Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Nov. 30

"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December." --
James M. Barrie

"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. " -- Ruth Stout

"Winter came down to our home one night, quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow, and we, we were children once again." -- Bill Morgan, Jr.

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home." -- Edith Sitwell

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Nov. 23

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." -- Meister Eckhart

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow." -- Edward Sandford Martin

"Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings." -- J. Robert Moskin

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Writing Our Way Home blog: The River: Jan 2012

I just heard about this from another blogging friend, and I think I may need to participate. If you're a writer of ANY kind (poetry, prose, fiction, articles, whatever) then take a peek.

Writing Our Way Home blog: The River: Jan 2012:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Interfaith service in Westford MA

This is a beautiful story of success. My own church does something similar a couple of times a year, getting together with Catholic, Baptist, and Fundamentalist traditions to share in thanks. What a wonderful interfaith vision of growth!

Interfaith service, Nov. 23, in Westford - Westford, MA - Westford Eagle:

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Nov. 16

"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air." -- Eric Sloane

"If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It's a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it's time to reflect on what's come before." -- Mitchell Burgess, Northern Exposure

"Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits." -- Samuel Butler

Quotations

I've always enjoyed reading quotations. Their pithy statements make me think about my life and how I relate to the world around me. At one time, I had some 500 quotes loaded into my email reader, a random one of which would be posted at the bottom of each reply I sent out. In a way, it was almost a kind of divination; I was always astonished at what quote would turn up at the end of which message.

This morning, I was checking my blogroll and You, Me & Religion had this quote to share:
You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down. -- Mary Pickford
This one comes under the "oh so true" category. I have fallen down the last few days, as I suffer from a sinus headache. My household chores have languished as I have managed to do just the bare minimum to stay ahead of Mount Washmore in the laundry room. Yet today, I can get a fresh start. I'm not back to 100%, but I can stand up and do a little more today than I did yesterday. That's what counts! It's not failure because I'm not staying down. Thank you Mary Pickford!

Due to my propensity for quotes, I have decided to create a weekly "Wordy Wednesday" posting. It will be a short quote, sometimes with commentary and sometimes without, depending on my level of busyness. I hope you enjoy the quotes as much as I do!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Giving Thanks for Holy Days

How it should have been.
There are several warm and fuzzy stories about "the first Thanksgiving" out there. In public school in Ontario, Canada, I was taught that some settlers ("the Pilgrims") were starving to death at Plymouth Rock, and the local Natives took pity on them and brought in food. Thereafter, the Pilgrims celebrated a day of giving thanks, remembering that wonderful year they were saved by their peaceful Native neighbors. There's another myth, this one taught to me in America, of the poor, savage "Indians" who had no idea how to care for themselves, and how the smart, civilized Pilgrims and other European settlers saved them from their ignorance and heathenry, and fed them. This became the first Thanksgiving.

Neither of these stories is true. The facts are largely lost to time, but there is a lot of complex (and often horrific) history. The Natives of that area were enslaved by Europeans, and many were wiped out by smallpox and other European diseases brought over by settlers and slavers. There were war-like Natives who wanted nothing more than the ultimate death of the white devils who were stealing their land. There were innocents in both camps, and guilty sinners as well. I have no idea who shot the first arrow or bullet, and I don't think it matters in the grand scheme of things, to be honest. If you want a fairly decent (though I've no idea how accurate) version, you can find it here.

Horn of Plenty
We can't change the past. We shouldn't go back and re-write it (although people try, and that's why there are many myths). What we CAN do is make the giving of thanks (both at this time of the year and other times!) something that means much today. After all, we can't really touch any other day. Today is all we have.

We're hearing so much about protests and brutality, hoarding and looting, rape and burglary and other crimes, that it's often hard to think about what we're thankful for. That is the answer to all of it, though. We need to pause, daily, and remember that we're alive, and that (at the very least) is something to be thankful for.

The Horn of Plenty (pictured above) is a widely recognized symbol of Thanksgiving in most of North America. A wicker or woven horn is filled with the bounty of the autumn harvest, overflowing with winter squash, apples and pears, grain, nuts, and berries. It's a representation of the plenty that we live with every day. The poorest in America is still much more well off than most people in other countries, and many times moreso when considering countries like Africa or parts of Asia. The poverty level, per the International Banks, is considered about $1.25 per day in most of the world... and $10 per day in America. That says something right there.

Of course, their $1.25 goes much farther than it would in America, but the idea is there. It might be embarrassing to get food stamps, or to have to go to a food back (lord knows I've done it myself), and applying for Welfare is one of the most humiliating procedures know to man. But we HAVE food banks and stamps and welfare and other social structures in place to help out. Most communities in our country have a place for homeless to stay on cold nights, a place for those without jobs or money to get some food... It might not be as much as we WANT or even as much as we think our poor DESERVE, but it's there. The alternatives in other countries is often simply to beg or starve to death.

When I think about the "average" person in America (and most of North America in fact), I think of someone living pay check to pay check, barely making ends meet, struggling to put food on the table, worried about losing the lousy job they currently have. There are some better off, and some much worse off, but I see that as the average. I'm probably wrong on a statistical level, but for right now, the image works. I've been that average person for most of my life.

Despite being a person struggling to make a living wage, I've always managed to have food on my table. At Thanksgiving, I have always opened my doors. People show up, and it becomes a Stone Soup moment. Everyone brings something, and I manage to paste it together into a feast to celebrate what we're truly thankful for. And that, I believe, is the true meaning of this time of year.

It's not about serving enough food to kill a cow. It's not about how many plastic decorations you can paste to your wall. It's not about the size of the tree you may be putting up on the weekend after Thanksgiving. It's certainly not about glutting yourself with pre-fabricated food and drink that contains dubious ingredients and known carcinogens.

It's about love. It's about sharing. I don't have enough, and you don't have enough, and we're both hungry, but by pooling our resources we can make things a little bit better. By working together instead of against one another, we have the chance to have real things to be thankful for!

That's something our government can't supply, no matter how many free turkeys they give out at food banks. That's something you get only by creating community. I say creating specifically, because I don't mean the physical neighborhood you live in. That's not real community; it's just a place, a location. Real community is built with bridges of love, with garlands of hugs, with wreaths of helping hands. Your community knows you, and your community knows what you lack... and what you have excess of. In community, we can create Stone Soup, a lasting and share-able moment of thanks.

Rockwell's vision
In the spirit of the "occupy" movement, I suggest that this autumn/winter season, you Occupy Home. Don't buy that expensive CD of music - make your own (sing, play an instrument, use the radio)! Don't buy a cake or pie, but take the time to create something at home (even if you have to cheat and use a package, but TRY). Buy local if you buy at all, and know that you're helping out the community which you are a part of. Make gifts for your family and friends, with whatever talents you have. They don't have to be elaborate. Your mom loved it when you brought home fingerpaint artwork from grade school, and I guarantee she will still love it if you take the time to make something similar now, as an adult. What we are gifting is not the material item. Anyone can get or give money, after all, even if some of us have less of it than others. Only YOU can give the gift of yourself, though. And that's the most precious gift of all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Turning of the Seasons


Wiccans see Samhain (pronounced "sah win") as the end of the year, a time between the worlds. Many indigenous religions believe that autumn (especially the time bridging autumn and winter) is a time of closing, of shutting down, of hibernation. It isn't difficult to see why. All around us, things are ending. The trees lose their leaves, grass dies back, cold weather comes knocking, and sometimes the snow comes to visit us a little early.  These are signs of the winding down of the living seasons, and the entrance before you is that of the time of sleeping, the season of rest, of introspection.

My pagan and Wiccan roots show most around this time of year, I think. In Christianity, there just isn't much going on right now. The pagan faiths (Hellenism, Heathenism, Religio Romano, Wicca, and hundreds of others) are more aligned with the seasons as they change, and so this is a sacred time. We see the remnants of those pagan traditions all around us. Those pumpkins are "new world" adaptations of the turnips and gourds carved by our European ancestors to scare off spirits who were known to wander the vicinity around October's end. Black cats and witches, goblins and ghouls, and of course our vampires and zombies all are representations of things from long past. The act of dressing up and trick or treating itself comes from ancient British practices of children wandering from door to door threatening a trick if they didn't get a treat, itself borrowed from even older practices of worrying that any knock at the door might be a dead ancestor come back to haunt you... or worse.

Too often today, though, we're removed from this changing of the seasons. Our homes are magically heated, and stay 70F all year round. Our cars, too, shield us from the chilly autumn temperatures. We eat foods that arrive from far off places that are definitely not ones we could eat locally (strawberries in autumn should be a treat, not a staple!). We've learned to hate our carbs without educating ourselves about the good ones versus the bad ones, and in doing so have thrown out the whole grains and oats that would traditionally nourish us in these cold winter months. We don't interact with the land outside our sealed picture windows. We don't taste the crisp air, smell fresh apples on the breeze, or crunch leaves under our feet. If we have to shovel snow, we often do it with electric or gas-driven devices that remove us from the very experiences we might gain from.

Here in our house, the general temperature is set to 60F when we're up and about. It's chilly, yes, but not inappropriate. We can wear sweaters, drink coffee and tea and hot chocolate, and get up off our lazy duffs and DO something if we're cold. At night it goes down to 55F, because we have warm blankets and one another to keep warm. It's an interesting experience. It's a wonderful experience.

As you celebrate whatever autumn festivals you do, take time to think about those who have passed on. Raise a drink to them, or better yet offer them a plate of food and a glass of milk on the front doorstep, something our ancestors did as much out of habit as out of fear. Go outside and interact with nature. Collect leaves and press them, or color them with your children. Shovel some snow by hand, if you're physically capable, or play in it for a few minutes if you're not. Put your thermostat down and save both money and peace of mind. Cook a stew and bake a loaf of bread!

However and whatever you celebrate, just be sure to celebrate. Happy Samhain, and have a blessed autumn season.