an awesome endeavor, taking more than 5 years to make in locations all over the world.
today is february second, what in contemporary culture is called ground hog’s day. there will be various ‘soft news’ stories wherein some famous mammal will be showcased and paraded around as either having seen or not seen its shadow; the augury that will portend if the weather will be starting to get more mild or have another six weeks of cold.
in catholic culture, this is st. brigitmas, who ever the hell she was, but her name means bright and so it ties in well with the more ancient meaning of the day.
today is february 2nd, one of the high holy days on pagan or wiccan wheel of the year. it is the half-way mark between winter solstice and spring equinox. it is imbolc, which loosely translated means ‘in the purse, or bag’. on this day, the seeds in the ground begin to stir, the light of day tends ever to be reborn becoming brighter until one day, at the vernal equinox, it equals then night. and then begins to out-shine it.
the four corners of the year that are most celebrated as just what they are, the solstices and equinox times are now the official markers of the beginnings of their respective seasons. but the four points between these have all been either turned into commercialised representations or been outright appropriated by the catholic church.
there’s a reason for especially the latter; the early agricultural communities and the traditions which they incorporated were constantly at odds with the mandates of the roman catholic church. these ‘heathens’ (which by the way means dwellers in the heath) were not wont to forget about the traditions that so well served them. they could accommodate a male god, their religion already had a dying and reviving god after all, who was celebrated at lughnasad. as well as a male god and co-creator with the divine goddess whose union and fecundity thereof brought all things to life. the celebration of this ‘hot couple’ was physically represented by the beltane fires and the may pole erected on the first of may.
we lose much when we are divorced from nature, as the modern world seems to make necessary. but we lose even more when we dilute the traditions that could serve to keep us joined to the natural world. those traditions rooted in a common past and simpler times are complex in their understanding of the connectedness of all things. those practices, celebrations and ceremonies that both symbolise the turning of the wheel and remind us of our place upon it.
today is february 2nd. on this day, called imbolc, we celebrated the life stirring beneath the ground and the light wakening the world to life. in the past a ‘wise woman’ or priestess if you will, would read the auguries, which in some european traditions included haruspicy (google it) a practice by which the entrails of an animal, often a sacrificial animal, were ‘read’. when the wise woman caught the ground hog, which given his usual residence was the perfect animal, she would cut him open and determine by the amount of fatty tissue whether or not the warm weather could be expected soon. this knowledge would help the early agricultural community determine when to plant.
so modern culture has kept at least one remnant of the ancient tradition, augury by groundhog.
and catholic tradition has at least ascribed the day an appropriately named saint. altho i don’t know her specific story even tho i grew up catholic.
but what’s been lost?
the true meaning behind the traditions that marked these pagan (which means dweller in the countryside) high holy days were powerful, and beneficial not only as symbols, but as reminders of the sacred, as ways for the human world to interact and join in with the rest of the natural world in its rhythm of life. instead these days we water down these symbols, turning them into commercialised media events or relegating them to some special saint’s day on a religious calendar
today is february 2nd, and i for one will mark the day with more traditional ceremonies. ones that enrich my understanding of life, and remind me to join the earth in her sacred turns.
having grown up in colder climes of northern minnesota, from time to time i feel a bit displaced…usually in winter. this is because my childhood during the long months of cold, was filled with sledding, skating, snowball fights, snow forts, snow angles, cross-country skiing, and more and more snow!
these are found memories for me. being the eldest among 7 children in a small house, once the snowplows had left behind massive mountains of snow on the curbside, an immediate remedy for having some time and space alone was afforded me. i’d rush to shovel the front sidewalk, then dig into the four to five foot snowbanks. a snow fort was a necessity for me!
after hollowing one out, i’d harden it inside and out by pouring water on it, which in the extreme sub-zero temps of the season turned into an armor of ice. an old piece of rug or towel was then brought out for a floor. and there it was! my castle of solitude.
of course, here in the deep south along the gulf coast of florida, no such opportunity avails. but this morning i was treated to another of my favourite things about winter…also an exceedingly rare occurance here: sublimation.
sublimation is a physical change in the property of matter, in which matter goes from solid to gas, bypassing the intervening state of being fluid. it is really quite magickal when you pause to think on it, and for a poet like my self, it proves as easy metaphor to describe all sort and manner of transcendent experience.
for example, sublimation can allude to physical love which becomes transcendant, and ethereal. it can describe enlightenment, whereby the physical world is seen for what it truly is, a vapour. it can even serve as a kinder reference for the process we call death. you can probably come up with many more examples of this, especially if you’ve ever witnessed the event.
so imagine my sense of anticipation when upon awakening this morning, before sunrise, while still the waning moon’s beams danced upon rooftops thickly glazed with frost! the prospect for sublimation was made even more probable due to the warming trend forecast for today.
i was not to be disappointed. as the sun climbed higher into the crisp blue skies, its golden touch upon the crystalline deposits on rooftop and lawn, transformed solid ice into gaseous vapor, right before my eyes! like a flash-flood, every allusion, analogy, and metaphor that this vision has ever birthed in my thought-stream filled my mind!
who cares that the sub-zero (celsius) temperature would delay my daily sauna? never mind that i’ll have to wear my winter gear just to step outside briefly…after all, such opportunity for reflection, daunting any mundane perceptions of life, overwhelming them with the glare of its beauty, with the genius of its allegory…well, its not every day one feels privvy to the mind of god!
today is the famous end of the mayan long count calendar…the end of the world of the 4th sun, and a new beginning.
oh, and solstice too!
ziona and i decided to forego the trappings of the christian takeover of this season. it seemed a rather mature decision on her part. i was fully ready to drag out the old creche, the fake tree and all the ornaments. but recently we have been studying and comparing various cultures, past and present, to learn how people in different times and places celebrated life and the seasons.
both zee and i relate far more with the ‘earth religions’ of various world cultures. she is especially drawn to the european ‘wiccan’ traditions. so this year, we celebrated halloween as samhain, the beginning of the new year, and reclaimed solstice from the corporate spend-gasm of capitalism’s version of christmas.
we made a beautiful altar on a table. it was composed of a ring (wreath) of fir branches, around which we placed four candles, one in the position of each of the cardinal directions. in the center of the wreath, we placed a basket of living sage, and some seeds we hope to plant in the spring. the whole altar represents the circle of the year through the seasons.
no gaudi tree, no flickering lights except for the stars…no massive heap of gift wrapped presents…just the gift that life is.
for the three days during which the ‘sun stands still’ we will clean the house, gathering things to give away to a place in town which distributes all manner of things to people whose income level won’t even tolerate a trip to the local “goodwill store”. we will prepare for the ‘return of the sun’, by clearing a space in our lives and letting go of things from the past.
it has been an awesome thing! to step outside of the usual horrid display of mass consumerism and truly seek the meaning we would impose upon our life.
after the three days of solstice are complete, we will celebrate the sun’s return with feasting at my mom’s home for what she celebrates as ‘christmas eve’. we will, of course, not be empty-handed. we will come bearing gifts and a few food dishes for the table. and upon returning home we’ll light the first candle in our special spiral candle-holder, which holds eight tea-light mini candles…one for every week until imbolc, the next important holy day of the ‘earth-religion’ circle of the the year.
oh yeah, imbolc was also taken over by the christian and corporate entities. others know it as groundhog day or st. brigit’s day.
so, just thought i’d share this alternative way to mark time.
i always say “the meaning of life is to give your life meaning”
and if that’s true, fulfillment lies in the midst.
a few nights ago, by borrowed tradition, people all over america celebrated an ancient holy-day…and got to dress up as whatsoever they desired, more or less. houses in the neighborhood announced their receptivity to night callers with jack-o-lanterns and other spooky things.
our house is always the loudest and scariest on the block. both ziona and i are a bit dark and very creative, so it only stands to reason that this would be our special time of year.
it is a time of year for masks and makeup, make-believe and for some of us catching up with our inner child. for ziona, it is a time when being transgender is trumped by being otherworldly! at one point, before being allowed to live as the girl she is (my bad), she always dressed up as a girl ‘something’. whether a girl witch, a girl faerie, or something other. but the moment she was acknowledged as a girl, by myself and everyone else, the costumes became reflective of a deeper part of her being, and demonstrative of the well of creativity from which she draws.
this year she was an argonian mage. argonians are a race of reptilian creatures in her favorite role-playing video game, ‘skyrim’. they come in two genders, like most rpg’s and of course she always chooses the female mode. still we often talk about how it would be nice if they had more than just two genders from which to choose. her beautiful mind was the first to suggest this. don’t know that i would’ve come up with it.
this train of thought seemed to arise, initially, after a discussion she was having with me about what is an androgyne. it is a word she had heard me use to describe how i am quite a bit different from ‘other girls’ in that i don’t acknowledge a set of behaviours that define feminine people or masculine people. as i was explaining to her the etymology of the word, it occurred to me that even using that term seems to affirm prejudicial ideas and ascribed gender roles. so i mentioned to her that there are life forms that don’t have gender at all, or have both. like flowers.
so she posited that there are already more than two genders of humans…not only male and female…there are transgender people. and to that i added “and gender non-specific” , then had to define non-specific.
i love being a mom. especially being the mother of a young person as incredibly interesting, creative and intelligent as is ziona. she teaches me so much, just by being her pure and curiosity-ridden self! she has been responsible for a great many experiences i’ve had in this, my later life, just by her own desire to do things. like fly in a small two-engine plane, take a helicopter ride over a live volcano, stay in a treehouse in the jungles of belize.
we talk alot about earth religion people, wiccans, native peoples of this hemisphere. so this halloween she asked me why it is celebrated. she had heard it referred to as ‘the day of the dead’. and when i told her about ‘dia de la muerte’ and how it is celebrated in mexico, her curiosity piqued she required a history of the tradition of celebrating the day.
i told her about the shift to agriculture from hunter-gatherer 12 to 25 thousand years ago, and how the wheel of the year with the solstices and equinoxes were important. that the eight corners of the year included four holy-days between these major four and that the one between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice was considered the beginning of a new year by many ancient people. we talked about harvest time and gathering in for the long winter months.
by the time we were done she had one request.
“can we make roasted pumpkin seeds and a pie out of the jack-o-lantern this year?”
she didn’t want to waste a thing after our little historical journey. she wanted to have a real hallowed eve, not the commercialised version. (altho we did go trick or treating) it was a great thing to realise what she had taken away from our talk. that her curiosity had led her to a deeper understanding as to the importance of resources.
so i spent the day after halloween rendering the huge jack-o-lantern into pumpkin for pies and soup, roasting the seeds in the oven and introduced her to sabbath cakes…lovely oat and honey treats with a history especially for european wiccans. with my lovely daughter by my side, we veered into an earth honoring celebration of the time of year.
honestly, sometimes her curiosity wears me out!
my beautiful daughter and i love all things ‘nature’ and natural. she insists i don’t mow the back lawn too often, (and since it is privacy fenced in the neighbors don’t mind.) she goes out in the backyard, building lizard habitats of the branches i hew from the constantly expanding southern oak. she finds new wildflowers, (most folk call them weeds,) and gifts me with them. she calls for me to identify a new bug she’s found. we study it, note its color, size etc. then get out our insect manual to find out its name.
two days ago, while clearing out some debris to truck off to the dump, i found a praying mantis. when i brought it in to show ziona, the creature leapt onto a ruellia plant that graces our screened-in porch, and despite attempts to re-capture it in order to release it into the yard, it evaded our well-intentioned fingers.
since it has taken up residence we have had to capture bugs for its dinners, and it has already shed a skin, leaving the empty and brittle shell of its former self clinging to the screen, while looking fresh and bright green in its new skin, grooming itself about a foot away.
of course, my poet’s mind couldn’t resist pondering the obvious metaphor presented by the scene. the nonchallant manner of ‘moving on’, leaving the past in the past, abandoning the confining shell of a former self to become new.
i thought of ziona. how she longs to leave the ‘male-ness’ of her body behind. in some ways she will undergo much more of a metamorphosis someday, akin to that of the moth and butterfly. still the metaphor fits, precisely because she is rapidly outgrowing the ‘indeterminate’ gender neutral phase of childhood and entering into the time where the body begins to ‘declare’ itself.
how frustrating, how tortuous this shell must seem to her, the one that constrains her blossoming into the girl she is. how anxious she must be to struggle free of that and leave it behind, and move on.
tomorrow ziona has an appointment with a pediatric urologist to determine what must be done about her undescended testes (i maintain that they were trying to migrate up and become ovaries)surgery of some kind will be necessary. the usual thing is do surgical procedure to remove them from the canals then insert them into the scrotal sac. that is not something i will allow! already have support in place from a wpath boardmember psychotherapist, and a legal rights organisation just in case things go bad.
my mind goes back to the praying mantis…imagine trying to keep it from leaving behind it’s out-dated exo-skeleton. surgery to descend testicles in an affirmed female transgender child would be a bit like brushing shellac on the outside of the mantis. it would be absolutely unnatural!
for ziona, there is only one way to address the issue of the undescended testes. remove them! it’s only natural after all. and in her mind, girls don’t have them.
i was sitting outside just now, after an hour long sit in my far infra-red personal sauna, followed by a brisk cold shower. suddenly a beautiful cardinal dropped onto the freshly mown lawn right in front of me! for anyone who has never seen this bird, they are the most drastic hue of red, a delightful sight, and often one only catches the merest glimpse of them as they fly between the branches of trees.
i was leaving my brother a message on his voice mail, begging him to come and be my computer whisperer again as my wireless printer, copier, scanner has decided not to do the latter, when this scarlet apparition landed nearly five feet from where i sat, and began punching its beak into the ground in search of insects for dinner i imagine.
i thought back to my post of earlier in the day, of the lizards that attempt to melt into the background, changing hue like a model between strolls down the catwalk. i thought to myself, ‘what a lovely contrast!’
here was a creature, granted with fewer predators than the lizard, blatantly contrasting with everything else in its surroundings. not attempting to blend in as he went about his necessary business, allowing only a cursory glance between pecks as he stood out like a blood stain on a white carpet.
i thought back on one of the comments left on my previous post, i thought about how trying to hide or blend in requires little of the glamour that this little creature displayed. i thought about how special people, like my daughter, and to a much lesser degree, myself, are the color in an otherwise monochromatic scene. even tho the green of the lawn is lovely, it was even more green once graced with the presence of the crimson visitor! like my rose bush when that first bud opens.
and i thought, it is okay to know about how to keep safe in the face of predators, like the lizard…but it is glorious to know how to grace the world with the special color one can bestow upon it. in blatant contrast.
there are only a couple of weeks before my daughter and i
leave for the genderspectrum.org family conference.
as usual, we will use the occasion of a trip to california
as our ‘vacation’ and camp out along the way.
zeeona is a girl after my own heart! as at home in nature as in her own room, she loves long nature walks. recently, she has even been allowed to be ‘fire tender’ in preparation for our outdoor meals and roasted marshmallow dessert.
in my mind i’ve already packed her favorite dresses and some
dvd’s to watch in the tent at night. likewise, i have packed
the car with gear and dog kennel mentally so that come the
day to really pack, all i have to do is follow through.
the route will take us through many of the country’s
disaster afflicted areas. by sheerest coincidence, we will
drive through tuscaloosa, joplin missouri, and the flooded
plains of nebraska, all of which should provide us no end of learning moments as regards the effect of climate change on our world.
but as much as i am usually ‘in the moment’ for such
journeys, i can’t quite help fast-forwarding to the event.
and zeeona seems as excited as am i to meet other families
and children like herself.
while for her part it will be mostly a social event, i hope to educate my self on a host of necessary technical issues.
like, what is the soonest according to california’s law we
can have the proper gender change made to her birth
certificate, and what is involved?
or how do we go about getting the testosterone blockers and
and, this last is of great importance to zeeona, when is the
earliest she can have the gender reassignment surgery that
will fulfill her dream of no longer having things on her
body that pertain to ‘boy’?
where is the best place to go for this surgery? some of my
adult friends have gone out of country for the procedure.
thailand, canada, the netherlands.
since we homeschool, there are few of the issues that so
many families need to address. but we do travel, and her
passport doesn’t reflect who she is. how easy will it be to
alter this document in these days of homeland security?
this is our first year attending the conference, so neither
of us know exactly what to expect and both of us have our
own particular hopes and expectations of the event.
altho a tendency under these auspices to fast-forward will
no doubt tattoo the fabric of this year’s cross-country road
trip, i know that between the two of us, with nature
surrounding us, and the moon shining down upon our tent, we
will be sufficiently blissed out by the moments along the
way to ensure that the destination is still only the
smallest part of the journey.
life, after all, is like a grand journey. the destination is death toward which we all are headed. but along the way, life is only just many ‘nows’ for us to inhabit and enjoy on our way to beyond the beyond.
so, here’s to the moment! and it’s nows!
this year i planted a grapevine in the garden in front
of my house. my porch has a small railing with almost a
fence. watching the little plant grow and wind itself
along this has been filling me with insights not pertaining
to grapevines at all
i’ve been thinking about how like our children this vine is.
how it supports itself on nearby things, even the most
meager structure. how it sends forth branches that feel
their way to find places and means to hold up the new growth. how little is necessary outside itself, save the necessities of light and water, to encourage its coming to be.
vastly different from the prim and crucified vines of the
napa and sonoma vineyards, this little creature winding its
leaves and vines onto my porch is wild and full of potential
since no one is bending it to a purpose outside its own.
society often acts more like a vineyard than a garden in
this respect. in a vineyard, thousands of little crosses
stand row upon row preparing to receive the plants then bind
them to its purpose. and the same is true of society, and
the dominant paradigm.
many parents play into the vineyard mentality as well. not
allowing their children to simply “come to be”. instead
imposing ‘therefores’ and purposes beyond the needs of the
child, which, as with the grapevine, are relatively few.
outside of the necessities of food, shelter and such, they
require some support from those nearest them. but in order
for them to grow into their own they should never be bound
to a cross, then trimmed and pruned to purposes not their
own. because if allowed, like the grapevine, they will send
forth tendrils and branches, and find places to anchor
themselves to their world.
some parents, like the keepers of vineyards, have expect-
ations of a certain fruit in a specific quantity. so they
bend and bind the little vines in their care.
i believe that as a parent it is not my job to decide upon
the purpose of my daughter’s life. her purpose in life and
the fruit she will bear must in the end be her own. after
all, this isn’t grapes we’re talking about.
but to provide only the basics of of food, shelter and such
would be a mistake. to act as that ‘nearby support’ requires
something more. it often means being there to allow their
various branches to find anchorage in their world. and from time to time, helping a tendril to find the porch, or
doing a bit of bug control. (smile)
my daughter is one of those for whom society’s vineyard
just wont do. from the moment the doctor declared, “it’s a
boy” the reality of the vineyard has been at odds with the
reality of her being.
it is wonderful to see her,like the grapevine on the front porch, growing free of the restrictions of the vineyard!
it would be better still to see society
act less like a production oriented people factory and more like a nurturing wild garden.
i’m not exactly an avid conspiracy theorist.
but i’m also not exactly stupid
for the entirety of the fifty five years i’ve been alive
in all the different places i’ve lived and traveled to
and as much as i’ve always been ‘plugged in’ shall we say
to news from a variety of sources
i don’t remember yet a time, when in my own experience
or in anecdotes related by another
it has been a common occurrance for birds to simply
fall out of the sky ‘en masse’.
so it seems to me that the media is pissin’ on my leg
and sayin’ it’s rain
when they try to convince me that birds
are suddenly frightened to death by fireworks, or lightning
or are lately flying into semi-trucks in whole flocks
of hundreds at a time.
that such occurances as are happening
world wide are a ‘common’ phenomenon.
certainly i’ve heard of the intermittent and often seasonal ‘fish kills’,
due, by the way, to farmland run off of toxic chemicals…
and the occasional dolphin or whale ‘beaching’.
but for the media and the scientific community that feed them
to insist that this isn’t a case of the proverbial
‘canary in a coal mine’
is just plain insulting!
how dumb are we supposed to be?