Saturday, January 30, 2010

The power of symbols and myth

I know pagans and football fans, strange bedfellows.

But in case you haven't heard the New Orleans Saints are going to the SuperBowl. For the first time in the teams 40+ year history. The dichotomy between the New Orleans world of 4+ years ago and today would have to be measured in light years. Our New Orleans Saints football team has been a symbol of our PostKatrina journey. The arrival of Sean Payton and Drew Brees the year after Katrina and team's journey to the SuperBowl has, for the people of this city, been traveled in lock step with our city's recovery. The football team loves the city. The city loves their football team.
When New Orleanians were spread across the globe and yearning to be home. The Saints didn't have a home either. There was the talk of the team not returning and finding another permanent home in another US city, say San Antonio. But the repair of the Superdome and the teams first game in Home Sweet Dome put that talk to bed.

We've (the Saints and the City) had our ups and downs since then. But these past 4 years have been mostly good. The Saints fans, who attended games with bags on their heads, but attended! even then the team was loosing, pitifully and painfully week after week, year after year have responded in larger and larger number to this years powerful show of drive, hard work and tenacity.

Now we layer on the fact that the SuperBowl and the New Orleans mayoral, city council, assessor and other election IS THE SAME DAY as the SuperBowl. We have a chance to change the things that haven't worked for us these past 4 years and the Saints have another chance to change franchise history. The mythic bonds between the Saints and the City weave more tightly together.

Now with these bonds of mythical portions associated with a city and a team the NFL decides that it is going to try to be the biggest dog and get their lawyers to say that the chant used by New Orleanians to support their team is trademarked and can't be used by small businesses or others. Who Dat! is part of the local lexicon and has been for longer than there has been a Saints football team. But the NFL, in the throws of SuperBowl sales greed, decided that they were going to claim not only a part of the local lexicon but the Fleur di Lis. Seems they forgot about the French Court or the mythic proportions this symbol already has for New Orleanians. New Orleans is a lot of things but the one thing it isn't is like other places or more specifically in this instance like other NFL cities. The NFL had no idea what it was stepping into. Senators & Representatives came out against the NFL. The ever creative Locals started purchasing what they needed to make their own Who Dat paraphernalia. Then there were the endless letters, eMail, phone calls, and blogosphere buzz about how greedy and ogreish the NFL was being. The hose was turned full force on the big dog and it seems they have backed down a little.

And the mythic proportions of the New Orleans Saints Football Team and their fans and the recovering Greater New Orleans and Gulf Coast Area grow larger. Which brings us back to the power of symbols and myth. Pagans love their myths because myths speak to many people many ways. Myths serve to unify and guide us and give us strength in adversity. The Saints and the City and the Recovery are bound together forever. Ours is a story of devastation and loss, of hope and unity, of family of blood and beyond blood, of the power of the people, of tenacity. It's David and Goliath. It's The Little Engine That Could. It's Persephone rising from the underworld. It's the complex story of Lupercus. It's the power of myth and the magic of a little place called New Orleans.

Chapter 20 - Planning Lupercus

Lupercus was fast approaching. Settrano and Meana were both very interested to see what would happen with Nola and Owen. Lupercus would have the energies that should allow them to release from the normal bonds of society. And Settrano was convinced that there was a large potential for growth here. Meana wanted Nola to be able to have fun with someone who would be there for her and protect her. Lupercus would take place a weekend before Mardi Gras. What was needed was some creativity in the execution of the ritual. So they enlisted Bellaria.

Nola had spent most of the evening working through questions Owen had tagged in the Manuals while she was away in Houston. Owen was jazzed with the new information. Nola was worn out from answering his questions in a way that was specific to him as student and his development. He had the fire going and she was staring into it because she loved a fire and was appreciating it because she knew, that even though it was only January, soon it would be too warm to light the fireplace. Owen watched as she stared. "What are you thinking about?"
"Oh nothing really, just resting between questions and appreciating the fire."
He looked at his watch and realized he had been questioning her for 3 hours. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea it was this late."
"Oh no, never be sorry. You can't learn if you don't ask. I always learn when I teach. The best way to determine a student's development is from their questions."
"Well, it seems you are going to get a break. That was the last marker I had in the manual."
She smiled at him. "So we can quit before midnight?! I won't know what to do with myself."
"Oh no. As you say, I am spoiled. I'm not letting you go until after 1AM."
She smiled at him and then asked. "How do you do it? Don't you have to be up early to check on your job sites?"
"Oh sure. But I'm the boss so sometimes I check up on them in the evenings. It keeps them on their toes. Plus it is always good to get a look at the job sites later on a Thursday and Friday. It helps me plan better for the next week."
"Are you adjusting schedules for the parades?"
"No, not really. Most of our work is outside of where the parade action is so we don't have to and the guys would rather work. Of course, I am giving them off the Monday and Wednesday bracketing Mardi Gras."
"You know I've been thinking about Lupercus and the fact that it is the weekend before Mardi Gras." She watched as he took a sip of his wine saw that he was waiting for her to continue. "I've always loved the fact that Lupercus and Mardi Gras have similar energies. There is a sense of wildness and fun and community in both."
"Community in Lupercus?"
"Oh yes. Howling is much more fun in a group. Have you ever seen wolves howl and listened to the rhythms they make?"
"No, not really."
"Well I've only heard wolves on radio and TV programs and CDs, but I've heard coyotes howl while hiking in the high mountains in Montana and it is fabulous. I love listening to the drumbeats from the marching groups. I think that New Orleans drumming is wonderful and fascinating. Sometimes I'd rather watch the bands gather and practice and warm up before the parade starts than watch the parade itself with all the yelling for stuff. Each band has a slightly different sound. And sometimes they will do a call and response that feels a lot like those coyotes howling." And she took a sip of wine and sat remembering. Then something just came to her. "Owen, I have an idea." And Bellaria smiled. "What if we were to do the Lupercus ritual and then go out into the Quarter and howl?"
"Howl? in the French Quarter? Really?"
"Well, I've never done it before. But Endymion is the 2nd and my family does not like this parade. Jamie will want to go to Muses and be exhausted by the evening. I was planning on getting James to take her or drop her at her friend's who has a house along the parade route. This way I'll be fresh when we do the Lupercus Ritual. I'm assuming you want to do the Lupercus ritual."
"Oh Yeah, you bet."
"Well how do you feel about doing the ritual and then heading out to the Quarter right afterward?"
He smiled and said, "I love the idea." and Settrano and Meana smiled thankfully at Bellaria.
She smiled. "It has been a long time since I've been off of the more sedate St. Charles Avenue route. What have you done for Mardi Gras in the past?"
"Well, I guess not so much. I've been to a few parades on St. Charles Avenue since Katrina. When I was here during my college days of course I spent time in the Quarter. Roger has been talking about Endymion returning to MidCity this year. He says there will be a big party at some friends of his along Orleans Avenue."
"Oh, yes, Endymion back on its MidCity route for the first time since Katrina is a big deal, a recovery moment. Were you planning on going?"
"I hadn't really decided. I actually put him off because it was Lupercus and I assumed we'd be doing ritual."
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather hang with your friends?"
"Yes, woman I am sure I would much rather do a primal ritual and howl with you in the Quarter than be with Roger on Orleans Avenue."
"Yes, Really. It's a plan. What time do we start?"
"Well how about if we start the ritual around 9PM and then head to the Quarter afterward. The parade won't get Canal Street until late and the Quarter will be wild all night. We should drop off one of our vehicles in the parking lot along the riverfront early in the day. I can I meet you around Noon on Saturday"
"I don't understand, the parade isn't until later."
"Mardi Gras is all about planning to party. How will you get there, where will you park, where will you watch the parade, where will you pee, how will you get home? I think it will be too crazy to get a cab back from the Quarter. So if we drop a vehicle in the Quarter we'll have a way out when we are ready to leave. I'm hoping that we'll be able to get a cab to the Quarter if we arrange for pickup earlier."
"Oh I get it, logistics. I have just the thing." And he smiled broadly as he said, "My scooter."
"You have a scooter?!"
"Yep I got it for when I have company. This way they can get around easily and I don't have to chauffeur them."
"Men and their toys. I love it! Perfect." She beamed. This was actually going to be fun.
He smiled back at her. She was like a kid at Christmas. "I would think that this would all be old hat for you."
"Well it is and it isn't. I've been a mom for awhile and that changes how you handle Mardi Gras. And James isn't much for parades not on St. Charles Avenue. We haven't been to the Quarter together since the late 80s. Wow! I'm old."
"No. We are going to be primal and timeless. This is going to be fun."
"As it should on Lupercus. As is should." And she held out her glass to him and he smiled and they toasted to Lupercus.

They had finished the bottle of wine. Owen was sitting contentedly stretched out in front of the fire. She leaned over to him and said, "It's after 1AM."
"Oh, no do you have to go?"
She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, "Owen you can be so pitiful. I will be back in less than a week. Don't get up I can find my way out."
"Oh no. I will walk you out like a proper gentleman."
And she shook her head at him, "You are too much."
He stood up and held out his hand to help her off of the pillows, and said "No, I think I am exactly what I need to be." Meana nodded in agreement. Owen wondered where that came from and Nola just smiled at his confidence and charm and hooked her arm in his and let him walk her to the door.
Before she got in her truck she kissed him once on each cheek and said, "Thank you kind sir. See you Saturday." and left him beaming in the driveway.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not how I roll

Via a letter to the editor of the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune:

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher.
The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake.

Haven't you seen "Crossroads" ? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad.

Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan

Nola here. There is no Satan in Stregheria. BUT this letter to the Editor was too good to pass up. One more reason why the Words of Aradia on Christianity are important to understand and apply. Let the Christians believe as they wish. Follow your own path. But be CAREFUL.

You also might want to read this bit of research on the history of the legend refered to by Pat Robertson.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chapter 19 - Second Full Moon

After a week of being in Houston, Nola had spent time over the weekend putting the house back in order and Monday and Tuesday digging out at work after being gone for a week. It hadn't been too bad because she never left on a trip before making sure the house was in order. Jamie and James laughed at her asking why she bothered when she wasn't going to be there to appreciate it. What she knew what that the better the condition she left it in, the better the condition it would be in when she returned. Jamie was old enough to help with the house work now and James after many years of gentle training could now be counted upon to ensure that the basics were covered. For her responsibilities at the office she had been lucky that her trip had been to a facility that allowed her to stay plugged in to the corporate network and stay up on corporate eMail and scheduling. It was only, only, the face to face stuff that she had to catch up on at work. Thankfully all had been quiet on the neighborhood front but she still had a board meeting at her house scheduled for Wednesday.

On Tuesday, she managed to get home in time to spend some before and after dinner time with her family and then take a shower to change her mindset and focus before heading off to Owen's. She marveled as she drove through the city just how raw the return from 'the real world' could still feel after 2 and a half years and also at just how much progress had been made.

The moon had been up for almost 2 hours. Owen was pacing in the driveway. He was past ready for her to be here. She pulled into and opened up the driveway gate at 8PM, exactly when she said she would.
Owen was opening the truck door before she had shut off the engine.
"Hello big man." And she stepped into a bear hug as Owen reassured himself that she was real. "Well, I missed you too."
He just grinned at her, locked arms and started walking toward the front door. She let herself be moved along then followed him into the house.

She stopped short, noticing the furniture was arranged slightly differently. Then she saw the beautiful table in the center of the room. She looked up at him with surprise and then moved to the low table kneeling down next to it to brush her hands over the smooth, rich dark brown wood. "Oh Owen, it's beautiful. Where did you get it?"
He watched as she continued to rub her hands over the newly finished surface. "It was a ruined piece I picked up for a song at an antique store. I kept myself busy refinishing it while you were away." he said honestly.
"What is this beautiful dark brown wood?"
And he grinned and waited for her response as he said, "Walnut."
And she actually gasped breathlessly, "Walnut, an antique round walnut table. Oh it is absolutely perfect for the altar."
"I thought so too." And he couldn’t help being pleased with himself. Her reaction was exactly what he had hoped for.
"It's a shame to have to cover it with an altar cloth. I guess now I can take my old spool back home with me for my next student."

Owen looked chagrined. And her brow furrowed as she looked back at him, confused.
"I got rid of the spool."
She smiled at him as she rubbed her hand once more over the surface, got up and said with appreciation, "Such a Taurus."

His grin returned as he hooked arms with her again and they walked back to the kitchen. Since they would be drinking red wine with the ritual he had opened the Brunello and she smiled seeing it again. As he poured the wine she said, "You also have flowers for the altar." Then suddenly, "Oh no, I forgot the cookies!" Owen handed her a glass of wine and reached under the cabinet and pulled out a box of the cookies they used, then moved in closer for a toast, as she said, "Thank you Owen."
"You're welcome." And he clinked his glass to hers. "I think I deserve a kiss."
"I think you do too." And she moved in to give him a kiss on the check but he managed to get control of the situation and it ended up a lot more like the New Year's kiss. When he released her from the kiss, she brushed her hand down his check onto his chest and said, "I'm going to change into my robe."

Owen already had his robe out of the downstairs bathroom and changed quickly in his office. So he was waiting for her on the porch swing. She smiled at him and took his hand and said, "Let's go soak up some moonlight". They stepped into the back yard and she and began the Rite of Union. Owen did it right along side her, following along with the words and motions exactly matching hers.
"You've been practicing."
And he smiled and nodded and handed her back her glass and took another sip from his.
"That large oak is beautiful in the moonlight. I love the clear crisp nights of winter."
They stood next quietly next to each other. Owen felt like lord of his domain. Nola finally said, "Well shall we go in and set the altar?'
"Sure but first I have to get some JD for Papa Eric."
Nola grabbed the bottle of wine and tucked the cookies under her arm and grabbed the flowers with her other hand and walked toward the living room. Owen followed her and set the shot glass of JD on the mantle. Nola put the cookies and wine down next to the walnut table and then took the flowers to the mantle and put a few blossoms in the small vase next to the photo and the JD. Owen lit a votive while Nola moved away with the flowers to her box and started removing what they needed to set the altar.

Owen moved next to her and said, "Let me. I've been practicing and I hear that the Priest does the work in the God Months."
She smiled at him as he set the altar perfectly and then she asked, "Do you want me to cast the circle? Or would you like to do that as well?"
"I'll do it."
She let him lead and was very impressed with how smoothly he cast the circle. The Grigori were quite pleased as well. Owen led the opening part of the ritual. They charged the wine and drank a toast to Aradia. Then Nola led them on a meditation.

"It is a beautiful cool pleasant night. The moon is high in the sky and stars are dense and sparkling. You make your way down from the gentle ridge of a bowl-like valley... following a small, bubbling stream as you walk.... There are oaks and pines along the path.... but these open up as you reach a smooth lake... The moon is reflected in water made silver by its light. You move into the Rite of Union.... then look around to your right and see a round temple with a God and Goddess statues along one edge and an opening in the center of the temple roof. You enter the temple and give honor the God and Goddess....... and then step into the pool of moon light coming through the center of the roof..... You breathe in and out and absorb the energy of the moon........ You then leave the temple and make you way up a path that takes you to a high ledge in the side of the bowl-like valley..... You lay down on the ground under the moon and stars and open yourself up to the universe and all its wonder......

In his meditation Owen found himself there on the ledge with Nola and he removed his robe laid it on the ground and then removed hers and time stopped and they made love under the moon and stars.

Nola was enjoying the open sky from the ledge and remembering how different it had been for her when she was first learning the Ways. So very often the way she had met her teacher for Full Moon Rituals had been in visualization, meditation, on the astral. It had been a very effective learning tool. But having someone to actually do the rituals with now was a blessing.

After what seemed like a long while....Nola's voice broke in as she said... in the distance you hear the howl of one wolf..... and then the answering calls of others..... you pick yourself up and slowly make your way back..... past the temple.... past the silver lake.... through the oaks and pines .... following the small stream .....up to the top of the rigdeline...... where you return to the world.....

Owen slowly opened his eyes as he came back to himself. She refilled the spirit bowl and relit the flame. Then they both sat quietly and watched the flame. Nola was pretty certain she knew where Owen's mind was because part of her was still back on the ledge under the stars. The meditation had been stronger than she expected for their second Full Moon. She was content to let him be quiet and soak it in.

Nola did the Veglia then, blessed the cakes and wine. Nola offered the plate with the cookies on it to Owen making sure he took one to help him reground into his body. She took a sip of wine while he ate the cookie with out thinking about. Then she handed him the chalice so he could have some wine and watched while he ate another cookie. She refilled the spirit bowl and relit the flame. They finished the chalice of blessed wine and then she heard Owen take a deep breath and begin to breathe more normally.

Nola gave the Charge of Aradia and then read the closing prayer.
When she had finished she said, "I am hoping that you'll be willing to help me charge my spirit blade."
And he looked at her as if to say, OK but I'm not sure I know what to do.
She stood up and took her blade off the altar and then took his hand and he stood up facing her. She pulled him close to her and then put the blade carefully to her breast with one hand and then hugged him to her with the blade between them. Owen smiled liking this part of the ritual. Nola moved her hands up and down his back. He hugged her close and matched her movements. After a few seconds she pulled away slightly, grabbed the blade to ensure it didn't fall and pierce a foot, kissed him very lightly and said, "Thank you."
"Are you ready to take the circle down?" Owen nodded yes.
Nola again filled the spirit bowl with what she thought was just enough to take down the circle. He quickly took the circle down feeling that the Grigori were somehow very pleased with this particular ritual and thought to herself, as am I. As was Nola.

She then sat down on the floor next to the altar and Owen joined her. She poured more wine into the Chalice and sat quietly for awhile before she said, "I think that was the best Full Moon Ritual I've ever experienced. Thank you very much." Then she waited to see if he would say anything.
"That was a very powerful meditation…. Is that place you described real?"
"Yes and no. The description I used is based on research that has been done on what the temple grounds at Nemi were supposed to look like more than a 1000 years ago. I like to think it was real and the rituals over the ages have kept it alive enough that we too can go there in ritual. But Nemi doesn't look like that now. Today it is a very agricultural place. I hear it's famous for its strawberries."
"I was there."
"You've been to Italy?"
"No, your meditation took me there. It is real."
"For me too Owen, for me too."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Global Climate Change

2009 September Tempurature Differentials

Map above shows the difference between the Average September temperatures (recorded since 1880) and the Average September temperature in 2009.

Granted NOT all places are warmer. BUT much of the globe is warmer.

When you think about how much of the surface of the earth is water (~70%) and look at how much of the water area is red, meaning hotter... It's hard not to say that the earth (on average and on the whole) is getting hotter.
Even as the much of the US is covered !to the Gulf of Mexico! with a winter blast from the artic.

I suggest taking another look at the Words of Aradia on Nature.
with special emphasis on this phrase:
Therefore observe the ways of Nature around you both great and small. Everything has a purpose and reason. Be not confused by its seeming cruelty, for there is a duality in all things.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Words of Aradia: Arranged for Teaching

The Foundational Tenants:
Concerning Nature
Concerning the Earth

The Cycle of Being:
Concerning Life
Concerning Death
Concerning Rebirth
Concerning the Act of Rebirth
Concerning Luna

The Gods and Worship
Concerning the Gods
Concerning the God
Concerning the Goddess
Concerning the God & Goddess
Concerning Worship

Love and Freedom
Concerning Freedom
Concerning Love
Concerning Sexuality
Concerning Marriage

Worship and Magick
Concerning the Law of Return
Concerning the Astral Plane
Concerning the Elementals
Concerning the Grigori
Concerning Magick

Parting thoughts
Concerning the Prophecies
Concerning Christianity

Chapter 18 - The Table

It was late Monday evening. It had been 4 days since Owen had seen Nola. It would be another 8 days before he saw her again. 8 days! He was having withdrawal symptoms. He felt like he couldn't think straight. What had that witch done to him? 8 days! Thank goodness that the Full Moon was on the 22nd or she would have probably made him wait the 14 days until Thursday. He was pacing in the front yard because that was what he did when he was waiting for Nola. Bellaria nudged Settrano. Then it came to him. The next time he saw her would be their 2nd full moon. He had 8 days to get the round table from the antique shop and fix it up. He'd surprise her with a new beautiful round table for their altar. He could get rid of that wooden spool. Settrano smiled as Owen admitted to himself that Nola was right, he really was "such a Taurus."

Tuesday Owen got up and took care of checking on all his job sites before the antique shop opened at 10AM. He was waiting outside with 2 coffees when his friend, the owner, walked up a bit bleary eyed. "Owen, what in the world are you doing here at this ungodly hour? I haven't seen you in ages." He eyed the coffees in Owen's hand as he unlocked the door to the shop. "If that coffee is for me then I have the feeling that you must want something. You know I'm weak."
Owen smiled and pushed the door open and then handed his friend a coffee.
"Come in sit down, tell me what you want and what is up with you."
"I am fine, Robert. Business is good. I'm having fun. How are things with you?"
"I am doing surprisingly well. Folks are replacing lost items and buying their Katrinkets. Business has actually been pretty good. Thanks for the coffee." And he settled into a French antique chair and motioned Owen to the matching and larger settee.
"Your welcome and you're right I do want something."
"I knew it, you rogue. What is it?"
"Remember that low round walnut table that was ruined when the roof leaked?"
Robert looked like he didn't remember, so Owen continued. "It's upstairs on the 3rd floor in the back right of the room, right underneath the leak I fixed for you... ?" And Owen left the question mark hanging in the air while Robert took another sip of coffee came alive and remembered.
"Oh, yes. That was a beautiful table. You have a good eye for a carpenter." he chided knowing full well of Owen's credentials. "You want that? While it is structurally sound it isn't worth what it was before the damage and it will need significant work to refinish it." Then he raised his eyebrows realizing Owen expected to get it for a significant discount.
Owen had leaned back in the chair and taken another sip of coffee before he said, "And Robert you know I am just the man for the refinishing job. I'll take good care of it. I hoping you can give it to me for a good price."
"Owen, you are a rogue."
"Before we settle on price and as part of the payment, you will have to get it down the stairs and haul it away yourself."
"I figured as much which is why my truck is parked in the garage next door." And Owen winked at Robert. "Finish your coffee while I get the table."

The table hadn't been moved in the little more than 2 years since the roof repairs and Owen found it easily. He looked it over ensuring that it was really structurally sound and that only the finish had been affected. When he was satisfied, he lifted the table and made his way down the stairs. Robert just watched thinking that it was practically worth it just to get the thing down the stairs. It was the largest piece on the 3rd floor which way probably why it caught Owen's eye and normally would have taken 2 men to get down.

After they settled on price, Robert asked, "So what makes you come back for the table now? Is it for a client?"
"No, it's for my house."
"Really, you've been thinking about this that long?"
"Well no, I only recently thought about the table again. I'll let you in on a secret. It's actually for a woman."
"You have a woman living in your house? Oh Owen, my hopes are dashed!"
"No, Robert I don't have a woman living in my house, but your hopes need to stay dashed."
"You're buying a table that you are going to have to slave over to repair for a woman who doesn't live in your house?"
"I see that twinkle in your eye, must be some woman."
"You have no idea Robert. You have no idea."

Owen drove immediately from the antique shop to the strip shop. He and Robert had looked it over and confirmed that there was no glue used in the construction and that it could be lightly and only lightly dipped to remove the finish. Owen's construction contacts were coming in handy. Owen often used the strip shop to remove the many layers of paint from old detailed often cypress molding he then reused in the homes he repaired. His friend Paul, owner of the strip shop, was standing outside of the shop as Owen drove up."

"Paul, am I glad you're here."
"You know I'm here when the stuff goes into the vats and to make sure it comes out on time."
"I hoped I could time this right. I have a favor to ask. I was hoping to get this table" and he waved his hand to the bed of the truck, "dipped by you personally, today."
Paul raised his eyebrows and asked "You want to jump ahead of the other jobs?" then sighed and smiled and said, "Well since most of the jobs are yours, I guess I can make an exception." Then he saw the table and whistled. "Owen this table is antique walnut and must be worth $5,000! I don't think I want to touch it much less dip it. Are you crazy?"
"No Paul, I'm not crazy. I've confirmed the construction can take a light dip. But I want your hands in charge of the dipping and wiping. I'll pay extra."
"You bet you will. Ok man, if you're sure? Wait I know you. You're sure."
"And Paul, I'd like it back tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?! You want I rush the job? I was going to take today to calm my nerves over having to do it."
"Of course I don't want you to rush the job. But I have a lot of work to do after you dip it and I need to finish it for the 22nd. It's a light dip so it won't take long. How about if I pick it up tomorrow but late in the evening?
"Ok man but I'm going to have to charge you 10% of the value."
"$500, no problem. Thanks Paul. I'll be back for it you tomorrow. Let me take you to lunch as a thank you for pushing it ahead of the other jobs."

As Owen drove home after lunch he went over the cost in his head. The table had probably been worth $8,000 before the roof leak. He had stolen it for $1000 from Robert, plus $500 for the dipping and less than $100 for the supplies for the hand rubbed finish he was planning on putting on it. He didn't count the work he would do. It would keep him occupied while Nola was out of town. By the time he was finished with the table it would be worth close to $5000. He'd definitely come out ahead.

Between working on the table and checking on his job sites and practicing as Nola had suggested the night she left, he managed not to go crazy waiting for Nola to come home. By Wednesday night the table had a high end hand rubbed sheen. He had done some slight rearranging of the furniture to place the table to its best advantage and to ensure that they didn't have to move the furniture too much to do ritual. He had New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and San Pellegrino in the fridge. He has also gotten a case of Brunello and he smiled remembering Nola's response to it the first time. Now all he had to do was make it to T

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lavender Rosemary Dragons

For all you folks covered in snow
Lavender Rosemary Flowers

There's a new digital camera in the house, which officially belongs to my daughter, but that I occassionally am allowed to use. This is one of my first attempts to use it and figure out how the macro function works. The folks who cut my neighbor's grass whacked the rosemary bush this weekend. So I took a closer look. Who knew the lavender flowers looked like dragons. Well they do to me. Look at how cute the fuzzy, puffy, little rosemary flower buds are. Who knew? Now I do. Now you do. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Babylon Rising - Amanda Boyden

Part of my commitment to New Orleans recovery and greener living is to support local businesses. So it seems fitting that I start the list of books read in 2010 with a novel by a "local" author.

The author's bio in the beginning of the book states that "Amanda Boyden was born in Minnesota and raised in Chicago and St. Louis. Formerly a trapeze artist and contortionist, she earned her MFA from the University of New Orleans, where she now teaches writing. Her first novel, Pretty Little Dirty, was published in 2006."

Some would argue Amanda is not local. Read her book. Yes she is. She has captured the complexities of life in a complex city. Nothing is easy. Very little is exactly as it seems from the outside. The good are not so good. The bad are not all bad. Everyone struggles to survive in their own way.

Amanda also captures New Orleans street speak. I had read her brief bio and wondered how a gal from the north could capture then re-read her bio and realized that any one who teaches in the English department at the University of New Orleans would get a far dose of a wide variety of street speak. I say this as a UNO graduate and as someone who has a typical 9th Ward accent and who was told by her professors that she needed to "clean up her accent". I claimed it was part of "ma culcha" and that I'd keep it thank you and then managed to get a job with a very large corporation out of New York and fit right in because I sounded a lot like a New Yorker. Think about a New York Brooklyn accent and then don't say your R's and you get real close. Even the pace of 9th Ward and most of New Orleans speak is faster than any other "southern" accent. New Orleans is really not the south, we're the northern most tip of the Caribbean. But I digress a bit if only to justify my capacity to vouch for the accuracy of Amanda Boyden's representation of New Orleans. She gets it. She really gets it.

The back cover of the book (purchased at a local, independent book store) captures the story like this: "Ariel May and her husband, Ed, have just moved to New Orleans with their two small children. Their neighbor, Fearius, is a fifteen-year-old newly released from juvenile detention. Across the street, an elderly couple, the Browns, try to pass their days in peace, while Philomenia Bouregard de Bruges, a long time resident and "Uptown lady" peers through her curtains at the East Indian family next door.
With one random accident, a crash across front lawns, the whole neighborhood converges. Together the offer help and cast blame and the lives of these five families intertwine, for better and for worse."

New Orleans neighborhoods are very much like the one portrayed in Babylon Rising. This book is a complex gumbo of people and the lives they live and at only 301 pages an interesting, inherently human and introspective first read of the new year.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Paper, Plastic, Cloth, Ritual and Yoda

I'm going to betray my age. When I was a little girl the only option we had for taking groceries home from the store was paper. Large, brown paper bags. Later when plastic bags became common, I would ask for paper because the plastic bags were so weak that they always ended up with breaks and tears. Either you used paper or you had to double or triple bag the plastic bags to ensure that you didn't end up with your stuff all over the ground. Somewhere between 1977 (when plastic grocery bags were 1st introduced) and ~2003 or 2004, paper all but disappeared and plastic became the norm. The only good thing about the plastic bags was that if I strung multiple the bags over my arms, both arms, I could carry more in a single trip up the stairs than I ever could with paper. This gives me grocery shopping as a form of weight lifting aerobics. With repeated use and over time, plastic bags became an accepted part of American life. And we stopped thinking about it. Now, paper is back as an option too but more importantly there is a large, global push to eliminate plastic bags and move to reusable bags.

But this means that we need to change. And we have established practices that work. We have grocery store rituals, decades of muscle memory in consumers and grocery clerks. I want to move from plastic bags to reusable bags. I have my zip into a pouch, reusable, holds a lot of stuff, Whole Food grocery bag. But each time I go the store it is still a struggle to avoid ending up with plastic bags. Those "zip into a pouch" Whole Food bags are so dang useful that I end up unzipping them for a grocery run and then using them for other things. So sometimes the bag I want to use is being used elsewhere. Or if I have the reusable bag, I have to remember to take it out and give it to the clerk. Even if I take it out and have it read I often have to interrupt the grocery clerk and stop them from putting things into the readily available plastic bags. Or if I have this bag and I remember to use it and I get the clerk to use it I still need another bag because my groceries won't all fit. So I acquire additional bags and keep them in the truck so that I always have one. Then I have to remember to take the bags, all of them, and get the clerk to use them and then return them to the truck to use them again. I've been at this for a number of YEARS now so I've established the necessary rituals to ensure that this happens. But it literally took YEARS. 2009 was the first year that I can say I succeeded in using reusable bags.

What I had to do, what anyone else who wants to change has to do, is to create a new pattern, to instill a ritual.

How do we change? Especially when it is so hard to get into a new pattern.
We change by committing to the change.
We change by acquiring the things that will facilitate the change.
We change by changing. If we want to be different, we have to be different.

For the plastic/reusable bag switch, we have to buy the reusable bags, we have to consistently remember to take the bags with us to the store or have the bags with us all the time. We have to take the bags out and insist the clerk to use our bag instead of the ubiquitous plastic bags. We have to return the bags to a spot where they can be used again next time. We have to have these rituals as a part of our life.

One of the things I was taught as a beginning Strega, was the importance of doing ritual. But as a solitary pulling together all the bells and whistles to do a ritual seemed more trouble than it was worth. I could just follow the cycle of the moon and the solar seasons. I didn't need a black altar cloth and a bell and elemental bowls and... It was a significant change from not doing the detailed ritual. It required energy be raised and consistently directed. I didn't have ritual muscle memory so it seemed hard. It was easy to do ritual whenever my group of eclectic pagan friends wanted to get together. It was easy whenever I met with other Streghe. But doing smells and bells ritual as a solitary required that I conquer the inertia I had not to do it.I was confronted fully by one of Newton's description of nature's laws: An object at rest, stays at rest unless acted on by another force.

So my guidance and encouragement to any one who is a beginning strega (or cloth bag user wannabe) is keep trying. Collect the necessary tools: Candles, bells, black cloth, God & Goddess Icons, ritual bowls, round altar. Now before anyone starts complaining about how difficult times are there are ways to do this inexpensively. Candles cost money. So I'll give on that one. But God & Goddess Icons don't have to be expensive statues. I started out with fossils. A cast of the inside of a clam shell is surprising erotic and goddess invoking. A cast of an ammonite shell with just the right curve was appropriately god invoking. These cost nothing. I already had them on hand AND I had acquired them via walks on the land during trips to the Texas Hill Country. But I'd bet that if you keep your eyes and spirit open suitable icon items will come to you from nature and your environment as well. Ritual Bowls... try garage sales or use small bowls you have already in your kitchen. Be creative. I bet if you dig around in what you have already that you have enough to start. My round altar was discarded spool used to hold wire that I spray painted white to clean up the edges and stop the altar cloth from catching. Eventually I upscaled to a circle bit of plywood that could be placed on top of the spool. Now I use the discarded bottom of a papasan chair and a round piece of glass from a local hotel surplus store on top of the plywood that I spray painted silver. When not in use the table looks like a mirror.

You have to commit to the change and gathering what you need to do the ritual is part of the energy you have to expend. As it says in the Myth of Descent "Nothing is given unless something is received." It is fully expected that you will have to expend energy. But you will also get something back.

With or without all the appropriate tools you still have to commit the time to do the ritual. The first few times you set things up you won't have it all right. And this is ALL RIGHT, specifically because you are committing the energy. You are doing it. This will highlight what you need to do next time and eventually you will have the ritual tools and the ritual memory. Each time streghe cast a circle we are recreating the universe. This in and of itself is a powerful experience, even if you don't do any ritual. But a full moon ritual is actually quite easy to do alone, once you get over the fact that you are doing it alone (or at least without other corporeal humans). Read the all the parts of the ritual out loud. Do all the motions. Read the Veglia, out loud. It never ceases to calm and center me and YES the experience is different IN CIRCLE, in ritual from just reading it out loud any other time.

I'm going to steal a line from my mother-in-law: "Fake it til you make it." When I first heard this I wasn't sure I liked it. Faking it? Really Fake it? That can't be right. But the essence was the equivalent of saying, Do it, even when it feels false, even when it feels like you're not doing it right. Eventually all the parts will come together and it will be fine. Or as Yoda says to Luke: "No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try."

The sun has returned. It's start of the new calendar year.
What will you DO differently?