Baby Stepping Back into Permaculture

yard
Before. Door on right, forest on left.

Unbelievably, it’s been a year since I returned from Earth Activist Training, permaculture design certificate in hand and permaculture pipe dreams in my heart. Until last month, I lived in a second-floor apartment in a sea of concrete, where my only permaculture outlets were a few containers on a balcony and a sparsely-populated worm bin in my kitchen. I didn’t even have a yard – it was all pavers behind the house, with unruly and unwanted plants growing between them, which I was supposed to have pulled out per my landlord’s request. Now I’m in a forest with some patches of Earth that could possibly hold a garden, most of which will be eaten by deer, if history is any indication of the future.

Today I spent a blissful morning mowing the lawn here; the forest encroaches fast in the heat and regular soaking rain we’ve been getting lately. I finished the backyard, the side of the house that is mostly gravel until the forest begins a yard from my front door, and a bit along the path from the street to the house. The battery-operated weedwacker ran out of juice before I could finish, and there’s a glorious meadow of lady’s thumb, burdock, and knee-high grass with a gently winding path cut through on the other side of the house. Baby steps.

I also took a step into a realm of gardening which I am completely unfamiliar with, and started building a shade garden next to my front door where invasive weeds had taken over. My hands ache from pulling vines from the trees and the ground. The cardboard I’d saved from the Ikea futon we got last month is pressed over the area, with rotting logs holding it down. The cardboard will melt into the ground over time, and keep the weeds from returning while the new plants take hold.

Tomorrow I’ll put down a layer of compost over the cardboard, bags that had been abandoned by the landlord and are in various stages of disintegration. On top of that will go a thick layer of cedar mulch. If I had access to a woodchipper, I could certainly have made many times more mulch from the wood around the edge of the forest closest to the house. Instead I went to Valley View Farms and bought the mulch and an assortment of shade-loving, hopefully deer-resistant plants: mints and lemon balm, a rainbow of coleus, and patchouli.

After I put down the compost and the mulch, I’ll lay out the plants where they go and one by one I will make an opening in the mulch and cut an X in the cardboard underneath. I will plant them all in the mulch over the cardboard and then water them.

I’m writing this all here now, both so I can share how easy this is and so I will remember how easy this is when I’m in the moment. Sometimes overthinking happens and easy things become confusing. Last year at Earth Activist Training I was taught and shown many things that seemed easy at the time but now seem much more difficult and some things that now seem impossible.

No photos yet, since it’s dark outside, but the coleus is a delicious deep red that will be beautiful against the white wall, cedar mulch, and light green herbs.

Next I’ll make one of those compost bins out of pallets. I wonder where I can get a truckload of manure?

Baby steps.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

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I’ve been having these experiences more often lately, wherein I meet a new person and a dance ensues: a hint dropped here, a symbol flashed there, and then suddenly a confession. “I really want to become a witch!” one new friend exclaimed during a conversation about gardening and foraging. “I thought I was the only one who thought that way!” a friend at work declared during a conversation about agnosticism, polytheism, and nature worship. “I am really inspired by this book about witches…” another friend, an artist and musician who makes her own tarot cards.

It’s been a long, long time (almost 19 years, to be precise) since I picked up that copy of Living Wicca that started me down the path to where I am now. It’s been a long time of hiding, coming out, hiding, coming out. Every new person is a question mark. What I’ve seen over the years is a thrilling trend of the question mark being answered with increasing frequency by an exclamation point, an emphatic, enthusiastic exclamation point. A sense of relief, and of joyful connection.

I’m also seeing a troubling trend of online “temples” that charge up to hundreds of dollars a month for access to “secret sisterhood”. I’m not talking about actual online schools that offer real classes on occult subjects. I’m talking about taking advantage of people who feel spiritually disconnected and unsure. It’s troubling because a sisterhood-relationship cannot be commodified. But in absence of other people available to form real-life relationships, a person can hardly be blamed for turning to what is available online, for a fee.

So the conclusion I’ve reached is both simple and extremely complex: the world is calling us, witches, priest/esses, seekers, magic people, out of hiding. To display our beautiful variety of magics whenever and however it is safe to do so. To create an environment of cooperative, supportive exploration and experimentation, ecstatic play and radical connection. To be allowed to be our weird and wonderful selves. To step into the power that is rightfully ours, and to empower those who have forgotten their worth and their abilities.

The world is daring us to be open, to grab hold of the wheel and turn that baby until we reach a place where the vulnerable have no reason to be afraid, to where the resources are shared equally, to where the planet is being cared for and allowed to heal. Let’s shake this snowglobe and magic ourselves into position so when the flakes settle, we are all right where we want to be, right where the world needs us to be.

Exploring Death and Rebirth with the Tarot

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Next weekend, Baltimore Reclaiming will celebrate Beltane, the fullness of life, by honoring Death, its sacred release, and the movement to rebirth. The Ritual Planning Cell has prepared a ritual to hold and share grief, let go of what is lost, and transform the energy of mourning into the will to take up the living work of liberation. To use a gardening metaphor, we will use the compost of that which has passed to nourish the seeds of healing and justice for the future.

Working with death and grief can be difficult, so preparing for this ritual may take a bit more compassion and time to reflect on what is lost and needs to be mourned, released, and transformed. For some, there is an immediate acknowledgement of what this is: an environmental or political cause, a social justice issue, or even a personal matter like a relationship, addiction, or way of being in the world. For others, some gentle exploration is needed. This post offers a tool for that.

Tonight/early tomorrow is the full moon in Scorpio. Scorpio, who shines the brightest light into the deepest darkness. Scorpio, knower of secrets. Scorpio, who represents all that we fear and obsess about. The sign of Scorpio is traditionally associated with the Death card in the tarot, and the cards offer clear assistance during the full moon.

This reading is adapted from a spread that appears in the Death card chapter in Rachel Pollack’s Tarot Wisdom. It’s a great book with in-depth exploration of each of the cards from a number of different angles – I highly recommend it!

The reading asks the following questions.

  1. What needs to die?
  2. How can I let it go?
  3. What needs to live?
  4. How can I bring it to life?
  5. What is the midwife psychopomp? (the guide or helper with this process)

In the past I have used this reading when the Moon was in Scorpio with (sometimes uncomfortably) clear results. I suggest, if you already know the answers to “what needs to die” or “what needs to live” for yourself, to look though the deck and choose a card that represents the energy of that thing rather than pulling cards blindly. The cards are a tool, after all, not for confusion but for clarity.

The world cries out for healing, and dares us to change  – how will we respond? I look forward to finding out next weekend.

On the Day I Dared to Love Myself

crocusfield

On the day I dared to love myself,

I rose early, with the sun

Said my prayers

Fed the birds

Had eggs and coffee and a shower

And sang in the growing light.

On the day I dared to love myself,

I wore a blue dress that showed the fullness of my body

My legs bare against the warmth of the early spring sunshine

A yellow sweater soft and light as air

And flowers dangling from my ears.

My lover tried to persuade me back to bed.

When I walked, a man across the street stared as I approached and his eyes burned with longing.

On the day I dared to love myself,

I gave myself to my work.

I honored every part of every task I performed as an extension of myself and

I found the beauty in my purpose.

On the day I dared to love myself,

I walked two miles out of my way to a field of blooming crocus

Stood in the shade as cars whizzed past and

I basked in the glory of a million soft purple petals opening fully to the early spring sunshine.

On the day I dared to love myself,

I returned home with sun-reddened cheeks and full of blossoms dancing

Let out the dogs

Lit candles on the altars

Made soup and poetry and magic as the sun descended and remembered this:

A friend told me last week that she sees in me a crocus, blooming,

And I found,

On the day I dared to love myself,

That I could see it, too.

 

crocus

In Between

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On this in-between day, exactly centered with Winter Solstice on one side and Spring Equinox on the other, I want to honor all of the moments between the seed of possibility and the moment when the vision becomes physical reality.

Sometimes in between the work of priestessing a community, I forget there are seeds of magic being sown, waiting to sprout at unpredictable and uncontrollable moments.  While I’m distracted, figuring out the practicalities and steeping myself in the theme of the rituals over time so that I am prepared when the moment arises, the magic is happening. The transformation may be catalyzed in sacred space, but the effects ripple out until everyday life is vibrating with the new energy. I look up from the altar and am surprised sometimes at what I see manifesting. I think it’s because the very act of circling in community feels like magic in and of itself that I just forget that there is an outcome to the work, one that is tangible and visible and life-changing.

It feels right now like I’m in the middle of one of those moments where the magic is manifesting and catching me a bit off-guard, joyfully so. After a couple of years spent dismantling the structures of what used to be my life and fumbling around trying to figure out “what’s next?”, I had come to terms with the idea that there is no “next”, only a “now”…. but recently I’m starting to see growth that really energizes and excites me: a new occupation, supporting a group of people working to heal my community; a new direction on my spiritual path and new understanding of my relationship with the Gods; a new daily and weekly routine.

This feels like the beginning of a new chapter. I’m excited to be here, and a little bit exhausted. January was a lot of work, real actual dishes-washing, dog-shit-picking-up, clock-punching work – which is why there was no writing – and it was also a lot of Goddess visiting me in dreams, crossing major thresholds, and being surrounded by amazing sacred community.

I’m looking forward to some time spent settling in to this new normal and seeing what comes after this in-between time. And more writing, of course.

 

 

In With the New: Word of the Year 2016

Visualization and meditation are usually the first tools recommended to new witches, and with good reason: our attention is a powerful tool for manifestation. When I learned about Christine Kane’s Word of the Year sometime before the end of 2014, I wondered what would happen if I built an entire year’s worth of focus and magic around a single word instead of creating a standard to-do list of resolutions. So, in 2015 I chose the word vitality, and here is a short list of what happened: I did a year-long gardening project around it, enrolled in Christine’s Uplevel course, got sober, made some brave choices in exploring relationship, started this blog, worked to support social justice activism in Baltimore, attended Earth Activist Training with Starhawk, attended two Reclaiming workshops and one spiritual retreat, planned a dozen rituals, got published in the Gods & Radicals print journal, took over schedule coordination for my coven, had many amazing times with friends and family, and learned to bake bread. As my friend Heather would say, “SHAZAM”!

Last year was one thing after another, and I leave 2015 with many seeds for the future waiting to be sorted and planted. I’m working now in a  focused way on not letting myself get away with myself. My word of the year reflects this: sovereignty.

queen

This isn’t some princess fantasy about being royalty; my people are peasants going back to the homeland, where ever that was. This is sovereignty as the power that comes intimate relationship with the Divine, the Goddess-granted gift of self-rule, of protection and challenge and victory over that which threatens to topple. It’s about inner strength and steadiness, courage and daring and self-possession. It’s not a passive thing where someone dies and oh, now I’m in charge. This is something to work for, to fight for, to fight to become, this sovereignty.

And yet, it’s also a gift. I didn’t set out to make 2016 the year of sovereignty. I had been thinking of “transformation” as my word of the year (confession: I started settling up on 2015 and getting ready for 2016 a bit before Yule.)… then I had a dream last week in which the Goddess – I’m still not sure which one – came to me and and threw me down and told me in no uncertain terms that it is time for me to claim my power. That unearthly voice roared a single word in a tenor that touched to my very core: sovereignty.

In practical terms, this means I am looking at my goals, what I am called to be and what I need to do to achieve them, and I am making myself actually do those things. I am looking for solutions. I am asking for what I need in direct language. I am forthcoming with my loved ones about how I feel about them, showing up to help them, reaching out to show them that they matter to me. I am paying attention to my spiritual longings and the subconscious messages I give and receive. I am doing the work. I am getting behind the wheel. In short, I am putting on my big-girl panties this year. I have spent way too much time on auto-pilot. I am back in control and ready for takeoff. Seatbelts fastened.

This is not to say I will not be having fun. Or being silly, or having down time or taking a rest. I will still eat candy and leave dirty socks on the floor and cackle with my friends and wander through life amazed. But I will do all of these things, and more, while wearing my crown.

Another yearly practice I like, which I learned about in Mary Greer‘s Tarot for Yourself, uses simple math and the major arcana of the tarot: the card of the year. My card this year is 7 Chariot, which matches the energy of my word of the year very well: mastery, control, victory, and “harnessing all my forces toward my purpose and controlling my fears.”

From where I sit, there is much to look forward to this year. But, if last year is any indication, it’s the things I can’t see yet that will be the most powerful and life-changing.

Cheers to 2016

nye

 

Here’s to taking chances, making changes, and inviting in new opportunities.

Here’s to bonfires and labyrinths and friends who become family.

Here’s to having enough food, enough love, enough rest, and the knowing that who we are is enough.

Here’s to being perfectly imperfect, and to loving the lessons.

Here’s to the green Earth, to the growing community of those who love and protect Her.

Here’s to the Gods and the shadows, to those departed and those waiting to be born.

Here’s to rituals and magic, to poetry and bread, to clarity and grounding.

Here’s to the impermanence and everlastingness of it all.