THE WHEEL TURNS: A PORTAL OPENS INTO A STRANGE NEW YEAR

by Angeliska on December 31, 2016

We are coming through the tunnel of winter, passing through the portal into a new time. The sun is reborn, and with it, a new day - & a hopefulness. The Winter Solstice last night was for me spent in the very best way possible: out on sacred land I love,
We are coming through the tunnel of winter, passing through the portal into a new time. The sun is being reborn, and with it, a new day – & a hopefulness.

It’s almost gone, this wild and unpredictable year that put so many of us through the ringer in truly brutal ways. I’m trying to sit with it, to look back on my own experience of this year, and all that I’ve learned. In many ways, this was a great year for me – a beautiful year filled with learning, growth, and big opening up into my own strength and independence. I’ve had some year that were big, bad doozies before, and while I watched many of my loved ones get raked over the coals by 2016, I was feeling pretty okay about it all, at least for a while there… There were so many deaths, big deaths – huge gaping losses of so many our beautiful heroes. I’m no stranger to death and loss, having experienced so much of it in my life. I lost some people this year, for sure – many old friends, and people who were significant in my past (in good and bad ways.) Some real good people passed on this year – and not all of them were famous (or, at least not beyond their own neighborhood block).

The Wheel of Fortune has been showing up constantly in the tarot readings I give, and serves as a poignant reminder not only of the turning of the year and seasons, but also of the twists and turns of fate. It’s easy to get caught up in notions about good luck and bad luck when this card shows up for us, but it’s so essential to try and find a sense of equilibrium amidst all the changes. Finding a calm, still center within yourself is at times the only way to sit with uncertainty. The Wheel is constantly spinning – sometimes we’re up, and sometimes we fall down – yet this is where we can find a deeper awareness about our journey and the lessons we’ve been given to learn and grow with.

Sometimes I feel like an ancient crone, seeing the world from the vantage point of centuries past: wars, famines, political upheaval, plagues, revolutions, tyranny – all turning over and over again. It never seems to stop. We want to believe that next year will be better than the last one – but the truth is that every year is filled with both good and bad things. I’m trying to be grateful for the good things, for the happy moments. The shock of this year’s election, and what looks to be a gruesome and horrifying aftermath has me wondering: what if one day we look back on 2016, and remember it as the last good year? The last good year before things got really, really bad. The reality is that most of us have no idea what really bad even looks like. Most of us have never gone without clean water to drink or food to eat for very long. Most of us have never lived in a war zone. Most of us have lived in the absurd luxury of being able to waste our time staring at screens endlessly in the ridiculous comfort of our climate controlled homes. I wonder if that will be the case, though – going forward? What will it be like for us if war comes here? If the chickens finally come home to roost… It’s the Year of the Fire Rooster, coming up here – Year of the big pompous, vermilion-wattled cock, yellow feathers fluttering in the breeze. It fits, doesn’t it? A year where everyone is threatening to set it all on fire. It doesn’t feel peaceful. It feels like a time of upheaval and disillusionment. Time to rub the sleep from our eyes and arise from our feather beds of complacence and comfort.

Change is extremely uncomfortable. It’s not easy, at all. But we’ll all have to, whether we like it or not, now. The wind is blowing, and it’s bringing with it a hard rain. Pray it douses those raging fires a little bit. I’ve been so, so angry the past few days – an incandescent flaming sword of rage. It’s a terrible feeling, and something I’m seeking to temper within myself. When the fire pours out of me and spatters others, I always feel worse. Not better. Even if it feels warranted. I’m trying to learn to be the water instead. To channel the fire into making things, instead of destruction. To angle it elsewhere, let it spill onto the rocks – not repressing it, or turning it inward. Steam hisses up, the hazy smoke obscures what’s below. It’s got to go somewhere constructive. I am being hit hard with so many lessons at once this week – most of them about illusions, boundaries, trust, and restraint. I’m failing at a lot of them, I feel. I’m doing my best, but my best still feels shitty. I think I’m supposed to be wiser than this by now, but then I remember that I’m human – and that we all keep fucking up at this stuff until we get tired of doing it over and over again, repeating the same karmic lessons repeatedly. Until we decide to change. It has to come from within, because moving these puzzle pieces into a new configuration just ain’t cutting it. Saturn and Pluto transits are moving through me, working on me hard, doing their psychic surgery. Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I had a vision of these giant planets, lost gods in white masks performing open heart surgery on me. My chest was draped with a curtain, but I could feel everything. Everything.

I’ve been thinking about how life and our perceptions of it can change so drastically within the space of a few hours. How rapidly our illusions can be shed, even (and especially) the ones we clung to so dearly. To see yourself (sometimes, in a photograph) blithely trusting that all would continue as planned, that no nasty surprises would leap out to trip you up, that you could keep on believing, just a little while longer… I think this year has been that way for a lot of people, on many different levels. I’m feeling it pretty intensely right now, and it’s not fun – but most likely very necessary: that our illusions and self-delusions be shattered. Let’s walk through the broken looking glass into a strange new year, with eyes wide open.

There’s this strong collective sense of deeply desiring to be done with this year – 2016, the dumpster fire of a year, as so many are referring to it. But then what? What will 2017 bring? Something better? We all want so much for things to just get better, get easier – be simpler. But these are not simple times. One of my amazing astrologer friends was looking at my chart at giving me a little heads up that this year to come would not really be any easier – for me, or for anyone. For me in particular, there’s going to be a lot of make it or break it celestial activity – heavy teachers delivering big lessons. I’m already feeling it – hard. I groaned inwardly (and probably audibly too) when she told me this… You know that feeling – like, when do I get a goddamn break? More lessons? More hard stuff? Sheeee-it. When does it get to be easy? I feel like I’ve been going through some pretty rough lessons my whole damn life. I have, and I will continue to – because that’s what it is to be human. This one is my go ’round – and I drew the dead mom card, and the hurricane card, and a bunch of other doozies. I also drew the soft comfy bed card, and the roof over my head card, and the healthy brain card, and most importantly – the amazing community of loving friends and family card. It’s all relative – and maybe somewhere, somehow, it evens out. We shall see. But what I’ve been contemplating lately is all the lessons: the challenges and obstacles and trials and pitfalls that actually just never, ever stop your whole goddamn life long. Because that’s how it works. We come here to learn and grow and be tested and we basically keep doing that until we die. And then, we keep doing it some more after that. And some more. And often, we get better at it. That’s the beautiful part about attaining maturity, I’ve discovered lately. It’s actually totally awesome. No adults ever told me about that when I was younger, I think maybe because I wouldn’t have believed them anyway – or maybe because they hadn’t realized it themselves yet. It is extremely gratifying to learn from your mistakes, how fail better, and even to have figured out how to do stuff well, how to take excellent care of yourself and other creatures, to make a good life. Growing up ain’t so bad, turns out. Can you tell I’m a Capricorn going through some major Saturn transits? No wonder I’m kind of enjoying this shit. I said kind of! Anyway – newsflash: there’s no happy ending hog heaven truffle buffet that we all get to dive into like a pot of gold after the shitshow rainbow. The shitshow rainbow and the truffle buffet are both ongoing, continuously. I think we do have a choice about most of what we choose to participate in, or engage with energetically – and the fact is: taking responsibility for your own happiness and your own suffering are paramount. I’m working with this truth, and grappling with it – on a daily basis. Pain is part of life. It just is. One day, every one you know and love will die. And so will you. And so will I. You and I will probably keep getting our hearts broken in all kinds of ways. The heart breaks and break until one day, it opens. Is that from Rumi? I think so. What we do in the meantime matters – and while we can’t protect ourselves from the pain of life (or, in doing so, also protect ourselves from the happiness), I do believe we can refuse to suffer. How exactly to do that, I’m still figuring out. And I’m apparently choosing to suffer until I do. I’m ready to break in my new boots and go tramping out into the shitshow rainbow, and find the joy in the midst of it all. I’m prepared to live as fully as I can until it’s my time to stop – and I have a huge high heap of stuff I want to to manifest and accomplish and experience until that day. I have some good dreams, some good visions for what I’d like to create, and share with the world. I want that for all of us. I want to believe in big, wild possibilities for us. For you and for me. So let’s dive in, eh?

First day of the new year on the land where my people have lived for so long. A place of deep knowing. Feeling very hopeful.
This photograph was taken on the first day of the new year on the land where my people have lived for so long. A place of deep knowing. I was feeling very hopeful. I want to feel that way again. I think I will. New Year’s Eve was my mother’s birthday. It feels good to gather out on the land where she lived and died. To sit around the fire with family, blood related and spirit found. Come back home. Come back to center. Be rooted and anchored in that old earth, that old, old love. Feeling the support of dear friends around me like strong branches, deep roots. Out in Lone Grove, time does something strange. It’s a place I belong.

Mystic blue.
Mystic blue. Queen Allyson, heart-sister.

Sisters in the haze of a brand new year. Photo by Allyson Garro - from last year's celebration.
Sisters in the haze of a brand new year. Photo by Allyson Garro.

Three wise women.
Three wise women.

Our beautiful group of happy campers on New Year's Day last year.
Our beautiful group of happy campers on New Year’s Day last year.

Me & my Jo.
Me & my Jo.

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Julia.

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Conjuring.

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Olivia. (I forget who took these three photos! If it was you, please remind me?)

Sparkle magic.
Sparkle magic.

Creek magic. Photo from last year's New Year's Eve celebration out at Lone Grove by Gorgy.
Creek magic.

Fire magic. Photo from last year's New Year's Eve celebration out at Lone Grove by Gorgy.
Fire magic.

Winter magic. Photo from last year's New Year's Eve celebration out at Lone Grove by Gorgy.
Winter magic. These three photos are from last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration out at Lone Grove, taken by Gorgy.

Cold creek white dog
Cold creek white dog.

May you who are reading this now be blessed in the new year. May you stay safe and warm, and may those you love all be well. Keep the homefires burning, keep your light going. We’re going to need each other, okay?

I love you. Thank you for being here with me.

More to read from New Year’s Eves of yore:

OWL WELCOME
AULD LANG SYNE
YEAR OF THE HORSE
NEW YEAR’S EVE FOXFIRES AT THE CHANGING TREE
FUCK THE PLAN 2012
AN EPICALLY EPIC AND FAIRLY TARDY YEAR IN REVIEW – OR, HOLY SHIT: 2011!
A Bright Blue Wish
New Year’s Redux
Stargazer Honey
Blue Moon
Lone Grove New Year
Pink Moons
The New Year
Lucky Stars and Garters
La Nouvelle Année

Keep On Doing What You Do / Jerks On The Loose

by Angeliska on December 22, 2016

I’m sad and angry for her. I’m sad and angry for us, for all the women, for the immigrants, people of color, Muslims and Jews, queer and trans folks, for the earth. For the water. For all the little children, and the old folks – for all of us. We’ve got to do the hardest work now – of showing up even more, staying strong, staying alive, keeping our noses above water. Everyday, fight. Don’t give up, don’t back down.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” – Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

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Nobody around here knows what happened to you
No one will ask you to explain
You have your arm around a drastic measure
All of your efforts down the drain

There might be something here you could get into
Or just be quiet by yourself
Oooooooo. . .
Stare at the stuff up on the shelf

You work too hard
to take this abuse
Be on your guard
jerks on the loose

Look who
did it to you
Joker over there
with nothing to do
Don’t let ‘em
get through
Keep on doing
what you do

Why don’t you listen to my little pep talk
Instead of what that person said
And now I’m gonna open up the window
And you will come in off that ledge

You work too hard
to take this abuse
Be on your guard
Jerks on the loose…
Jerks on the loose…
Jerks on the loose!

(by Terre and Suzzy Roche)

I’ve been wanting to share this song that has been such a helpful anthem to me for a long time. I grew up listening to The Roches, but rediscovered this song a few years ago when I was going through a particularly tough time. I listen to it whenever I feel sad, discouraged, or beat down by the world and the people that sometimes can be huge jerks. It always helps, a lot. Right now feels especially apt, on a larger scale than ever before. This is such a disturbingly surreal moment we’re having in this country, in the world. As cynical as I can be about politics and the general state of things, nothing could have prepared me for where we’ve ended up, in just a few short months. It’s hard to conceive that this is our reality. I don’t even know how to write about it, how to put my disbelief and shock into words that even begin to convey all the things I’m feeling. I’m dumbfounded, utterly gobsmacked by how completely fucked up this current turning has turned out to be. I could never watch the movie Idiocracy all the way through, because nothing about it felt funny or satirical to me at the time. It all just felt real – and now it really and truly fucking is. I understood that a massive paradigm shift was occurring, and that it would likely be ugly, bringing all the poison up to the surface. I don’t know why I imagined it would be gentler than this, or that common sense, good judgment, and justice would prevail. I truly thought that our next president would be a woman, and that this would be the turning of an ancient tide. I was wrong, and I’m starting to understand why. I am horrified, and I am afraid. I don’t want to be, but I am. It can be a little paralyzing, that fear that makes you want to turn everything off, all the screens, all the lights. Hide under the covers, hide away. If the monsters can’t see you, they’ll go away. But they won’t. The monsters are here to stay, it looks like. There is no vanquisher, no silvery warrior riding in at the last minute to set things right, chase the baddies down into their suck-holes, slimy tails slithering behind them. I mean – I haven’t quite given up hope yet, but we’re cutting it so close here. This feels like one of those bad dreams you keep trying to wake up from, but every time you slam the door and run outside, you find yourself still in the room with the bogeyman. He’s coming towards to, reaching out his hands to grab you where the sun don’t shine, and you can’t move, can’t scream, can’t wake up. He is in power now.

What can we do? Well, a lot actually. Hopefully you have read all the articles explaining how, written the letters, signed the petitions, called your representatives every day, rang their phones off the wall. I know there are a lot of resources out there for how and where and why to get motivated and pitch in, organize, participate in active resistance to this heinous bullshit. I won’t compile all that here for you, because I think (I hope) you already have access to that information, and are acting on it. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, ways to help, ways to find something to do. We have to. We must. Because with so many of us being hit by this blow right in the old nervous system, our animal selves are going into fight, flight or freeze. A few immediately talking of running, taking flight – but I don’t actually know anyone who is actively planning to move to Canada, or any other country as a result of this tainted election. We have to stay and fight. This is our home. We have to stay present, stay deeply grounded and rooted in our communities, in our bodies, in our truth. To keep from going into that paralysis place, playing possum, shut down – that happens. I’m seeing a lot of people I love having PTSD reactions from this election. I know I have been – anxiety sweats, legs aching, flooded with cortisol, mind blanking, numbing out.

A series of explosions woke me from peaceful dreams (gathering wet sticks for my dogs to fetch) at 6am the other morning. Men’s voices shouting through a loudspeaker across the street. Flashing blasts that rattled the windows. I rolled to the floor & grabbed blindly for my phone to call 911, thinking it was crazed white supremacists lobbing bombs into the nearby projects. Crouching near the window, trying to deduce what was happening – I thought the voice on the loudspeakers was yelling something about WWIII. I slowly realized it was the police, with a search warrant for an apartment across the street. Flash grenades are a diversion tactic. This kind of action is especially terrifying for anyone with PTSD. My legs turned to jelly, cowering against the bed. Instant fight/flight/freeze all at once, nervous system glitching. It took a long time to settle down. Is this normal? My neighbor frantically texting, asking me if I was okay. She thought the same thing was happening, and I can’t help wondering if our minds went there because we’re both Jews.

Later that afternoon, I received a disturbing prank call, from two ranting men talking over me and laughing. They called back after I hung up, and left a message questioning “why I would have an immigrant on my answering machine in Trump’s America”. They accused me of being the devil, threatened bad Yelp reviews, and told me that they’d be sending their pastor over my way. To do what, I’m not sure. I don’t want to know. It freaked me out though, that dude-bro bullying – being ganged up on in a way I hadn’t experienced since school days. It’s such an effective way to make you shrink immediately – as if being small would help you escape their notice. Back hunched, always looking over your shoulder. When I went to check the mail, it was with trepidation. Would they be waiting around the corner to jump me? Would my fence be sprayed with a swastika? I grew up with this, expecting this, confronting this kind of feeling nearly every day. Our country feels like one big high school, with the loudest and meanest swinging baseball bats, thoroughly savoring their rage. The jerks are on the loose. It felt exhausting to be taunted like that, after such a brief night of interrupted sleep, after giving of myself, my energy, trying to help people all day. I give my work my all, trying to offer compassionate spiritual service to those who come to me in pain, in fear.

I think of all the people I know, working every day in the trenches, trying to do some good for and with the people who need it most, and how beat down and worn out most of them were feeling, even before the election. What now? When I came back from Morocco, I expected to have a lot of people coming to see me for tarot readings – but I expected them to be shattered, depressed, broken. Many are, of course. It’s really hard to not be. The surprising thing is that most have been coming to me on fire, wanting to know how they can best be of service, motivated to get involved, to contribute, to be active in the resistance. To fight! Let’s be ferocious warriors of love. I’m seeing the women come together in such a powerful way – inspiring each other and encouraging each other forward. In this post, I’ve shared images of warrior women that inspire me to be braver, more determined, more fearless. Let’s build each other up, and keep each other strong. Let’s make sure we have the backs of those who lose their hope and are deep in despair. Don’t let them get trampled under the dark waves. Lift them back up. Protect those who are being attacked. Defend them, stand up for them, and for what you know is right. Give of yourself, show up, and don’t be silent. Don’t you dare just shrug and turn away, Don’t you dare think that the jerks won’t come for you, because eventually – they likely will.

Help in the way you are best equipped to help. Help through empathy, not pity or sympathy. Give in such a way that you can honestly say, “It is my pleasure.” Do your one small piece, do the thing that you do, or the many things – but do them often, regularly. Do them in such a way that you do not get overwhelmed, burnt out, and just shut down. You cannot fix it all. It is too big. But you can offer your little pieces, with a fierce and determined heart full of love. This is how we make shift. This is how we can be the change we want to see. Keep on doing what you do. Do it more. Be kinder, more patient – with yourself, and especially with strangers. The more you learn how to fill up your cup, the more you have to offer. It will be important to stay in a place where we can always treat strangers with graciousness. Even if we’re in a bad mood, or feel that they’re messing up. I’m working on this a lot lately. Let’s treat each other with extreme gentleness. Rumi said: “be with those who help your being.”

Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

– Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

Surround yourself with the people who fill up your cup rather than drain it, or spit bile into it. Make meals together, tell stories. Circle the wagons, cozy up. We’re in it for a long haul here, it looks like. Who are your people? Make room for them. I tell this to myself, most of all.

I have thought often of Sister Simone Campbell’s revelatory words of wisdom on how to be spiritually bold when I heard her interviewed by Krista Tippett from On Being:

One is the doing something. I sometimes think we, in the United States, think we ought to do something about everything and that it’s my job to fix everything. Well it’s not. That’s way beyond us. It’s more important, I think, that we listen deeply to our stories and then see where it leads. And that’s the piece. If we all do our part in community… Whatever our part is. Just do one thing. That’s all we have to do. But the guilt of the — or the curse of the progressive, the liberal, the whatever is that we think we have to do it all. And then we get overwhelmed. And I get all those solicitations in the mail. And I can’t do everything. And so I don’t do anything. But that’s the mistake. Community is about just doing my part.

I think doing your part is the toughest as a young person because you’re finding your place — you’re finding your place. And so the challenge always is looking to the future. It looks dark. When I was in our formation program in the community, this one retreat guy giving us a retreat said that faith was walking through a mist with your eyes wide open. And that’s what it feels like when you’re trying to find your place. But then the amazing thing is to look back. It looks like it all was a straight line. You can see the straight line of light and that makes us who we are. And so I refer to the groping in the dark and that piece of listening for the nudges and paying attention, paying attention to where the nudges are. And don’t procrastinate too much. Just do it. Act on it. And you’ll know the right way for you forward. If you find yourself not doing anything, beginning to save yourself — ‘I can’t do that, and I can’t do that’ — it’s because you’ve got too many ideas in your head. You’ve got to — focus can help. At least, that’s what happens to me.

For me, the religious life is about deep listening to the needs around us. The question becomes, ‘Am I responding in generosity? Am I responding in selfishness? Am I responding in a way that builds up people around me, that builds me up, that is respectful of who I am?’ All of those questions are at the heart of how we discern best steps forward.

It really is that inside listening to where you’re being called. And what do you — what gift do you have to offer to the situation? You could offer a bunch of lamentation, but lamentation doesn’t often help. And — but what gift do you have to offer in this — to this situation? Who can you connect with? Where — what can you offer? Now, the other piece is, is we can lament a lot, but the other piece that I haven’t really talked about it all and — but I goof off a lot — is joy. That joy is at the heart of this journey. And if we — too often, progressives are really grim. I mean, it’s not a very good advertisement. “Come join us. We’re so miserable.”

I mean, that really isn’t — because the amazing wonder is that we get to live this life in relationship. We do live in an amazing country as painful as it is with our arrogance. We get to know all kinds of people. We live in a hugely complex, multicultural setting, which is not shared in very many places in our world. There are tremendous possibilities. And I get to be here and talk with you all. I mean, that’s fabulous. So the giving, the finding your niche is about life giving and enjoying the life that is given to you and to others in the process.

Sister Simone Campbell

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Cheyenne or Arapaho woman Pretty Nose at Fort Keogh, Montana, United States. She is wearing cloth dress with woven cloth belt and buffalo robe, as well as earrings, bracelet, rings and necklace. Collotype. 1879

I don’t know where now I first came across these words, or who originally wrote them. If you know, please tell me so I can give credit where it’s due. But I want to share them all the same, because I think these are truths to sit with:

There’s a surge of divine feminine energy within us at this moment. We are undergoing a spiritual mutation of sorts. As we have entered the Aquarian age – there is a prediction that 1/3 of the world will commit suicide, 1/3 will go mad, and 1/3 will awaken. Earth IS shifting us vibrationally so that we do not kill her. Those of us who awaken will be the ones to survive. In order for our species to survive we need to function more from an empathetic state. This state is achieved through self-love, self-actualization, and service. It is no longer about status, but what we can give. We are no longer in the age where “me” and “how far I can get” is important. This is why we have a lot of people committing suicide in recent years, and why more and more people are turning to pharmaceuticals as they experience the intensity of this shift. Those of us who have stepped out of the illusion, who have experienced these gifts – it is from a place of love and service that we help our fellow beings. These gifts enable you to be of service from the shift of living from ego to living from spirit. The old way of living is done, if you’re reading these words – it’s over, that life, that you…gone. You can choose to delude yourself for some time, but know that the truth will never be dampened. You will always know and carry within you the truth of your spirit. You will face the dark and illuminate yourself. You will purge fears, egotistical chokeholds, and limitations. You will trip and fall many times, and then there will come a time where you do not trip so much. Where you live from the heart and can feel the world. Her rocks, her crevices, her breath, and her warnings. That time is now. Face your inner sun, and let it guide you. This is part of the shift from “me” to “we”. Every person is important. Every being is important. If you have this ability, you signed up for this role. Here are the beginning tools. They wouldn’t have been presented to you if some part of you was not looking for them. Grow, and expand. We need your love, we need your light, and we need you to be who you really are.

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“Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is from the Sahel region of Chad, where devastating droughts and floods are now the norm. As co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, Ibrahim works to contain the humanitarian and ecological fallout from the vanishing of Lake Chad, a lifeline for an estimated 30 million people in Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger. ‘If women come together, they can have more impact than any agreement, than any negotiations,’ says Ibrahim. ‘Because we know that the future — it’s coming from us.’”– From The Glowing Colours

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I’ve shared this quote before, but I think it’s never been more relevant than it is now, so here you go:

“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” – T. H. White

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After the Election: Buddhist Wisdom for Hope and Healing

Toward a Worldwide Culture of Love – by bell hooks

This is always the measure of mindful practice—whether we can create the conditions for love and peace in circumstances that are difficult, whether we can stop resisting and surrender, working with what we have, where we are.

Fundamentally, the practice of love begins with acceptance — the recognition that wherever we are is the appropriate place to practice, that the present moment is the appropriate time. But for so many of us our longing to love and be loved has always been about a time to come, a space in the future when it will just happen, when our hungry hearts will finally be fed, when we will find love.

– bell hooks

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Sojourner Truth – Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist

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We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump – by Sarah Kendzior

I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.
Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others.
Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children.
Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.
Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.
Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.
Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.

japanese-warrior-woman

And so we press on in an attempt to achieve presence, wanting to contain it in our simple hands, in the overcrowded gaze and in the speechless heart. We try to become present. And so, the pain.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

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Notes from the Resistance: A Column on Language and Power – Summer Brennan, In Defense of Linguistic Infrastructure

No one person can defend everything in America that will need defending in the age of Trump. What we must do, instead, is to find our particular hills to defend, and then to defend them as if our freedom depended on it. Even if these battles are lost, the very act of writing down the progression of that loss, as Winston did, is an act of resistance. The hijacking of public language, as is happening now, is a way to shift perception—to bend and control thought—and must be resisted.

I would like to invite readers to join me in doing this. Get a diary or journal and write down as many words as you can that relate to the things that you value. Fascism favors sameness; it represents a desertification of language and thinking. You can fight sameness with diversity. Inside this thought-desert, we must learn to be jungle oases. If you plan to defend nature, write down the names of birds and landscape as a start. Write phoebe, warbler, wren, heron, starling, swift, swallow. Write dale, dell, coppice, coomb, swale, swarth. Let your language soar and spread. Get closer and write root, leaf, stem, stamen, stigma, filament, sepal, pistil, petal. Write down how the world and words around you change.”

I wrote this the morning I discovered the election results, way out in the wilds of the Atlas Mountains:

This feels so goddamn heavy. It just really hit me, and waves of grief & hot tears. Last night I lay in bed fervently praying for a miracle – and instead a different truth came to me: I remembered that I am a healer, & that the world will need us all to remember our purposes, our reasons for being here – and wake up fully to offer our love and light and strength and fierceness and wisdom to the world. The artists, writers, musicians, warriors for good must rise up together and commit to our lives and our work, our joy and our communities. The time for complacency and distraction, for division and numbness is over. Feel your fear, honor your despair – but don’t let it win. Don’t let him win. He can’t have our hearts, our minds, our spirits. Stay strong, brothers and sisters. Let’s keep each other whole.

Norns of Winter – Solstice Wishes

by Angeliska on December 21, 2016

Last night was the longest and darkest night in 500 years, or so I was told… I was up late writing, and the moon shone bright over my backyard, illuminating the bare trees and dead leaves. Tonight I honor the completion of a vow of celibacy I made on the Summer Solstice – a promise to myself to reevaluate my relationship to love and sexuality. I learned a lot during this time, and grew so much. It was an amazing experience, and I recommend it to anyone needing to reconnect to their own Eros energy and reclaim that power. Perhaps I’ll write about it more at some point, but for now I just want to acknowledge that work and its completion. Full circle – promesa completa.

I woke this sunny, glorious Winter Solstice morning feeling hopeful and excited to honor this sacred holiday with ritual and an enormous bonfire! This feels like an important time to gather, to huddle close together. I want to honor the darkness within us and all around us. This moment, more than every before, we must learn how to not take for granted the luxuries of warmth, of light, of full bellies and friendships. I don’t believe that freedom should be a luxury – but it’s becoming apparent that the freedoms many of us have gotten used to enjoying may soon be infringed upon by more megalomaniacal madmen. People are feeling the darkness, feeling the fear. For centuries, this season was a season of death – where surviving another brutal winter was not a given – not assumed. We needed the brightness and the sweetness, the sparkle and the candles. We needed to be together and make magic so that we would not lose our hope. That is why this holiday is so important to me – and tonight more than ever. Acknowledge the dark, and its lessons. It’s time to wake up. The light is coming back. Find the tiny spark within you, and blow it into flame. Find it in the ones you love – don’t let each other’s sparks burn out. Keep the light in you blazing. Your fierce fire is needed now, more than ever. Share your light.

The Norns twist our fates, threads woven and stretched, combed and cut, twining in their long grey fingers. Trust the turnings, though they seem tangled and torn. Greater powers than we are at work. Wake up. Hold your hands around your heart like a candle. Protect your flame.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out last night to revel with us at A Midwinter Night's Dream - the 3rd Annual 12th Night Austin Parade + Costumed Ball! It was a truly spectacular evening, & I am so thrilled with the way everything came together. It
Here I am, dressed as Snow Queen–Ice Witch–Norn of Winter for last year’s Midwinter Night’s Dream – the 3rd Annual 12th Night Austin Parade + Costumed Ball.

Last year’s celebration was so magical… Sadly, we must take a break from making it all happen, but you can relive our dream of a winter’s night parade here:

12th Night Austin from Justin Wilson on Vimeo.

Major thanks to Justin Wilson of Leaders & Flares for this magical capture!

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The Norns: Urd, Verdandi and Skuld, 1930, by Charles E. Brock. Illustrations and Color Plates for The Heroes of Asgard by Annie and Eliza Keary

The origin of the name norn is uncertain, it may derive from a word meaning ‘to twine’ and which would refer to their twining the thread of fate. Bek-Pedersen suggests that the word norn has relation to the Swedish dialect word norna (nyrna), a verb that means ‘secretly communicate’. This relates to the perception of norns as shadowy, background figures who only really ever reveal their fateful secrets to men as their fates come to pass.

“Another old norse thing – especially of interest to those who like the Norns – is the concept of Nornegröt (“porridge of the norns”). It is a porridge given to the new mother right after her having a child and then as a sacrifice to the Norns. Usually three small sticks are placed upright in the porridge to represent the Norns. Once tasted it is placed under a tree as a sacrifice to the Goddesses. This could be an Ashen tree or an Elder tree. This is also known by other names such as Sarakkagröt and Barselgröt.

More about this custom can be found in Harald Grundströms article “Sarakkagröt – nornegröt – barselgröt – lystenbit” from 1956.” – from Trolldom & Hoodoo

norns01

Oh what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox. This is what is the matter with us, we are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table.‘ — D.H. Lawrence

norns - Gustav Adolf Mossa
Gustav Adolf Mossa

jean-franc%cc%a7ois-millet-nuit-etoilee-starry-night-c-1851
Jean-François Millet, Nuit Étoilée (Starry Night), c. 1851

Solstice Night
Solstice Night

To Winter

O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not they roofs
Nor bend they pillars with thine iron car.

He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not life mine eyes;
For he hath rear’d his scepter o’er the world.

Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.

He takes his seat upon the cliffs, the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch! that deal’st
With storms, till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driven yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.

– William Blake

Av Theodor Severin Kittelsen
Av Theodor Severin Kittelsen

frost mushrooms
“Crystal Palace by John Richter ”

Frost Flowers – It is as beautiful as it is rare. A frost flower is created on autumn or early winter mornings when ice in extremely thin layers is pushed out from the stems of plants or occasionally wood. This extrusion creates wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles giving this phenomenon both its name and its appearance…

Found on A Winter’s Tale: To wholly consort with mirth and with sport, to drive the cold winter away

holy tree
holy tree

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[BRING ME BACK A DOG // THE NORNS]
I’m not happy being a person, 3liza!! I wish my hands were paws, I wish I was a dog.
Problem Glyphs is a project by Eliza Gauger in which sigils are drawn in response to problems you send in. There are over 200 glyphs so far.

Four lessons of the winter season by Karen Clarke – from Beth Maiden’s Little Red Tarot

Trickster, woman, and the long dark
written by Sharon Blackie

The Lost Female Figures of Christmas – Part I

The Lost Female Figures of Christmas – Part II

How ‘hygge’ can help you get through winter
The vague cultural concept doesn’t translate easily into English, but it has helped Denmark become the ‘happiest country on Earth’ despite long, dark winters.

A Single Woman Is a Witch: Battling to Save the Art Environment of Mary Nohl

THE MONSTERS OF CHRISTMAS

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I wrote about Norne from Slumberhouse a few years back I know, but I’m still obsessed with it – and expecially love wearing it at this time of year. The descriptions and reviews just send me:

“Sunnesette claret embere stains the skie a lustre frigid blush, valel kidelene snowing stars to drope like feathers at a pineneedle floor; lofty wintrus seafrost aerate procede a causatume caesura of incandescence midnight mane, shone crilliant coruscate flitterous & blusterous frore gale of December’s lurid boreale breath[.]
[Notes:] fogcaked needle, lichen, fern, moss, hemlock, incense”

Slumberhouse Norne: Tolkien’s Forest from Kafkaesque


The Bridegroom of Snow: Ancient Carols and Folk-Song for an Albion Winter
By Michael Tanner

“For the Winter Solstice, Michael Tanner (Plinth, United Bible Studies, The A. Lords) has very kindly put together another fine Solstice Mix…
This is another collection of hymns, carols, folk standards and field-recordings from the past 800 years. Many of these artists carry over from the previous FRUK mix put together a few years back – which made me wonder why, despite several attempts, so few artists manage to evoke winter particularly well? In my opinion, these are the select few that stand up to scrutiny. Whether it’s the pointed, bird-like quality of Jean Ritchie’s bare-branch voice or the hollow, reverent filigree of Dolly Collins portative organ, something about their use of minimalism perfectly captures the stark landscape, stripped of colour and commotion. A place which, when fortified and protected, is not an unpleasant place to be.

Creative Costumes of Still-Practiced Pagan Rituals of Europe


Coil || A White Rainbow ( Winter Solstice :North )

My writings from Winter Solstices of yore:

SOLSTICE SISTERS

PERCHTA

POMEGRANATE STAR RITUAL FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE

COLD WINTER MOON, SOLSTICE BLUE

WINTER SOLSTICE – BRIGHT STARS + FIRELIGHT

WINTER SOLSTICE – BLOOD MOON

Winter Solstice – Messe de Minuit

Winter Solstice – Dark Season

Ô Saisons, ô Châteaux !

by Angeliska on November 5, 2016

Ô saisons ô châteaux, 

Quelle âme est sans défauts ?



Ô saisons, ô châteaux,

J’ai fait la magique étude

Du Bonheur, que nul n’élude.



Ô vive lui, chaque fois

Que chante son coq gaulois.



Mais ! je n’aurai plus d’envie,

Il s’est chargé de ma vie.



Ce Charme ! il prit âme et corps.

Et dispersa tous efforts.



Que comprendre à ma parole ?

Il fait qu’elle fuie et vole !



Ô saisons, ô châteaux !



Et, si le malheur m’entraîne,

Sa disgrâce m’est certaine.



Il faut que son dédain, las !

Me livre au plus prompt trépas !



- Ô Saisons, ô Châteaux !

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Well, they say in Texas that if you don’t like the weather – just wait around five minutes and it’ll change! Or was that Mark Twain about New England? Anyway, we’ve definitely adopted it as truth down here, and it just goes to show… Since my last post about it being so unseasonably damn hot and dry, a blessed cool front rolled in (finally!) and a raucous rainstorm soaked us good. The turning of seasons always feels poignant to me, and I seek to mark it, always coming to write here so as not to let it get away from me. And thus, this space has become a place where I remark upon the changing light and apologize to unknown readers for not writing more often, not posting any kind of regular updates about this and that in the way I used to. I don’t need to, in the way I once seemed to – or, I only need to sometimes. And this is one of those odd times – up late when I should be sleeping and enjoying a last night of rest in my sweet bed after hours of meticulous over packing. I fly to Morocco in the morning. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, international travel has felt dire to me. I didn’t realize it until the summer before last, when I flew to Colombia. It was the first time I’d left the country in ten years. The last time before that, I’d been a month in Serbia, Greece and Spain with my grandfather, and flew back two days before the storm hit. It didn’t occur to me until I was having a fairly severe panic attack en route to the airport to fly to Bogota, and took me a while to calm down and realize what it was all about. My body remembered, a glitch in my nervous system, telling me: “The last time I went far away like this, I came back and my life was irrevocably changed.” I was convinced on some deep level that it was the last time I would ever see my house, my dogs, my friends. Because that did happen once before. The last time.

I’ve been musing on the fact that not everyone obsesses about tying up loose ends before an international vacation. That they just excitedly get ready, and go – on a relaxing and enjoyable vacation. I’m trying to get my brain around that part, and it may catch up and hit me somewhere over the Atlantic tomorrow night that I’m about to have an enormous amount of fun, and be completely dazzled by the wonders of Marrakech and the bright stars above the Sahara. In the meantime, I’m mildly freaking out about the scores of emails I never wrote, thank you cards not sent, writing my will, kissing my dogs goodbye seventeen times (apiece), and you know – other important stuff like writing this. Why so dire? I have been reaching out to friends I haven’t talked to in a while, and feeling bad about the ones I haven’t made contact with yet. Because what if I die? What if that giant meteor everyone wants to vote for hits us and we all die? I know it’s not logical at all – that it’s my nervous system doing its weird PTSD thing, but it still seems very possible to me. I’ve been thinking about mortality a lot – in a good way, rather than in shitty morbid way (a la my teenage years). It’s part of why I jumped at the chance to go on this adventure to Morocco despite the fact that it’s financially a little terrifying for me right now. Because life is short, and what if this is my only chance to go? I don’t want to leave this earth having never seen Morocco. Not to mention that I get to go with a fantastic crew of my favorite folks, and celebrate my best friend’s birthday! What could be more amazing than that? I think the word for what I’m feeling is “anxietment”. It’s like excitement, but with anxiety added! I’m like a dog that loves to go places but feels worried about riding in the car. Kind of happy nervous panting. I’ve been reading Paul Bowles again before this trip (of course), and thinking about his wise words that I’m sure I’ve referenced here at least once or twice before. They’re so true, I don’t mind doing so again:

Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

and this too:

The only thing that makes life worth living is the possibility of experiencing now and then a perfect moment. And perhaps even more than that, it’s having the ability to recall such moments in their totality, to contemplate them like jewels.
― Paul Bowles, The Spider’s House

I’ve been focusing on that more and more – staying present for those miraculously perfect moments, and realizing that my life is wonderfully full of them! I am happier and more content than I have been in years – and it’s an amazing feeling. A hard earned place to arrive at, after a lot of really deep healing work, internal metamorphosis, and growth. I had to walk through a lot of darkness, loneliness, fear and fire to get here. I know how quickly it can all change, so I seek to savor it, to stay in this place of remembering how to connect to the source of my own joy as much as possible. I learned that when you protect yourself from pain, you also protect yourself from joy. So I get to see what’s possible when I open my heart completely to both. In some ways, even if I did die tomorrow (or the next day, or the next) I like to think that I’d die happy and content with the life I’ve lived. I several books in me it would severely pain me not to have gotten written. I want to be a published author. (Though, as of this year, I am! See below…) I have a lot of love I’d still like to share. So much more I want to learn in my time here, places I want to travel to, experiences I definitely want to see and feel and know. So I plan to stay alive, for a long, long time, actually. And to stay in this place of strange and surprising happiness as much as I possibly can. It is a choice, sometimes. To be responsible for your own happiness, and responsible for your own suffering (and therefore, not responsible for anyone else’s happiness, or anyone else’s suffering!) Pain is part of life. Not negotiable. It exists for a reason. Suffering is optional. I keep trying to remember that! In the meantime, I will recall and contemplate the bright autumn light, garlands of flowers made for summer queens, morning glories gloriously tangling up fences, all the wonders of my garden, all the love that surrounds me, all the joys I can choose to honor every day. I don’t think I really understood gratitude practice until this year. Not really. But I’m starting to – and it feels so good. I have so much that I am deeply grateful for. It’s really something.

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I found this creature on the ground at Barton Springs Pool. I feel like it looks like a goblin child’s toy, dropped as it ran to hide from prying human eyes…

I'd be mad at you for chomping my brugmansia, but you're just too cute... What winged thing will you become?

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I am so honored and thrilled to have two of my poems published in this amazing Folk Horror Revival’s incredible new anthology Corpse Roads. An epic collection of spellbinding poetry, focusing on folk horror, life, death and the eeriness of the landscape by many creative talents both living and departed. 100% of sales profits from this book are charitably donated to The Wildlife Trusts.

Happiness

O seasons, O castles,

What soul is blameless?

O seasons, O castles,
I pursued the magic lore
Of Happiness, which no one escapes.

Oh long live to it, every time 

That the Gallic cock crows.

But! I shall never want again,

It has taken charge of my life.

That Charm! it took hold of soul and body, 

And dissipated every effort.

What to understand about my words? 

It makes it flee and vanish into air!

O seasons, O castles!
And, if misfortune takes me away,

Its disgrace with me will be certain.

Its contempt will take me, alas!

To the quickest death!

– O seasons, O castles!


What soul is blameless?

From THE POEMS LOOKED AT: or, NOTES
“Happiness, By Arthur Rimbaud. 1958. It is good to have Rimbaud tell us that the going after happiness is as inevitable for a person as being affected by gravity is for a solid object. The light and the heavy are in seasons and castles, time and edifices. And Rimbaud tells us happiness is a magic study, but we have to give ourselves to it. — As a cock in France crows, you can hail energy in any living being concerned with happiness. Something in us can, irritatingly to self, use self-importance against happiness; but this is a burden. Self-importance can seem to be a charm, but it scatters the energy of self and body. — Again, we must put together the non-weighing seasons and the weighing castles — though both seasons and castles have shape of a kind. — When one definitely goes away from happiness — the hour of flight — death will be yielded to. — Therefore, again, O seasons — O time as visible; and O castles — O weight as white and distant.”

From Hail, American Development (Definition Press) 
© 1968 by Eli Siegel

Blue flowers are my favorite - so rare and magical.

Heavenly blue morning glories!

And here’s another little poem fragment I found somewhere that wants to be here too:

The Crypts
Here
in this church
put away
the girls sleep
lemon trees
the boys sleep
cypruses
the old men sleep
torn up by the roots
the women sleep
splintered doors
the children sleep
dried apples

Greek, anonymous, from “Selected Translations.”

Ciao for now, y’all. Thank you for reading.

Texas Holy Water

by Angeliska on November 3, 2016

Is it November, or is it still August? It’s hard to tell honestly – hard to say that Fall has come here, because the earth is cracked and the leaves are crisped, but not with winter’s chill. Sweat still trickles down my backbone, bristles my brow, taints my bangs into wet swirls pasted to my forehead. Our recent local Halloween parade was a sweltering procession in damp costumes, flags and banners hanging limply as we wound our way through dark streets and overgrown alleyways. No hint of crisp in the air, no wind, no shiver – except for the internal shudder that we’re setting new and terrible records for the hottest days in recorded memory. For years, the summer doldrums would often keep me from writing, being unwilling to sit with a hot and whirring computer perched on my lap. I would always rather be doing something else in summer, getting outside, swimming or running around with my dogs. Autumn feels like the perfect time to curl up cozy with a cup of tea and write. So, for many years in a row, I would find myself sharing something I had started writing in the hottest days of summer, but never got around to posting until fall. I would warranting this oversight with the fact that it still in fact, felt like summer. I remember writing that in September, maybe a couple times in October. But never in November – until now. It’s hot, y’all. Hot enough that I want to still go jump in the springs, dive in the river. It feels wrong, and weird, and maybe like it’s our new normal. We had such a rainy spring and summer, and were blessed with sweet water in the creeks (though many were cursed here in Texas with flooding and downed trees). I think about water all the time – my heart’s element, blessed restorer, healer, mother essence. It is such a sacred substance.

Cypress magic at Pedernales Falls.

Some nights I lay awake and can’t sleep, thinking about the countless factories churning out countless plastic doodads to be sold in countless stores only to then be discarded and tossed aside to join the flood of garbage that clogs our waterways, our oceans, the bellies of our sea animal friends. How can I even can them my friends, when I do so little to protect them? When I sip my iced coffee from a disposable straw, out of a plastic cup, purchase my countless seemingly needful items encased in cellophane wrappers. It is so hard to effect real, radical change as one person, and even then – what? What then? Some days it feels too late. I started writing this as a happy piece – about the blessing of clear, clean water we enjoy in nature here in Austin. I’ve been thinking about how much we take it for granted, assume it will always be there. Lately, I’ve been thinking about this when I shower or take a bath – what a miracle it is to have hot water to wash in, clean water to drink, water to flush the toilet, to wash my dirty clothes. What luxury we live in, and how little we realize it.

Every day, my news feed (on social media) is rife with stories and videos about the water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. I listen to the news nearly every day, and so rarely hear any stories on what is happening there. Mainstream media isn’t taking much action to report the violence being committed against peaceful protestors who are putting their bodies on the line to protect this precious resource that we all require for our survival. It is time to have awareness about out world, and the ways it is irrevocably changing. It is time to realize that mere awareness is not enough. How will you contribute to making changes for the better, to fighting the good fight, to walking a path that honors the life-blood of the Earth? How will I?

This message came to my inbox while I was writing this, from one of our beloved local community groups here in Austin. Here’s one very easy way to offer your assistance:

Austin Stands With Standing Rock

As you all know by now, the world is watching the events unfold at the Standing Rock camp in South Dakota. This past weekend, friends of this community were arrested for doing their part in protecting the water. Cars were impounded, lives are placed on hold.

The work the native peoples and their supporters are doing in opposition to this pipeline is not just about protecting their families and their water, they are standing up for all of us, for our water and in defense of our Mother Earth. They are bravely standing strong in the face of armed resistance, fast approaching inclement weather and the general hardships of maintaining camp out in the open, round the clock.

Bob is headed up this week to help where he can. We are asking you, the community, to contribute any financial support that you can, along with your prayers, in this time of need. Any funds that you may have to share will go a long way and will be deeply appreciated.

The supply drives have been a huge success (thank you!) and now, one of the best ways to help is to directly support those on the front lines by donating funds to post bail which is averaging over $1500 per person, as well as impounded vehicle fees and upcoming legal fees.

Please send any donations that you can contribute to the following PayPal address:

austin4standingrock@icloud.com

Bob will take the donations up with him and help those arrested this past weekend. Please help where you can… Even small contributions from everyone could really add up. If you do not have a PayPal account or would like to support another way, please respond to this message.

Thank you for your support, prayers & solidarity.

- Sanctuary Council”

My favorite summer moments have been spent in the company of these two magical beings, down by the water. At least once a week, we try to get our butts down to the greenbelt to savor the sacred springs! It's heaven. (Just don't dump your purse in it, like
My favorite summer moments were spent in the company of these two magical beings (my dear friend Allyson, and her dog Neville) down by the water. At least once a week, we try to get our butts down to the greenbelt to savor the sacred springs! It’s heaven.

So yes. I wrote this months ago, but want to share now, even though it feels odd to. It feels like a good time to acknowledge the magic and beauty of what we have – so that we might be even more inspired to advocate for it.

When August finally comes in Texas, it feels like hitting the final stretch of a marathon – we’re exhausted but determined, almost totally spent, but somehow with a gritting of teeth we push on, knowing that the end is in sight. If we can just make it through August, school will start and the populations of students and teachers start buzzing as they fill the hives again with their studious industry. September will arrive eventually and usually not really be any cooler, but there’s a sense of hope in the air, instead of the blatant desperation rising up from the baked earth, the pitiful trod upon greenery crisping brown at the edges, the trees aching for rain.

We had a very rainy spring here, so the greenbelt has had plentiful water nearly all summer. Last week, when a surprise thunderstorm or two rolled through, the whole city sighed with relief. Earlier that day, I had embraced my ailing and much beloved lacebark elm, asking it silently, “What do you need? What will make you better?” The answer came quickly, a ragged sigh that echoed in my bones: WATER! Please, please, water. I looked up at the bright blue sky through its browning leaves and tattered branches and wished hard. Two hours later, fat drops pelted my grateful face – even though no storms had been predicted hours before. Weather witch’s water wishes, and likely not just mine.

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I started waking up earlier this summer, trying to shift from my usual nocturnal ways because it’s cooler in the mornings, and you can get down to the water before everyone else and their dogs and their kids clutter the air with barking and laughter. I don’t mind them really, but one of my dogs (not mentioning any names, MOON) likes to bark even more raucously at other dogs and children, and it can be stressful. We try to go about once a week, if not more – but last week, almost no one was there. The water had receded and was murkier than it had been all summer. Fat dragonflies skated over the slow ripples, while huge black turkey buzzards soared over the bluffs. A heavy knotted rope hung listlessly from an oak branch, bereft of the elated bodies, full of bravado, that normally swung from it into the green deep.

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Moon learned to swim recently, something I wasn’t sure she’d ever be capable of, having only three legs. She’s a very determined girl, though – and she’d follow me anywhere. At the beginning of the summer, she just barked frantically when I swam more than a few feet away from her. Grrizelda isn’t a huge fan of swimming, but is also the most loyal of beasts, and so will paddle out to me with a concerned expression on her seal-like face pushing out of the water, making little squeaks and whimpers, her black clawed paws scrabbling at me. I took Moon out of the shallows one day, with my arms supporting her belly, guiding and gliding her through the deeper water – the way you teach a little kid to swim. She seemed confused and freaked out, so I didn’t push her too much – but the next time we went to the river, she surprised me by swimming right past and making out for the far shore. I had to swim after and spin her around – but she did great. Only one front leg to paddle with, but the kid’s a natural. Talk about determined.

Moon can swim! I'm so proud of my little three-legged doggie for taking to the water like a true mermaid this year. I wasn't sure she would ever be able to really manage it, but recently she surprised and delighted me by learning to dog paddle with only o
Look at her go! I’m so proud of my little three-legged doggie for taking to the water like a true mermaid this year. I wasn’t sure she would ever be able to really manage it, but she has truly surprised and delighted me by learning to dog paddle!

Happy birthday to my darling Fiona! This woman teaches me so much about joy and freedom every day. I'm so lucky to have her as a friend and sister!
My sweet friend Fiona and our pups glorying in the springs.

First swim of the summer (crazy...
Barton Springs bliss.

When the greenbelt’s full of water, which it thankfully has been all summer, I wonder why anyone complains about summer in Texas. Every time I’ve gone down there and jumped in, I’ve just been in awe of how beautiful it is, how lovely the cool currents feel on my legs, how gorgeous the sycamore leaves fluttering against the sky and the silvery rapids flowing over the rocks are. It’s free, and there are so many different points on the trails you can get to, so even when it feels crowded, there’s always enough water, always enough shade and sky for everyone to enjoy. I meet people all the time who never, ever venture down into that glory, and I remember being one of those people. What a fool I was! Even when the greenbelt dries up, there’s still Barton Springs – which feels like heaven on earth on a blazing day. It’s paradise there, truly – 68 degrees year round and my favorite shade of nearly black teal at its deepest point. I spend plenty of time during the hottest parts of the day hunkered down in my dim living room, ceiling fan spinning overhead, and the air conditioning blasting. But the water calls to me, beckons me to dip and swirl like a mermaid, cooling down the white hot core of me, so that even a heavy summer night with no breeze feels tolerable. The only way to survive the hot weather down here is to get in the water, as often as you can. People complain of Austin changing (and I used to be one of those people, constantly and vociferously – but that’s really another story), but I say that as long as there’s water in the springs, grackles in the pecan trees, and fireflies in the springtime, I’ll know I’m home. What would happen if that changed, too? Our planet is changing. Surely you feel it? How will we continue to see those changes manifest? How long, really, will we all be able to continue this way? I wonder every day. I want to do more than wonder.

August

No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still.

– Lizette Woodworth Reese, 1887

Back home, soaking up the water magic at Bull Creek today...