that happened on the winter solstice was December 21, 1638. The next eclipse on a winter solstice will be December 21, 2094.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Cauldron

A Solstice Cauldron with Rose Offerings
Solstice Offerings - Close up
Turned into Stained Glass
Solstice Cauldron Stained Glass

Monday, December 20, 2010

Written into fiction

Just a few days ago I put the finishing touches on a chapter that spoke about Nash Roberts and his amazing ability to explain the weather possibilities to regular folk, calm nerves and warn appropriately during hurricane season.

Times-Picayune Staff Video capture photo courtesy of WWL-TV--Nash Roberts, retired weather forecaster at WWL-TV
"Nash with his grease pencil"
Meteorologist Nash Roberts with his grease pencil

Nash and his maps
Nash and his maps

Legendary TV weatherman Nash C. Roberts Jr., revered as much for his calm, level-headed presence as the accuracy of his hurricane path projections, has died at age 92, WWL-TV has reported. See Article in full below from Nola.com

For more than 50 years, Gulf Coast weather-watchers relied on Mr. Roberts to tell them where tropical storms would come ashore.

From before Hurricane Betsy in 1965 to beyond Hurricane Georges in 1998, Mr. Roberts was widely considered the region's most authoritative source for hurricane news.

And in the age of Super Doppler and satellite imagery, there remained for hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians a great sense of relief in seeing Mr. Roberts on screen with his throwback bulletin-board-style weather map and felt-tip pens.

"He was old school, but you know what? I miss that," said Bob Breck, chief meteorologist at Fox affiliate WVUE-Channel 8 and a feisty competitor for many years.

Breck said he admired Mr. Roberts' independent approach to forecasting big storms.

"I think Nash wasn't afraid to fail. He trusted his instincts and he just followed his gut. I think that's what people remember him for.

"He was just a man who was a giant of the industry."

Even after his retirement from WWL-TV's nightly newscasts in 1984, Mr. Roberts would reappear on Channel 4 whenever a serious storm entered the Gulf of Mexico.

Bruce Katz, chief meteorologist at WGNO-Channel 26, grew up in New Orleans watching Mr. Roberts' forecasts and hurricane calls.

"He was kind of the inspiration for me doing what I do," Katz said. "Growing up in New Orleans, Nash was the guy. Before the advent of cable TV and satellites, he was the guy everybody turned to.

"He was the legend."

What viewers saw from Mr. Roberts, Katz added, was information and a presentation style from an era that predated today's sophisticated technology.

"His big marker board, the magnetic highs and lows -- it was well before computer technology," Katz said. "You didn't have the data modeling. The science was evolving back then, and he made that interesting."

Mike Hoss, news anchor and interim news director at WWL, came to town in 1989 as a sports anchor well after Mr. Roberts' reputation and loyal following were established.

"Affinity toward him was so strong; it made you, as an outsider, immediately take notice," Hoss said. "And certainly from a technology standpoint, with the greaseboard and the marker, you immediately (and) ever after took notice.

"He spoke to all ages, genders, races, across the board."

In July 2001, Mr. Roberts announced his full retirement, setting aside his black markers to care for his ailing wife, Lydia.

"I actually prayed that I would outlive her, so that I could take care of her," Nash told WWL news anchor Angela Hill at the time. "That's how it's working out."

Mr. Roberts' career in meteorology began in 1946, when he started a private weathercasting service after teaching meteorology at Loyola University and serving as a navigator and meteorologist for the Navy during World War II.

For Texaco and other clients in the oil and gas industry, Mr. Roberts watched the weather over marshes, on the coast and in the Gulf.

In 1951, he began appearing on WDSU as the region's first regular TV weatherman.

Mr. Roberts told Hill in the 2001 interview that he was enticed into the job when he was told about a Chicago forecaster's $80,000 annual salary.

Commenting on Mr. Roberts' premiere, New Orleans Item columnist Ted Liuzza wrote, "He's so unassuming and un-actorish that when he hails you with a shy 'good evening,' you feel like calling back, 'hello.' "

Mr. Roberts cemented his reputation with local viewers by making bull's-eye landfall predictions for Hurricanes Audrey in 1957, Betsy in 1965 and Camille in 1969.

After 22 years with WDSU, Mr. Roberts moved to WVUE, where he stayed until joining WWL in 1978.

Breck had the daunting task of following Mr. Roberts at WVUE, and competing against him after that.

"I was brought to this town to replace Nash," Breck said. "I wanted to beat the old man."

But Breck said he was deeply moved by Mr. Roberts' final retirement in 2001 to care for Lydia.

"He left the love of broadcasting to care for the love of his life," Breck said. "If there's any kind of thing that people should remember about Nash was that he had character. People trusted him."

Mr. Roberts' accurate prediction that Hurricane Georges in 1998 would make landfall east of New Orleans, while all the computer models and other television stations were still insisting Georges would drift to the west, earned him national attention.

"As long as Roberts and his Magic Markers are exclusive to WWL," The Times-Picayune wrote after Georges, "Channel 4 will remain the only place to get an answer to the first hurricane-related question asked by anyone who's lived in New Orleans for any length of time: 'What's Nash say?' "

Mr. Roberts and his wife stayed in town for every hurricane -- he at the station, she at home in Metairie -- until Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Roberts told Times-Picayune TV columnist Dave Walker in 2006 that it was a joke on his block: During a hurricane threat, neighbors would wait for his wife's car to leave before they'd evacuate. Until Katrina, it never happened.

"I left my wife at home, and she rode out every one of them right here," Mr. Roberts said. "I wouldn't have let that happen if I thought it was dangerous. The story in the neighborhood was, 'I'm staying here unless I look out the window and Lydia's car is gone. If Nash tells Lydia to leave, we're all leaving.' "Katrina, which struck when Mr. Roberts was fully retired, was different.

"For the first time in 60 years, I evacuated," Mr. Roberts said in 2006. "I was pretty sure the thing was coming in here. What convinced me that I better get out was the fact that I knew it was going to be a wet system. It was huge in size, driving a lot of water ahead of it. With my wife, with the condition she's in, I said, 'We'd better get out of here.' ''

The couple evacuated from their Metairie home to Baton Rouge for two months. Their home sustained minimal damage.

"As soon as they would let me, I went to the gap in the 17th Street Canal and looked it over, and then I worked my way through Lakeview and lower New Orleans," Mr. Roberts told Walker. "It just was breathtaking, spooky. To go through neighborhoods and never see anybody, just a bunch of old beat-up cars and nobody living in any of the houses."

Despite occasional pangs of professional nostalgia, Mr. Roberts said he was glad he wasn't at WWL's studio tracking Katrina's path to town via squeaky pen and wipe-board.

"The truth of the whole matter is I'm glad I wasn't on for this," he said. "It would've been a very, very trying and tiring ordeal. My method of fooling with these storms is I lock onto 'em and just stay with 'em 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until they're gone, and that is extremely arduous.

"But I could've done very little for anybody with this storm except do what I did. I left (with Lydia) on Saturday."

Lydia Roberts died in 2007, according to WWL. The couple had been married more than 60 years.

Mr. Roberts figured prominently in a 2006 book from Kensington Publishing, "Roar of the Heavens: Surviving Hurricane Camille," by Stefan Bechtel.

"A wonderful man," Bechtel said. "Kind of courtly, gentlemanly. We spent quite a long time talking, and he started making me little maps with what is now a rather shaky hand, like a football coach calling the plays."

To WWL's Hoss, Mr. Roberts' longevity on local airwaves was as remarkable as his forecasting prowess.

"You don't get to do five decades if you aren't respected," Hoss said. "You don't get to do five decades unless you do it right.

"Quite frankly, he did it right."

Survivors include two sons, Kenneth and Nash Roberts III; three brothers; and four grandchildren, WWL said.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.


TV Columnist Dave Walker contributed to this article, which was prepared by staff writer Stephanie Stokes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Apocalypse Soon?

Apocalypse Soon?
Volume 62 Number 6, November/December 2009 by Anthony Aveni
What the Maya calendar really tells us about 2012 and the end of time

On December 21, 2012, thousands of pilgrims, many in organized "sacred tour" groups, will flock to Chichén Itzá, Tikal, and a multitude of other celebrated sites of ancient America. There they will wait for a sign from the ancient Maya marking the end of the world as we know it. Will it be a blow-up or a bliss-out? Doom or delight? That depends on which of the New Age prophets--an eclectic collection of self-appointed seers and mystics, with names such as "Valum Votan, closer of the cycle" and the "Cosmic Shaman of Galactic Structure"--one chooses to believe. In 2012, the grand odometer of Maya timekeeping known as the Long Count, an accumulation of various smaller time cycles, will revert to zero and a new cycle of 1,872,000 days (5,125.37 years) will begin. As the long-awaited "Y12" date nears, tales of what will happen are proliferating on the Internet, in print, and in movies: Hollywood's big-budget, effects-laden disaster epic, "2012," opens this November under the tagline "We Were Warned."

Many of the predictions begin in outer space. It's known that there is a black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and that in 2012 the sun will align with the plane of the Galaxy for the first time in 26,000 years. Then, according to the doomsayers, the black hole will throw our solar system out of kilter. Lawrence E. Joseph, author of a book called Apocalypse 2012, says that supergiant flares will erupt on the sun's surface, propelling an extraordinary plume of solar particles earthward at the next peak of solar activity. Earth's magnetic field will reverse, producing dire consequences such as violent hurricanes and the loss of all electronic communication systems. And recent natural disasters, from Hurricane Katrina to the Indian Ocean tsunami? They are all related to this alignment, and the ancient Maya knew all about it. That's the bad news.

But there's also good news coming from Y12 visionaries. Some say that rather than cataclysm, we're due for a sudden, cosmically timed awakening; we will all join an enlightened collective consciousness that will resolve the world's problems. The winter solstice sun is "slowly moving toward the heart of the Galaxy," writes spiritualist and former software engineer John Major Jenkins. On December 21 (or 23, depending on how you align calendars), when the sun passes the "Great Rift," a dark streak in the Milky Way that Jenkins says represents the Maya "Womb of Creation," the world will be transformed. Then we will "reconnect with our cosmic heart," he writes.

Unwittingly, the ancient Maya provided fodder for all this cosmic rigmarole. Monuments, such as Stela 25 at Izapa, a peripheral, pre-Classic (ca. 400 B.C.) site located on Mexico's Pacific Coast, map out the galactic alignment that would mark the end of the Long Count. Stela 25, for example, is thought to depict a creation scene in which a bird deity is perched atop a cosmic tree. Jenkins thinks the tree represents a unique north-south alignment of the Milky Way--a message from the Maya of what the sky will look like when creation begins anew.

These head-turning forecasts are open to serious criticism on both cultural and scientific grounds. There is little evidence that the Maya cared much about the Milky Way. When they do refer to it, they usually imagine it as a road. The association of the Milky Way with a tree, despite the popularity it has acquired since the publication of the 1997 book Maya Cosmos by noted Maya scholars David Freidel and Linda Schele, and writer Joy Parker, emerges strictly from the study of contemporary cultures descended from the Maya.

From an astronomical perspective, the 26,000-year cycle that causes the realignment of the sun with the plane of the Milky Way was first described by Greek astronomer Hipparchus in 128 B.C. He observed a slight difference between the solar year (the time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun) and the stellar or sidereal year (the time it takes the sun to realign with the stars). As a result, year to year, the path of the sun and the spots where it rises and sets will change with respect to the backdrop of the stars. This phenomenon, called precession, is caused by the gradual shift of the earth's axis of rotation. In practice, it means that the position of the sun at equinoxes and solstices, which mark the seasons, slowly changes with respect to the constellations of the zodiac. Maya skywatchers possessed a zodiac, so they could have noted the difference between stellar years and solar years, but there is no convincing evidence that they charted the precession, or how they might have done it.

According to the Y12ers, based on their interpretation of monuments such as Stela 25, the Maya not only tracked the precession, but used it to predict what the sky would look like when the Long Count ends and a new cycle of creation begins. However, anyone who takes the trouble to look at the nighttime sky will discover that the Milky Way, a broad, luminous swath across the sky, looks surprisingly little like it is depicted in the desktop planetarium software often used to infer what ancient stargazers saw. For example, the galactic plane is very difficult to define even when the sun isn't in it, so solar-galactic alignment can't be pinned down visually to an accuracy any better than 300 years. Also, the "unique" north-south orientation of the Milky Way thought to be portrayed on Stela 25 actually occurs every year. And more important conceptually, there is no evidence that the Maya used sky maps as representational devices the way we do. Finally, there is no indication the Maya cared a whit about solar flares, sunspots, or magnetic fields. Pulling prophecy from monuments such as Stela 25 amounts to an exercise in cherry-picking data--often incomplete, vague, or inapplicable--to justify a nonsensical, pre-formed idea.

Most people familiar with the ancient Maya--even those who are not prophets of doom--know that they were obsessed with sophisticated timekeeping systems. And it is clear from their painted-bark books, or codices, that their astronomers had the capacity to predict celestial events, such as eclipses, accurately. So it is no surprise that mystically minded people feel free to attribute to the ancient Maya the power to see far into the future. But what does the cultural record actually tell us about the nature of Maya timekeeping and its relationship to their ideas about creation?

By the beginning of the Classic Period (ca. A.D. 200), Maya polities had mastered cultivation of the land, expanded their states, and begun to build great cities with exquisite monumental architecture. They were on the verge of establishing one of the great civilizations of the ancient world. A few hundred years earlier, Maya rulers had made a fundamental revision to their calendar that would connect the rise of Maya states with their own origin myths. They invented a mountain of a time cycle--the Long Count. A brilliant innovation, it transplanted the roots of Maya culture all the way back to creation itself. The Long Count was established with their existing base-20 counting system, with the day as the basic unit (see above). It consists of 13 cycles--corresponding to the levels of Maya heaven, each occupied by objects and deities associated with celestial bodies--called baktuns that make up a creation period of 5,125.37 seasonal years. At the end of one creation cycle, the count rolls over to the next Day Zero.

Texts carved on stelae prominently displayed at many Maya sites often open with a Long Count date, a series of five numbers (, for example, corresponds to July 4, 1776) similar to the dateline in a newspaper. These time markers were a form of political and religious propaganda. Maya rulers used them to link culturally important but cosmically mundane events in their personal histories--coronation dates, marriage alliances, military victories, and the turning of smaller time cycles (for instance,, the inscription on Copán's Stela B, marks the end of a katun, or 20-year cycle)--with the history of their ancestor-gods who created the world. Thus, a stela's Long Count gave the ruler the power to proclaim the extraordinary longevity of his bloodline in concrete terms.

The beginning of the Long Count, which marks the last creation episode, took place in the Maya's mythic past. Day Zero fell on August 11, 3114 B.C. That date was denoted as, which is the same date we will see 13 baktuns later, when the Long Count rolls over from on December 21, 2012, the next Day Zero (give or take a day). August 11 falls close to one of the two dates each year when the sun passes directly overhead in southern Maya latitudes--an event known to have been important in the Maya world. December 21 or 22 is the winter solstice (or solar "standstill"), which marks the day the sun reaches its most southerly position in the sky. So it is conceivable that the past and future zero days or creation events were deliberately linked to important positions in the sun cycle.

Why does the Long Count begin in 3114 B.C., well before any identifiably Maya culture had been established by the archaic communities that lived there? If we follow the example of how zero dates were set in other calendars around the world, such as the Christian, Roman, and Sanskrit ones, the choice was likely either an arbitrary date linked to some more recent event in Maya history, or itself a culturally and historically significant moment (similar to the way that the putative year of the birth of Christ roughly marks the beginning of the Christian calendar). But there was nothing special about the position of the Milky Way or the zodiac on that date, nor was anything significant happening in the sky. The Maya may simply have selected some date from which to look back to decide where their own creation date would fall. One possible date for this jumping off point is (236 B.C.), which falls right around the time of the earliest Long Count inscriptions. That date also marks the end of a katun and bears the same Maya month and day names as the date of creation. It is amusing that the Y12 prophets are certain the world will end for all of us based on a date that may or may not have had historical significance to the Maya a few thousand years ago, who were themselves looking to a date a few thousand years before that. The ancient Maya might tell us: "Hey, get your own zero point!"

Though the Maya believed that successive creations were cyclic, there is no clear evidence of what they thought would happen on our The same holds true for what happened last time the odometer of creation turned over. But a menacing scene does appear on the last page of the Dresden Codex, a Maya bark-paper book from the 14th century A.D., depicting destruction by flood. A sky caiman vomits water, which gushes from "sun" and "moon" glyphs attached to the beast's segmented body. Still more water pours out of a vessel held by an old-woman deity, who is suspended in the middle of the frame. And at the bottom, a male deity wields arrows and a spear. Verses from early colonial texts back up the flood story of creation. Curiously, contemporary prophets of doom haven't seized on the flood myth as a mode of destruction, though moviemakers certainly have. Among the vivid special effects in 2012 are tsunamis engulfing the Himalayas and tossing an aircraft carrier into the White House!

Monumental Maya inscriptions are fairly silent regarding events of the previous creation. Stela C at Quiriguá in Guatemala follows its inscription with hieroglyphic statements that refer to the descent of deities (related to Cauac Sky, the extant ruler, of course), who create the first hearth by setting up three support stones (represented in the sky by parts of the constellation Orion). Concerning our, Monument 6 at Tortuguero in the Mexican state of Tabasco tells of the descent of some transcendent entity to earth. But just when the story might get even more interesting, the glyphs have eroded away, leaving the door open for the prophets to continue to speculate.

Must we read real history (and the future) in the Maya narratives? Or can we see them as frameworks for the cultural transmission of traditional rites of renewal, which take place at the turn of all time cycles, such as the appearance and disappearance of Venus, or the 52-year calendar round that combines the seasonal year with the Maya 260-day sacred calendar? Every year we participate in such rituals on New Year's Eve. We take account of ourselves by celebrating the end of our seasonal cycle--often with wretched excess--as the stroke of midnight approaches. Then we perform our acts of penance (New Year's resolutions) to purify ourselves as we contemplate a brighter future. A vast majority of those familiar with the Maya culture view their cycle-ending prophecies as lessons on how to restore balance to the world by promoting reciprocity with the gods, such as offering them debt payments in exchange for fertile crops. No wonder we are inspired by the Maya--they get to participate in their cosmology! But in that sense, the Y12ers are not so different from the ancient Maya in their desire to reconnect with the past and place their own existence in a broader context. Where the Maya tied themselves to their ancestor-gods by carving Long Count dates on their stelae, the Y12 prophets use Maya myth and math to invoke some sort of universal beneficent spirit or transcendent evil overmind.

There is also something about the Y12 hysteria that is particular to the English-speaking world--especially the United States. The idea that the world will end in cataclysm was firmly planted in Puritan New England. Evangelical and apocalyptic forms of worship were prominent in the colonies as early as the 1640s, when confessors openly proclaimed themselves ready for God to descend from the sky and pluck them up for judgment. Two centuries later, hundreds of Millerites (who would become the Seventh-day Adventists) anxiously awaited the "Blessed Hope," based on their leader William Miller's biblical calculations pinpointing the return of Christ on October 22, 1844. People climbed to their roofs to wait--and wait--for the Second Coming.

Today, American anticipation of a celestially signaled end of time has gone mainstream secular. Many of us remember Comet Kohoutek, the iceball sent to destroy the world in 1973, or the millennial cosmic reclamation project that attended Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997--an "alien mothership" that brought the suicides of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult in California. The celebrated cosmic convergence of Aztec calendar cycles in 1987 is another example of the American desire to get beamed with revelations from beyond.

It is no coincidence that the Maya entered the modern mythos of creation and destruction in the early 1970s, around the time scholars began to make significant breakthroughs in deciphering Maya hieroglyphics. Repeating a trend started a century earlier with the mystical writing of Augustus Le Plongeon ('The Lure of Moo,' January/February 2007), pop-fringe literature such as Peter Tompkins's Secrets of the Mexican Pyramids, Frank Waters's Mexico Mystique, and Luis Arochi's The Pyramid of Kukulcan heralded secret knowledge of the future emerging from the Maya code. It was also about this time that promoting the idea of "shared beginnings," acquired by being at the right place at the right time, began to enter the tourism industry. Tourists, many with New Age spiritual leanings, flock to Chichén Itzá on the spring equinox, for example, to see a serpent effigy emerge in the shadows of El Castillo. Sacred tourism is already beginning to cash in on the 2012 myth. Star parties are planned for Copán and Tikal on the eve of the temporal turnover. And industrious entrepreneurs are already beginning to prepare 2012 survival kits, a Complete Idiot's Guide to 2012, and T-shirts bearing slogans such as "Doomsday 2012" and "Shift Happens." Not to mention the movie. This is just the beginning.

We live in a techno-immersed, materially oriented society that seems somewhat bewildered by where rational, empirical science might be taking us. This may be why the mystical, escapist explanations of a galactic endpoint, replete with precise mathematical, historical, and cosmic underpinnings (masquerading as science), have such wide appeal. In an age of anxiety we reach for the wisdom of ancestors--even other peoples' ancestors--that might have been lost in the drifting sands of time. Perhaps the only way we can take back control of our disordered world is to rediscover their lost knowledge and make use of it. And so we romanticize the ancient Maya.

But the glorious achievements of the Maya and other complex cultures of the ancient world are appealing enough on their own. We don't need to dress them up in Western or apocalyptic clothing. And the responsibility for educating the public about what we really know about the Maya and other extraordinary cultures--such as the ability of the Maya to follow the position of Venus to an accuracy of one day in 500 years with the naked eye--should fall squarely on the shoulders of those of us who spend our lives studying them. The Y12 hysteria could leave us asking whether we are doing our jobs, or whether the desire for cosmic connection and continuity is too strong for science and rationality to overcome.

Anthony Aveni is the Russell Colgate professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University and author of the new book, The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Snow covered StreetCar New Orleans

Snow Covered Street Car 12-11-2008
The photo above is from December 11, 2008. It's not mine. I grabbed off of a local site in 2008. I've enjoyed it as part of my screen saver display and decided that it would be a nice gift to share it with others.

The photo below is from a British site. It shows just how much snow fell. The snow didn't last long but it was fun while it did.
Snow Covered Street Car side 12-11-2008

Now for a bit of New Orleans trivia:

The last time it had snowed in New Orleans was 2004, and we had Katrina the summer after. There was snow the winter before Besty in 1965. There are other snows before hurricanes. So many people were convinced that we were in for another big one in 2009. But what happened instead was, given hell had frozen over, the Saints won the Superbowl.

The city has only experienced measurable amounts of snow 17 times since 1850.

And for all those.... people... who think that this is proof that there is no "global warming"... remember global warming means the average tempurature of the whole globe is going up. What it means locally is climate change, not warmer every where.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Meditation - be still and listen

This is a stresful time for many. Instead of slowing down and aligning with the seasons we speed up. I suggest that we all take some time and read the article below.

Meditation isn't just about relaxing

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chapter 33 – Worship and the Gods

Nola was trying to figure out how to bring the lessons back to center not so much for her student, he seemed just fine, but for herself. This was the first time that she was working with such a heterosexual student in person, and she smiled thinking about it because it was exactly what she had asked the gods for after her 3rd degree initiation. She had dealt with heterosexual male students via eMail and even met these students in person as her travels allowed. But dealing with the teachings and the energy that could be raised and channeled in person was significantly different. It’s one thing to talk about it in eMail and then send the student back to their physical world to see how the lessons manifest and then talk about it again as an impartial observer. It’s another thing completely to be part of their physical experiences. She found herself appreciating the flexibility and the distance that eMail teaching allowed. She felt Owen needed to be refocused on the teachings and the practice and the connection to deity and the universe and not so much to her. Her plan was to talk about the Words of Aradia on Worship and the Gods. He needed to see the larger picture.

Then there was the fact that he had managed to get her to agree to go to dinner as his girlfriend to assuage his mom. It made sense in some ways because she understood how moms worried and had expectations of their children that might not always be met by reality. She had also seen the intensity of the woman herself, if only once at an airport. But the part that still bugged her was that this “plan” was supposed to be Papa Eric’s plan. Owen seemed to have established a connection to his grandfather via the Lare Shrine. In some ways she was jealous. It was good that Owen had someone on the other side who was connected enough to him and to the Ways to act as intermediary, to make the connection. Nola didn’t have anyone from her past on the other side who acted in that capacity. Her father had come to her once, before she found the Ways to essentially tell her she could find what she was looking for on her own. She didn’t need him. When her father had come to her it had been in a strange convoluted dream many, many years after his death when she was struggling with the first time James had broken her heart. When she asked why he had waited so long. He said that she had been doing Ok but that now it seemed she needed him to remind her that she could handle her life. Owen’s Papa Eric seemed to have a much more direct and fluid connection. Enough to come up with crazy plans for Owen to execute like dinner with his parents and a fake girlfriend. It didn’t make sense. Loved ones on the other side didn’t usually play practical jokes unless there was some underlying message for growth. What was behind this? She didn’t know but apparently Owen’s grandfather knew his grandson well enough to realize that this was the right approach. It seemed she was just a pawn in the game. But since she was Owen’s teacher, if someone from the other side thought her participation was needed to further his growth, it seemed only right that she do her part.

He wasn’t in the driveway when she pulled up. She took that as a good sign. Maybe some of the fire was burning in. Or she thought maybe burning out. She had just turned the truck off when he opened the door. She had barely managed to get out before he pulled her into a bear hug. Ok, maybe not burning out.

“Evening Big Man. I hope there are no surprises tonight.”
He looked at her as if he didn’t understand. “Surprises?”
She shook her head. “Never mind, I’ll take that as a yes.”
He tucked her arm in his and walked toward the door, opened it and let her walk through. She just smiled and continued walking. He was a bigger southern gentleman than most of the southerners she had met in her life.
He pulled the barstool out from the counter and indicated she should sit down. He had opened the wine. It was a Ruffino they had had before. He poured her a glass and handed it to her and then poured himself a glass.
“What are you grinning about woman.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“I was just thinking that in many ways you are more a southern gentleman in your mannerisms than most of the southerners, I’ve been around.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The way you open the door. The way you pull out chairs. The way you open the wine and make sure I get some first. The way you walk me out when I leave. I can’t put my finger on it but it is so… so… so, I don’t know, nice.”
“I’m nice, so I’m a southern gentleman?”
She laughed. “I don’t know. Maybe because I’ve either spent time around working class folks where folks are equal by necessity or in the corporate world where men try so hard to treat women as equals and women try so hard to be like men. But when I’m around you I feel so…. so…. Again I don’t know quite how to describe it. So handled.
“Handled? I don’t think I know what that means.”
“Handled. I don’t know, handled. Doors opened, chairs pulled out, wine…. Handled…” And she paused thinking and then looked him straight in the eyes and said as if in an 'Ah ha' moment, “Plane tickets changed. See usually I’d be the one handling all that. You handle it. I feel handled.” She paused again and then added. “Even, now that I think about it, casting the circle.” And she saw his face and said, “I need to shut up now.”
“You don’t like it.”
“No. No, that’s not it at all. You treat me like… Wow. You treat me like a lady and to be perfectly honest I’m not used to it.”
He smiled then, “Well why shouldn’t I treat you like a lady?”
“You know I can’t think of a single reason. I’m just not used to it.”
And he gave her his most charming smile and said, “Well maybe you can get used to it.” And Settrano smiled.
She laughed. “I’ll try. I’ll try.” And Meana smiled.
And he took her by the arm and said, trying a southern drawl and failing, “Shall we repair to the library, ma’am.”
She laughed, “Sure but remember Rhett this is New Orleans not Atlanta. We New Orleanians aren’t your typical southern women.”

They settled in the library and he asked, "Well what are we going to talk about tonight?"
She joked with him and said, "Well, I thought that the student was supposed to have questions." And put her feet up on the ottoman and closed her eyes and waited.
He stayed quiet and waited too. Damn, I really don't have any questions. What I like about this is the actual training, doing the actual rituals, casting the circle, the physical activity and he smiled about that.
She opened one eye and looked at him. He looked worried and then he smiled.
She opened her eyes and sat up on the sofa and kicked her shoes off and folded her legs under her, "Well student?"
"Well.... I.... I... really like doing the rituals. I'm...."
"You are such a male earth sign."
"What does that mean?"
"You are all directed energy and grounded. You like doing the physical work. You want me to come here. You need the physical contact. But you don't have any burning questions do you?"
He smiled. "No.... not really. But I do want you to be here and I know that you're going to find a way to teach me something tonight."
She shook her head and then smiled. "I think that we should take a look at Aradia's Words on the The God and The Goddess."
He gave her an exasperated look, "You had this planned all along?"
"Well a teacher should know her student. There's a reason why this path is taught by initiate to initiate. Every student is different. Every teacher is different too. But I know that working with the basics never fails. Aradia's Words are the basics." And she looked around "Is the manual here?"

He smiled and reached behind the sofa to the table and handed it to her.
She smiled back and said, "Open it to The Words of Aradia on The God and" she shrugged, "start reading. We'll find something to talk about." And she took a sip of wine.
So he did,
"The God is known as the stern and demanding aspect of divinity. He is perceived as the death force that transforms. He is Lord of the Afterworld who restores and rests the soul, which is prepared for a new life. This is performed through the union of the God and the Goddess."
Then asked, "The God as death?"
"Perceived as death."
He looked at her and she said, "Read it again and then I think you might be able to answer your own question."
The God is known as the stern and demanding aspect of divinity. He is perceived as the death force that transforms. He is Lord of the Afterworld who restores and rests the soul, which is prepared for a new life. This is performed through the union of the God and the Goddess."
He said not quite convinced, "Death as transformation?"
"Yes. The Mythos hold the key here. The Goddess symbol, the moon, transforms monthly. We align ourselves with this energy in the Full Moon Ritual. The God is solar. His transformation takes place annually when the sun wanes and the God dies. But the sun returns, the God returns. It seems harsh but it is cyclical. It is transformational. It is hopeful. We die too, but our souls are reborn just like the sun and the God are annually."
He nodded his head. "But we need the union of the God and the Goddess for this to take place."
"Male and female. It's fertility and birth too, right?"
"On the physical plane, yes. It's the whole As Above, So Below philosophy."
He nodded again and raised the book as if to ask 'keep reading'?
She nodded and he continued.
"Yet there is duality in all things, and the God is also the vitality and strength. He is the Sun, the Lord of Light. He can give life or death through His activity. He ascends and vitalizes all living things, but in His journey He descends and brings darkness and cold. This is the Realm of Shadows, to which He carries all departed beings."
He looked up and smiled as this verse reinforced her previous comments and kept reading,
"The God is desire to create, dwelling in the stage prior to creation. Through the attraction of the Goddess He is moved to create."
He looked up and smiled, "Just like the altar casting."
And she nodded. And Bellaria said, "But think about it Owen, look at how your life is transformed. Physically yes in the pool and the yard. But there is the possibility of more. You were already moved to create. But now you are also free to create." And she smiled to Settrano. And Owen felt that there was more to this passage then he could put his finger on right now. Nola waited for a question. He just took a sip of wine and looked thoughtful.

Eventually he kept reading,
"He is the Lord of the Heavens, clothed in the Sun and bearing a golden rod. He is the Lord of the Earth, horned and hoofed. He is the Lord of the Afterworld, dark, lonely, stern and just. (Thus are the two faces of Janus.)"
And she smiled at him and said, "Lunar thinking. The Mythos again, Lupercus and Kern; Dis and Janus."
He looked at her and said, "You really can't understand this stuff all at once. It kind of has to weave its way into your understanding. Maybe it's because I am such a, what did you call me? A male..." and he couldn't remember.
She smiled and said, "a male earth sign. All directed energy grounded in the physical."
"Male earth sign." And he shook his head. "But you are right. I am grounded in the physical and I think I'm absorbing the Mythos through practice."
She nodded. "That is the point of doing the rituals. Some things can only be understood through experience." And then she added, "and time."

He thought about that took a sip of wine and then continued to read,
"Through Him order is established and discipline mastered. He is the inner strength of the individual. He is the essence of inner strength and defense. Yet He is also the warrior and the destroyer. He is the power and strength. All men bear His essence. He is all men."
He looked up and didn't say anything as he thought, All men bear his essence. He is all men. Then he said out loud, "All men bear his essence. He is all men."
She just nodded and smiled and thought and this is why I love men. He looked like he was waiting for something from her. So she smiled and added, "Yes, you too. All men."

Satisfied, he kept reading,
"There is a side of the God that can be seen by those who desire to love Him. It is a gentleness, a compassion, and understanding. His gentleness comes from His awareness of His strength and power. His compassion is born of His understanding of justice."
And then she thought, hmmm, handled... gentleman... it's just the male god energy in him that I'm responding too..." Meana said, "In part...." and looked at Bellaria and Tago and then Settrano as if to say, ideas anyone?" And he said, "Now we get the flip side of the coin."
And her thoughts returned to the room and said, "Lord of 2 faces."
He smiled and kept reading,
"The God is sexual desire and virility within the male. He is attraction, sensuality and sexuality. He is physical nature, just as the Goddess is spiritual nature."
And she thought, as she remembered their Spring rituals, yes he is. And Meana smiled to Settrano.
Owen said, "Your right about my physical nature and being aligned with the God. But it seems you are aligned with the Goddess too." Then sounding pleased with himself said, "I'd say we make a pretty powerful pair." And he took his last sip of wine.
She barely smiled at him and nodded as she said softly, "It seems we can be."

Now he was even more pleased with himself as he read,
"In death, He is the comforter and the renewer. He is the great initiator and teacher. He rules the Afterworld and dispels the darkness with His presence. He is the illuminator and reveals all that is hidden. He scatters all falsehoods and establishes truth."
And she sighed lightly, nothing like death to bring you back to reality. And he said, "Death again."
"Truth, Transformation, comfort, renewal, hope. The point is it's not all bad Owen."
"Oh I get it. It's just.... well...." and he smiled. "Dual, like Janus."
And she smiled and said, "By George I think he's got it."
He smiled and said, "I'm going to get the wine." And he went back to the kitchen and returned to the library and filled their glasses. He took a sip and then said, "I suppose you want me to read the Words on the Goddess next?"

She nodded and he read,
"The Goddess is the life force in as much as she is the fertility in all things. It is through Her activity that we are born and that seeds push up through the Earth and grow into plants. She moves the God to create through His desire for Her."
And he thought about the seeds from the Spring Equinox ritual. And Nola sipped her wine and waited for a question but he kept reading,
"The Goddess is the joy of life. She is the passion to live. Compassion, love, gentleness and kindness are the essence of Her spirit. All women carry the Goddess within them in various aspects and degrees."
And he looked up and said, "Yes, all women, even you." And smiled at her and then continued reading.
"Yet there is duality in all things, and the Goddess can manifest as sterility, vengeance and destruction. She is the Soul of Nature."
And she smiled at him and said, "Most people who know me would agree that I can definitely channel these aspects of the Goddess."
And he wrinkled his forehead. This was not the woman he knew. "Well I don't see that."
And she had to admit this was not who she was around Owen.
Then he added. "But I admit I do see strength and complexity in you woman. It's interesting."
"Thanks." She raised her eyebrows and smiled sardonically.
He laughed and then read,
"The Goddess rules the night and the Moon is Her symbol. All women are linked to Her through the Moon, which influences the flow of blood. The night is the essence of the mystery which all women possess. This is the elusive quality which all women bear, but which can never be known or touched upon."
He looked up and said, "You mentioned this link to the moon when I was reading about the God."
And she nodded.
And he thought, but didn't say out loud, mystery woman alright. And then he read,
"The desire of men for women is the desire of the God for the Goddess. It is the attraction of the life force."
And he thought about their Spring Rituals but didn't say out loud, 'Boy I'll say.'
She said "Life force."
And he looked up. "Life force? Fertility."
And she nodded and added, not quite sounding like herself. "Rebirth, Transformation."
And he thought again, Mystery woman. But kept reading,
"The Goddess is known as the Queen of Heaven. She is clothed in stars and wears a silver crown adorned with a crescent moon. She is the Earth Mother, clothed in green and endowed with large breasts the rise as rounded hills rise beyond the lush green meadows. She is pregnant with the Child of Life, which She bears each year. She is the Virgin Maiden, naked and beautiful. She is youth and lust for life. She is the Enchantress and Temptress. She is all women."
He looked up at her, expecting her to say something. She saw this and said," The essence of the soul of nature, everything that is lush and alive, beautiful day and night. Mother, Maiden, Enchantress, Queen of Heaven, that last one is a very ancient but recorded name for the Goddess."
"Sumerian right?" and he sipped his wine while waiting for an answer.
"Yes, and also throughout Mesopotamia and in Egypt as Isis and referenced as related to Greek and Roman goddesses in ancient Latin writings. Even the Catholics refer to Mary as the Queen of Heaven. It's a very ancient reference."
He nodded and kept reading,
"The Goddess does not accept live sacrifices as were given in ancient times. She is the Goddess of life and all living things. She demands respect for life. If you give offerings in Her honor, then better it be of fruits and grains, or things of beauty."
He looked up, "So this acknowledges that live sacrifices were given?"
"Yes, but no longer. We don't have details. Were these live animals only?
We eat so we still sacrifice live animals. Not specifically to the Gods but we could have in the past. Think on any voudou ritual you might have seen. Yes they kill the chicken, but they also eat it. The rituals of the God reference death. There are those who believe that in ancient times that a male as a representative of the God was the live sacrifice."
"Well that's sobering. I'm glad I'm a practitioner today and not in ancient times."
"Me too. And then she smiled teasingly "Give the Goddess the fruit, grain and things of beauty. Keep the men." And she thought to herself there are too few of you now.
He smiled took a sip from his glass and then went back to reading,
"The Goddess is the Queen of all Strega, which She calls Her Hidden Children. We are Her servants; She is not ours. She gives us life and receives us in the Afterworld. She teaches us the ways of Nature and Spirit. She gives us power and magick. She reveals all mysteries and gives light unto the night. And to the wise She imparts Her sacred name."
"So the God creates and transforms and the Goddess gives us magick and knowledge." And he paused and then asked, "So do women have a more natural alignment with magic?"
She tilted her head and thought about that a minute. "No.... not that I have been taught. In my experience men and women can do magic equally. The words just say that the Magick is a gift from, given by, the Goddess."
And he nodded and thought but said nothing. She just waited for his questions and sipped her wine. But he said, "So what next?"

She said, "There are words concerning the God and the Goddess. We should cover those next."
He found them and read,
"Uni is the sacred name of the Great Goddess, She who is all Goddesses. Upon the Earth She is known as Fana, in the heavens She is Diana (the Moon) and in the Universe She is Tana."
And he paused and she said, "Tanara, Fanara, Janara. I was initiated to 1st as Tanara before the creation of the American Clan. When I was first learning I used Tana as the name of the Goddess. So Tana will always hold a special place for me. Plus," she smiled, "I like the link to the stars and the universe and the Star Trek universe and mythos on which I raised my daughter. But this acknowledges the 3 Clans: Star, Earth, Moon."
"I bet the flavor of the practice of the 3 Clans was different."
"How do you mean?" She knew but she wanted him to elaborate.
"Well I would guess that a Moon Clan - Janara right?" and she nodded and he continued. "The Janara would have been more aligned with the Full Moon Rituals and maybe even the Goddess." And he paused and waited until she said,
"Or, as I have been taught, the sea." And she added, "Janara tend to be aligned with water and the sea as well as the moon. The moon and its impact on the tides makes this natural."
He thought about that and nodded. "Janara sailors."
"Well I don't know by teaching, but have you ever been on the sea under a full moon?"
He shook his head no.
"There is nothing quite like it." She said dreamily.
"What haven't you done, woman?"
And she looked up at him not quite sure what to think. So he added with a smile, "The sailboat guy."
And she smiled, "Yes and racing in the moonlight. Amazing stuff."
"See why I ask, 'What haven't you done?', woman?"
And she smiled and said, "I've never jumped out of an airplane. I was asked to take jump classes by a friend of mine who assumed that I would try anything once. But I said that I would only jump out of an airplane if I didn't have any other options."
"Would you try anything else once?"
"Other than jumping out of an airplane? I really don't have a driving need to scale Everest. And I've never felt the need to scuba. But I might try that. Hmmmm, I guess it is fair to say I could be tempted, but I might choose not to do just anything simply because I hadn't done it before. Would you?"
He smiled, "Probably not. But I might be tempted under the right circumstances."
She smiled back. "What do you think the other Clans Fanara and Tanara would have been like?"
He realized that he had gotten off track and thought for a minute. "Hmmm, Tanara, Star gazers... I'm guessing that these folks would have either been the scientists or the high magic folks. It seems a natural alignment for you."
She smiled, "I guess. I'm told the Tanara did have a more high magick, smells and bells approach to their practice. What about the Fanara?"
"Earth right?"
She nodded.
"Well then I guess these would be my people since I'm such a male earth sign."
And she thought about that and the rituals they had done and she had to acknowledge, "You know I think that you are right. These folks would have been right up your alley. You can be quite Pan-like."
"What? Are you saying I'm all play? And not serious?"
She laughed, "No, But I think that your Taurian pleasure senses and Pan are well aligned." He had to smile at that. And she thought back to other things her teacher had said. He took a sip of wine, raised the book to her and she nodded for him to continue,
"Lakes, hills, streams and beaches are sacred places to the Goddess. The animals that are sacred to Her are dogs, owls, and cats. Her sacred plants are moonflowers and willows, lemons and apples."
So moonflowers on the fence and lemons in my front yard aren't by accident?"
She smiled, "Well citrus do very well in our climate and the MoonFlower is such an interesting addition to a garden. It's nice that these align with the Goddesss. Don't you think?"
He just nodded and smiled at her and thought, she could plant what ever she wanted in his yard if it made her happy. And kept reading,
"She is all that is feminine. She is total beauty and love. She is the Divine Lover, Enchantress, Temptress and Mother. At times She is the Eternal Virgin, at times the Mother, but truly, She is free, loving, sexual, independent and powerful. She loves her followers with unequaled passion. She never forgets nor neglects Her own. She is generous and protective to all who love Her."
He said, "See now this description is something that I see you as capable of channeling. I don't see all that other stuff about vengeance and destruction in you."
"Well thank you student. But you haven't seen me really worked up yet."
And he teased her, "I think I have."
And she took the bait, "When?"
"Oh in ritual or after ritual."
And she lowered her eyes but smiled and then said, "That wasn't quite what I meant."
He chuckled and read,
"Tagni is the Great God who is all Gods. On Earth He is Faunus, in the heavens he is Janus (the Sun) and in the Universe He is Tanus."
He stopped and said, The 3 Clans again.
And she nodded and added, "but this time Janus is the Sun."

He nodded and then read,
"All mountains are sacred to Tagni. His sacred animals are horses, wolves, woodpeckers and ravens. His sacred plants are the fig tree, oak, dogwood, laurel and the bean plant."
And he couldn't help but tease her again. "So that fig tree and the oak... God plants."
And she smiled at him and said, "And the purple runner bean intertwined with the MoonFlower. It's a subtle way to honor the Gods."
He thought, the Ways are totally interwoven in her life. He took a sip of wine and then read,
"He is all that is masculine. He is strength and will. He is the power of fertility (which is shared with the Goddess) and the desire behind all creation. He is the source for all creation.
At times He is the hunter and provider and at times He is the destroyer. But truly, He is wise and powerful. He is the freedom of all things that are wild"
And he looked up and said, "Lupercus." And she nodded and he kept reading,
"He is loving and sexual, independent and powerful. He loves His followers with a demanding love. He protects and provides but He is stern and judgmental. He expect strict adherence to His ways and His laws. But He is always fair and just."
And he looked up and then flipped back in the book and then said, "Interesting."
And she said, "What specifically?"
"That the Goddess is free, loving, sexual, independent and powerful and the God is the freedom in all things wild, and then loving, sexual, independent and powerful. The same but different.”
"Balanced. A friend of mine says that male and female should be thought of as complimentary and not competitive. There are differences but these are aligned. Balanced. I like balance. I think in some ways this also reflects the lack of freedom that women had in Aradia's time. It was to remind followers that the Goddess was free and so were the women as her reflections, even though the Christian Church might say otherwise."
He nodded and kept reading,
"Faunus is the Eternal Child, for we see in Him the frolicsome Pan. Yet the noble side of Faunus can be seen in the grace of a beautiful stag in the forest. We can see His spiritual nature in the circling hawk and in the playful butting of young goats we can see the lighthearted Faunus. All of these are lesser reflections of Janus and Tanus in their own natures."
"Hey! Lesser!?"
She smiled, "Maybe a better term would be lighter. This just indicates that God has many aspects. Besides as I have been taught these words, as you are reading them, have come down via the Tanara so their might be some bias there. Everyone has a point of view. Even scientists who think they are just dealing with the facts form their hypotheses from a point of view." And then she added playfully, "Besides your Fanara tendencies are a lot of fun."
He smiled and kept reading,
"The Goddess is the balance to the God, and He is the balance to Her. Without the Goddess, the God would be a judge without compassion. He would be stern without understanding, He would control without loving.
Without the God, the Goddess would have compassion without direction, understanding without foundation, love without form. The God and Goddess complete each other, and together they are the One True Creator and Maintainer of the Universe."
He said, "The 2 who are One. Balance."
And she smiled, "I think he's got it again."

He smiled back took a sip of wine and then she said, "Let's do the Words Concerning Worship."
He flipped to them and read,
"Remember to keep, and observe, all the sacred gatherings. For therein does the power flow, and emanate forth into our Being. Observe the time of the Full Moon, and all the Holy Days of the Goddess."
He looked up, "Is this why you have focused on the rituals as part of your teaching?"
She thought about that and then answered. "Yes and no."
And he smiled at her favorite answer as she continued. "Yes because the rituals are worship. Aligning with the rituals and actually doing them allows the power to flow into our Being. But I've done the rituals with you because I think that you learn best by doing."
"My earth sign nature."
She smiled, "Yes, but also because it has been very rewarding to be able to actually do the rituals with someone who's energy and basic polarization works so well with mine."
"What do you mean by that?'
"Well doing the rituals when all the energy is feminine, even when all the folks in the room aren't female, takes the experience to different places. And doing ritual when energies aren't balanced can be, hmmm, How do I describe this? Harder to relax and flow with, harder to find the natural power flow with which we should be aligning. But I've found that our rituals are calming and invigorating. That I can feel the flow and well, it's nice all for its own experience. Not just because the rituals are essential teaching tools.
"Well, thanks."
She smiled, "You're welcome."
After a minute he kept reading,
"Honor the Sun and Moon for they are sacred symbols of the God and Goddess (which they placed in the heavens as a token of their covenant with us). But do not worship them, for they are but images of the Great Ones."
She said, "Yes put powerful symbols."
And he nodded and said, "Like the Triangle of Manifestation."
And she nodded. And he read,
"And you who are priests and priestesses, remember the times of union (and the rite thereof)."
He said, "Time of Union."
She said, "You're going to either have to figure that out for yourself or wait until you are a bit further along in your training."
And she nodded. "Yep, Really."
He tilted his head and raised his eyebrows but kept reading.
"All acts of reverence toward Nature and toward life are acts of worship. So it is too with love and pleasure. Therefore, let each day be your rituals of adoration to the Great Ones."
He said, "I totally get this. Just watching you enjoy a glass of wine or smell the sweet olive trees or look at a fire makes me realize that you know that the small things are acts of worship."
She raised her eyebrows quickly lowered them and didn't say anything. But asked herself, Is that what he really sees? What a strange man.
He looked down at the book
Times of Gathering
Shadowfest (October 31st)
Winter Solstice
Lupercus (Feburary 2nd)
Spring Equinox
Lady Day (May Eve/May 1st)
Summer Solstice
Cornucopia (August Eve)
Autumn Equinox
and said "It just lists the Treguenda next, and then
The Holy Days
Festival of Diana (August 13th)
Festival of Fana (December 19th)
Festival of Tana (May 1st).
All Goddess Days, Tana's Day is May Day, But I've never heard of the Festival of Diana or Fana. It's the 3 Clans again."

And he waited expectantly, until she said,
"Diana's Day is recorded in Latin writings. The book Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia talks about it as well. It is a day for wishes to the Goddess Diana. It's is also said to be Aradia's Birthday and I can totally see Aradia as a Leo. So this fits. As does the festivals link to and popularity with slaves. Worshippers would write out wishes or requests to the Goddess and then burn them or leave them at Diana's shrine. It seems to have been a torch festival. The ancient Latin texts document torches in a procession that would start in the more settled areas and then head down into the crater at Lake Nemi on this day. Today instead of torches we’re more likely to light candles. Once Raven held Diana’s day at the grove in California. We were all asked to send in our wishes. The best way to find information about this on the web is to look up Nemoralia. But I was taught very little about this day."
"What about Fana's day?"
"Unfortunately I know even less about that Festival. Fana is the Earth Goddess. I've wondered if it isn't recognition of the sleeping earth goddess or the mother bear. Research I’ve done on the web shows a link between Fana – Fauna – Bona Dea – Demeter. Roman celebrations for Bona Dea took place on May Day and December 4th. Perhaps the bear goes to sleep in December and awakens in May. This is so close to the Winter Solstice that maybe the celebration was something like a baby shower today, preparing for the rebirth of the light. But I really don't know. It’s all speculation. As I've said, Raven was raised Tanara.”
He said, "Too bad there isn't more information."
And she had to agree, "Maybe something is out there that can be rediscovered.... one day."

The chatted about a little about the different Clans and aspects of the God and Goddess and finished the wine. Nola was pleased that the lesson had been so focused on the teachings. Perhaps they were back on track again. Owen realized how much he enjoyed these sessions and really anytime he was around Nola, whether it was a teaching session or working on landscaping or rituals or.... And she yanked him back to reality with,
"Owen it's getting late and I need to be at work tomorrow."
And she smiled at the face, before she said, "Don't look at me like that. Unless you have other plans, I'll be back on Sunday for the Full Moon."
"Other plans. No woman I don't have other plans. I'll see you back here on Sunday. 9PM?"
And she smiled and said, "Ok 9PM. Well I can't come back if I don't leave so..."
At that he got up and took her arm and said, "Well since we started this conversation with how much a gentleman I was I guess I should walk you out."
And she laughed, "That would be nice, sir."
And he laughed too and gave her a bear hug before he said, "See you Sunday."
"Night, Owen."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chapter 33 - Papa Eric's Plan

Owen was waiting in the driveway as she pulled up. He looked like he was excited about something and couldn’t wait to tell her.
“Hello Big Man. You look like the cat that ate the canary. What’s up?”
He took her arm and they headed for the door, “My parents, brother Ryan, his wife Stella and their son Eric are coming to visit in May.”
“Well that sounds like fun.”
He opened the door and let her go through and they headed back to the kitchen.
“It will be. I'm glad they are coming to see New Orleans. It will be good for my mom to see me in my home and happy. She needs to be reassured that the decision to come down here was a good one and that I am doing OK. I’m also hoping that once Ryan and Stella see New Orleans for themselves rather than only on the news or what they assume it is like that they will consider letting Eric come down to spend some time with me in the summers. He’s been asking. But they’re not sure. This visit is a good sign that they could be convinced to say yes. And once Eric sees the pool and the basketball court he is not going to shut up about wanting to visit. They’ll be here May 3rd through the 10th.”
“Are they planning on going to Jazzfest?”
“Yep. I got them tickets for Sunday. Stella & Mom will probably shop and my dad is a big Blues fan. And I’m sure Eric and Ryan will find something they like.”
“Sounds they'll have a good time. Since you’ll be busy with company we’ll just skip that Thursday’s lesson.”
“Oh, no. We’re all going out to dinner at Galatoire’s on Thursday. I’ve already made the reservations.”
“What do you mean ‘WE"re are all going out to dinner’?" Shaking her head to indicate that she thought this was a bad idea, "You want me, your pagan priestess teacher, to go to dinner with your family?
“Yeah sure, why not?”
“Well… why?” And she thought eww that didn’t come out right at all.
“Well why not, woman? I spend hours with you every week. I know you better than any other woman in the city. Why not go out to dinner with me and my family? It’s Galatoire’s for crying out loud. Besides you’ll look good on my arm as my girlfriend.”
“Wait I’m sorry…. What… Your girl friend…. Your girlfriend?”
“Sure, We’re naturals. Remember? The people at Banting's thought we were married.”

She looked at him with her eyes wide and shaking her head, "Owen, What in the world makes you think that is a good idea?! Isn't it bad enough your crew thinks I'm your landscape specialist girlfriend?"
And he heard Papa Eric say, "Ace in the hole, son. You charged in. No time to fool around now. Go ahead and use your Ace in the Hole." And he nodded to Tago. "I hear she can be really stubborn."
Owen said, "Papa Eric says it's a good idea."
Now she was even more incredulous, "Papa Eric… Papa Eric..? Papa Eric said this was a good plan?" And she tilted her head and rolled her eyes at him as if to say 'Sure right, good one. I deserved that.’
"Nope. It's HIS plan."
"His plan? Papa Eric's plan....?" and she slowed down as she realized, Oh my gods he's serious.
He heard Papa Eric said, "Ok son the hook is set but only very lightly; let her run with it for a little while before you try to reel her in." Owen just smiled and nodded.
She laughed lightly at him, "Papa Eric's plan. Argh, I must be doing something wrong. How can someone who I know is grounded and practical end up where you are? What have I done to you? This is not where I thought your working with the Lare Shrine would get you. I did not expect to get cockamamie plans from the dead."
"Why not? If I recall properly you were the one who helped me figure out how to talk to the dead."

And she sat down on the barstool because this was just too weird to deal with and stand up at the same time. She decided to try a different tack.
"Ok Owen let's say, just for argument's sake, that I agree to do this."
And Papa Eric said, "Watch it son she is going to run in the opposite direction. Not too fast, reel her in gently."
And he sat down on the barstool and then rolled her barstool so that she had her back to the kitchen counter and then rolled his stool next to hers so that she was between him and the counter. "Ok, just for argument's sake."
She looked up at him and asked, "Why is it a good idea? Why do you need to 'present girlfriend' to your mother? How old are you?" She thought back to his astrological chart and calculated, "44? No 43 right now. Oh my, it's your birthday next month."
"Yep, why don't you do it for me as a birthday present?
She raised her eyebrows and wrinkled her brow and said, "Wha...?" then sighed and said more firmly, "You still haven't told me why it's a good idea."
And he said slowly, "Because it would make my mom happy, because she worries about me here in New Orleans so far away from her, because I will feel better with you sitting there next to me at dinner. My mom and Dad will be sitting there. Ryan and Stella will be sitting there. If mom sees me there in that context without a woman on my arm she will worry and not be happy. I AM Happy. I want her to think I am happy. And I there is no one else I’d rather have with me than you."
And Settrano and Meana nodded to Papa Eric to indicate the hook had set.
And she shook her head and rubbed her temples and said sighed, "I don't know."
And Papa Eric said, "The hook is set now son. Reel her in."
"I know you can do it. We know each other. We've probably spent more time together really getting to know each other than most dating people."
"But Owen it's not true and besides, I'm too old for you."
"Too old for me! That's ridiculous. How old are you any way?"
"47, fixing to be 48."
And he said, "4 years? 4 years is nothing. Besides we are timeless together and you know it."
"Now Owen that's not fair. And it's not the same thing." And she thought but sometimes it's just a little to close... which why this is not a good idea.
"Son, she's going to try and run again."
"What, you've never been with a younger man? And smiling and putting his hands out wide he said confidently, "Other than me of course."
And he saw her think about that and smile as she answered defiantly, "Yes, I have been with a younger man, other than you."
"How many years younger?"
"5." And she sighed knowing full well this was now a point in his favor.
"5 huh? 4 is less than 5. Did you have a good time with this younger man?"
"Yes, actually I had a very good time with this younger man." And she had to allow a small smile.
"Well, there you go."
"She can't get away now. She's tiring, son."
"Owen, why can't I just go as your female friend? Why do I have to go as your girlfriend. It's not true; I'm married."
"Because if I take a married woman as a date, it will only make my mom worry more, not less. You have to go as my girlfriend."
"You can't really think that it's a good idea to introduce me as who I really am, with my real name. You don't even use my real name. That's not who I am to you. What if they google me and somehow discover the truth?"
"Well I was planning on introducing you as Nola. You're right, Nola is who you are to me. I only think of you as Nola."
And Tago said, "Suggest she use her first married name."
And Owen wrinkled his brow and wondered where that came from. It didn't feel like Papa Eric's influence. But he said, "What if you use your first married name?"
"You mean my first husband's name.... Metoyer?"
"Sure, why not: Nola Metoyer. Sounds good."
"Well..." and she sighed as she thought about it out loud, "When I teach I am Nola. So that is not a lie. And Metoyer is, albeit mistakenly, one of the names listed on a single piece of critical official paperwork I'm currently stuck with in my life....So that's not a complete lie either..... I don't know....."
"It's time to get her into the boat son."
"Just be who you are every time that you are here with me and it will be Ok." And he let that sink in before he said, "I won't specifically name you as my girlfriend. I'll just introduce you as Nola, use Metoyer if asked for a last name and we'll just let them assume what they want to assume and leave them happy in their own world. I heard somewhere that this can be a very effective way to deal with delicate issues."
Leaving Nola to roll her eyes and close them remembering that on that first plane ride she had said essentially this to him about how she dealt with being pagan, in the closet but honest about her personal philosophies. Damn the man for being such a good listener.

And he reached around and picked up the glass of Prosecco he had poured just before he heard her pull into the driveway and handed it to her. She took it and still deep in thought took a sip and then put down the glass. There had to be a way out of this. As she looked up Owen did his best to give her a proper girlfriend kiss to seal the deal.

She was still spinning from the idea and didn’t immediately resist. When she tried to swivel the chair around she realized she was pretty well pinned so she tried to stand up while he was still kissing her which only made it easier for him to get his arms around her. Finally he broke the kiss grinning at her as she said, “What are you doing?!”
“It’s Prosecco.”
And she sighed heavily, “You are incorrigible.”
“Yes, but you do like me and it only seems fair to seal the deal with a kiss.” And he moved in to try to give her a proper kiss again.
“Owen stop it. I’m supposed to be your teacher. Or at least that's what I thought I was doing here." And she put he hands to her temple and said, "I feel like… I feel like…. I don’t know what I feel like.”
And Meana and Tago looked at each other as if to say: “Ah, the first real step.” Then Meana said to Nola’s subconscious, “It’s OK. Just go with it. You are safe.”
And Owen said, “You feel like you’re not in control of the situation. You feel scared.”
And she looked at him and realized he was right, “I’m …. Wow. You’re right I'm scared. I haven’t been scared in a really long time.” And she asked herself softly but out loud, “Why am I scared?”
“You’re the one who is usually in control. You don’t mind a little speed or danger but you like to have your hands on the wheel and be in control. You didn’t see my idea coming. You couldn’t find the controls. You got scared.”
And the small puff of a sigh escaped her as she realized again, “You’re right.”
“Yes I am. I know you as well as any boyfriend should. You are going to be ok. And he pulled her gently toward him and said, “Now, close your eyes and let me work my Taurian pleasure senses on you.”
She gave him a light smile.
“Close your eyes.”
And she closed her eyes. And he kissed her softly and slowly, with out any urgency or insistency until he felt her begin to relax. Then he nuzzled her neck and she sighed and leaned into him and relaxed a little bit more. He felt her let go so he kissed gently but deeply and she kissed him back. As Meana whispered again, “It’s OK. Just go with it. You are safe.”
Tago nodded to Meana and shook his head at Settrano.

As Owen pulled away from the kiss Nola put her forehead on his chest as if defeated. He rolled the chair back and stood up and then he leaned over and picked her up. And she stiffened, “Owen…”
“Shhhh, just go with it. You are safe.”
As he carried her into the library she put her arms around his neck and leaned into him. He sat down on the couch still holding her.
Nola said, “You were so right. I was scared. I had one hell of an adrenaline rush. Now I am disoriented. I feel like I just ran for my life. This is really weird.”
“Well now son, the plan was to catch her off guard, set the hook, let her wear herself out and get her into the boat. It probably wasn’t very fun for her.”
Tago nodded to Meana and said, “It was unfortunately the only way she would agree and move into a state open to other possibilities.”

“I’m sorry for surprising you and unsettling you like that. I guess I could have waited to ask you until you at least had sip of wine.”
And then he realized that she really was shocked. “Oh Nola it really is ok.” And he held her close and kissed her softly again. “I’m sorry.”
She talked almost as if she was talking to herself, “I’m still trying to figure out why I was scared. I know you. I even like you. I’ve had sex with you. It’s not like we’re strangers. I trust you. Why do I feel so mentally blocked?”
Bellaria looked to Meana who said, “Because if I let you really feel everything now, you will resist the lessons you need to learn. Right now we are the teachers and Owen is our secret weapon."

And Tago nodded to Meana and Bellaria who said, "Owen, Tell her about your life and your relationships."
He leaned back and held her reassuringly close to him and said, "It will pass."
She sighed.
"You know I've never been particularly good at asking girls out."
And at that she laughed and relaxed a little, "I'm finding that very hard to believe. You are quite an appealing male."
"Well thanks. But I'm not good at doing the asking. I tend to hang back and wait until you girls come on to me... except with you."
And she laughed again, "I have a picture of that. This large, good looking, charming, intelligent male hangs back and let's all the females look him over and then waits until the interest signals are such that she comes to you. I see how that would work for you. It's very primal in its own way."
"Wow, you make me sound like a Human Male Venus Flytrap."
And she thought about that then said, "Yep. That's it exactly."
"Woman, I think you just complimented me" and he listed, "good looking, charming, intelligent. But I can't help feel that there is a dig in there somewhere. I'm beginning to think that you don't know who I really am at all. You think I'm some sort of playboy Casanova."
And she thought about that a minute as she heard just a hint of hurt in his voice. "Well you are a charming man. I'm sure the women do fall over you. There is nothing wrong with that. You obviously are financially able to do pretty much what you want when you want. You don't really need for anything. You enjoy your pleasures and why shouldn't you."
"Yes but that makes me sounds so superficial."
"ooo ouch. I'm sorry. I know that you are a deep thinker. I know you care about people. I know that you have a large heart and that you commit yourself fully when you are doing anything. I know that you are not superficial."
"Ok that's better. Then why do I feel like, while you might know these things, you resist letting yourself interact fully with me."
"Well Owen, I'm your teacher...."
"Yes but I believe that you are also my friend."
"Well I believe that we are friends too,” and she joked, “friends with occasional ritual benefits."
"And we're back to sounding superficial."
"Now Owen... "
"Well perhaps some of that is fair. I had lots of girl friends and lots of fun sex when I was in college. I had a really good time in my 20s. I worked in New Orleans and throughout the south in various architectural, project management and construction jobs. I've literally dated around the country. Right after I turned 30 I went back to Pennsylvania to manage some pretty major upgrades on my family's hotels. I did it because I wasn't fully committed to any one or any other place and because it was what my family always wanted and expected. Back home I'm considered a great local catch. I've never been without female company. But I never really clicked with anyone. Even when I was with the same woman for years, the one my little brother was destined for, I was restless and not in love. I know now, because I now understand the difference you make between love and in love. We were comfortable with each other. We were doing just enough of what our families expected of us without ever really committing, to each other, to each others dreams, even fully to ourselves."
And he sat up as he thought about it. "But I am not like that now. I feel like I am finally in the right place. I am rooted. Look at my business and this house and the pool and landscaping based on something called, of all things, PERMAculture. And he stood up. "You've help me find a path a philosophy that is right for me. Why does it feel like we're friends but you are always ready to step away and out of the picture? Why is there this distance? We're friends but I feel you're always holding me at arms length."
As she listened she heard the yearning in his voice for feeling like he belonged. As if he wanted to be wanted for who he really was and not what someone else expected him to be. Then suddenly he had turned all that sincerity on to her. Asking her why she held people at arms length. Why she held him at arms length.

And she looked at him knowing that after all he had said he deserved an answer. "I.... I....." and she sighed "Give me a minute Owen; I didn't expect you to tack that way. I feel like the boom hit me. You really can be quite intense you know." And she thought, kind of like a charging bull.
And he knew. "I know. People always assume that I'm just happy go lucky Owen."
And she said, "And they don't see the whole you."
And he nodded as he said, "Or know what to do with the whole me." And he turned to pace between the sofa and the fireplace which took not quite 2 steps before he hand to turn around again.
"I understand."
"Really? Really?"
"Yes, I think I really do. What we do together, this path, this process of learning, the walking between the worlds that we do, it opens us up to more than just the great wide universe. It opens us up to ourselves. You and I have spent time talking about and doing things most people don't. You're right. We are connected. We are friends. What we do is different from how we interact with most others. I understand the yearning to have that kind of relationship with more people. I wish we could go back to the days when we lived closer to the earth and when who people are at their core was what really mattered instead of all the other stuff that passes for value these days. I do treasure the time we spend together."
And he smiled very lightly before his brow wrinkled again. "Then why do I feel like you are close and then you move away."
"Ok, see… now…. I thought I was going to get out of answering that question."
And that made him smile again.
"Alright I'll try to answer you but I think the answer to your question has 2 parts. Sit down Owen." And she patted the sofa.
"It is no fun when you are close to people, when you trust them or count on them being there and it doesn't work out, something goes wrong or they let you down or hurt you. As a kid I trusted my family and they let me down on some pretty important stuff.” And she paused and thought about how to get him to understand her reluctance. “My father was my world, the one person on the planet I felt really got me for who I was. I loved him. Just being around him made me happy, and then he got sick and died. I learned to play it safe with my feelings by not really allowing any deep feelings, by retaining some emotional distance, by being an observer, by holding something back for me. Then I fell in love with James only, over a 10 year period, to have him break my heart twice and bend it pretty good a few other times. Since then I think I've figured out how to make being there, fully in each moment, work for me and allow me to really experience life. I am committed to my relationships and to my responsibilities. But you are right I do hold a bit of my heart back. I have to have something to start with again should it get trampled on by life's complexities. I'm only so strong."
And as he listened it came to him, "Nola I know why you were so scared."
"Really? Why?"
"You are scared all the time. I just pulled the curtain back far enough for you to see it."
And she sat there thinking and realizing that there just might be some truth to that before she finally said, "Maybe I should make 'Feel the fear and do it anyway' my new motto." Then she jumped to the next reason and she caught herself thinking that there could be a bit of self defense in this action too.
Meana said again," It's ok. You're safe."
"But there are other more practical reasons. I've worked in what was, when I started, a man's industry for 25 years. I am very often still the only woman in a room full of men. To thrive in this world as a woman, it has helped to be able to be more analytical, to be able to step back. To be able to hold myself as a female and all that means, apart from what I do as a professional. Also as a supervisor in corporate America, you have to maintain some distance with the people you supervise. I like to think of myself as a good supervisor, one who is fair, who explains what needs to be accomplished but doesn’t over supervise, as someone who has her staff's back. But as a supervisor I also have responsibilities to management and the corporation as a whole. This requires that some of me stay separate from the people who work for me, or, because I’ve always been a part of a support organization, from the people my team and I serve. I can't be just their colleague or fully their friend. I have to hold something back to be able to supervise and serve. With you I am your friend but I am you teacher too. There are similarities. I have students start on this path and then change their mind. I had groups, Clans, Boschettos come together only to fall apart. Sometimes a little distance is healthy."

And as he listened he realized that there was wisdom in what she was saying. She was scared and strong and wise. To Nola it looked like she had managed to answer his question and that he seemed satisfied with her answer.

Meana said, "Gently Owen, Gently.
What he said was, "Ok, I think I get it."
And Nola sighed and thought, and said out loud playfully, “Whew.”
Then Owen said as he started to get up, “Ok dinner Thursday May 8th, Galatoire's 7PM. You should meet me here and we'll go together in my truck. My family is staying in the Quarter because I haven't finished the upstairs guest bedrooms and bathroom. I'm going to take some grief for that."
She just sat there speechless until she was finally able to say, "You still want me to come to dinner with your family? As your girlfriend?"
"Sure. It took me until after Papa Eric died, but I've learned not to argue with his suggestions." And he walked of to the kitchen for the wine.

And as he did she said, “Totally exasperating man.”
And he called back from the hall, “Yes, but you like me.”
And she said to the room, “Yes, damn it, I do like you.”
“I heard that.”
She just sat there.
He returned with glasses and the wine. He handed her a full glass and sat down next to her. She said, “OK consider it your birthday present.”
He clinked her glass and said, “Deal.” And they each took a sip and Nola was prepared for him as he sealed it with a kiss.

“I’m assuming that I go as “just” your girlfriend and not your pagan teacher.”
“Check, pagan teacher would not make mom happy.”
And we’ve been seeing each other since we met on the plane to Pennsylvania.”
“Yep, 5 months.”
“And what do we do together? Other than what we actually do together which we can’t really talk about.”
“Nola. Be nice. We can talk about what we do together. We hang out. We watch movies, occasionally Star Trek which will go over well with Eric & Ryan. We discuss books. Dad will love that.” And he waved his hand around the room. “My family knows I’m a book worm. We’ve designed and built the garden. Abby and Stella love to garden. They aren’t crack addicts like you but they like it. It’s a dinner. It’s one night toward the end of their visit. I have enough to keep them busy with Jazzfest and the required Disaster Tour and the French Quarter and the pool and the zoo and the aquarium. Mom will want to shop for furniture for the guest rooms. That will keep her and Stella busy. We’ll break in the basketball court. You know enough about me to pass as my girlfriend.”
“Ok fine. And, if asked, have I been married once or twice or not at all?”
“Well, you’ve been married twice. But you don’t have to mention it unless specifically asked. Isn’t that how your formula for dealing with delicate issues works?”
“Owen…. That is not fair. I never said I intentionally lied. I just…”
“Who said you were lying? You are a girl. You are my friend. You’re a professional for a large corporation and you work for a refinery. You’re a native New Orleanian from the 9th Ward. You’re a PostKatrina neighborhood activist. You shouldn’t be left alone in the kitchen. You landscape as you drive. You paint and sketch. Damn it Nola, you’re one of the most interesting women I’ve ever met. There is a lot to talk about without wading into territory they won’t understand. We’ve spent a lot of time hanging out together since we met on the plane. I like you. What more is there that they need to know? “
She sighed, “Do you know about my daughter?”
“Yes, But you don’t have to mention her…
“unless specifically asked. Ok, I get it.”
“I want them to see 2 people who like each other, who look like they have a relationship and then let them think what they want to think and then go home happy. It will be OK.”
And she sighed and gave up the fight. “Ok…… Ok… Ok.”
“You like me.”
“Yes. I like you.”
And he kissed her again.

And by the time she typically went home she had relaxed into thinking that it would be Ok and it might even be fun and on the drive home she couldn’t even remember what she had originally planed for that evening’s lesson.

And Settrano and Bellaria grinned at Meana and Tago. And Papa Eric was pleased.