Tower Time, Document Two: Going to Ground

Tower Time, Document Two
Going to Ground

Early in the Gulf of Mexico oil well disaster–when it was apparent that the problem would not be solved quickly–a small group of women gathered in the small Temple. They brought rum and watermelon and the room soon filled with clouds of rich incense. Chants for Yemaya began softly, rattles were gently rattled. As the spirit of despair was tamped down and the strands of joy and connection wove themselves into the singing and the smoke, the chants grew stronger. The dancing which was little more than rhythmic stomping began. The Beloved Crone seemed to be speaking an unknown language, as water bottles were chugged and offerings were made to Ancestors and Deities. The woman nearest the altar–the one who had issued the invitation–muttered prayers and knelt on the floor, singing the holy names. As she had promised, she flung herself full-length in front of the wooden altar and begged the Sea Goddesses for mercy. The singing and chanting continued for some time, until the participants were dry and tired, eyes streaming tears of grief and too-much-smoke.

Sometimes when we pray, we forget that prayer is not simply sending our best intention into the Universe. For those of us who see the Ancestral Goddesses as non-corporeal beings who have some authority and ability in the world of the world, the prayers and the singing honor Beloved Ones who are near us, but are not us. The invocations in which we implore them to fix our lives or clean up our messes or show us a way through are requests and bargainings. We understand that we have a part in this relationship but we do not have control. We are not the boss. We are participants in an ancient cycle of creation and destruction and re-creation.
And sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer is–you got yourself into this and you and your people are going to have to fix what you broke, you are going to have to take personal responsibility and get yourselves out of it.

Our community is far away from the horror and ineptitude that was the Gulf disaster, high in the southern mountains. But we are none of us “away”, are we? We are all connected–physically, spiritually and electronically. We know that today’s oil slick is picked up by next month’s hurricane and deposited in our organic gardens, on our longed-for heirloom tomatoes.

We work ourselves into a frenzy of grief and guilt and spiritual activity. We open ourselves to the sorrow and anger, and filter it as best we can. We meet for coffee, and walks, and we talk for hours on the phone. Gentling the community in its outrage, cushioning it from outright despair. We are blown about by the winds and waves of all that assails us and sometimes the only place to go for succor, for comfort is away from the computer and the phone and the endless cups of coffee. To the garden, to the woods, to the earth.

There’s an evocative expression that has become a keystone for my work in the community of late. The phrase “going to ground” has taken on new significance as we stand in this challenging Tower Time. To “go to ground” is to run pell-mell back to the den or burrow, to find someplace safe to hide. To make a run for it. Foxes do it. Rabbits do it.

Since the earthquakes that ripped through Haiti in 2010, there has been a series of human-made and natural disasters that have been unremitting in their intensity and we have been subsumed in the wake of them.

How many times have I forgotten–forgotten!–the people of Nashville, TN who were inundated literally with the rising waters of the Cumberland. There have been storms and volcanoes, floods and bombers. One after another, a laundry list of devastation that can barely be acknowledged, much less comprehended.

In my community work, in my social networking, in counseling seekers with Mother Grove congregants, I have been calling the times in which we move Tower Time. I imagine that the vast foundations are cracking and we are in the top of the Tower, where we must leap outward or be crushed with the weight of this six thousand year old system in its death throes.

Tower Time–we must engage or perish, We cannot remain untouched, uninvolved because it does involve us. All of us. But the overwhelming-ness of it–how do we find the wings to fly from the Tower? How do we glide away from the mess and the pain and not look back to those falling faster and faster?
We don’t. We can’t. It is not in our nature. And so we bear the wounds and we keep on, even as we feel the spiritual life-blood leaking out, only to be replaced by ennui and despair. In our circles, we call for “grounding” : we speak the words of guided meditations in which roots grow from our feet and sink, gratefully, into the Earth.

Grounding. Going to ground.

We are furry mammals, warm animals, wounded animals. We have tried to think ourselves out of this mess. We’ve tried to ritualize ourselves out of this mess. But you know what a wounded animal does. A rabbit or groundhog or badger? They go to ground and lick their wounds. They hide in their burrow, in the very womb of the Earth and they take time to heal and regroup.

I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand, that we run away from our spiritual responsibilities. I’m advising that when the going gets too much for you to bear, you remember that you are a warm animal and you have a special option because of that. You can go to your burrow to recuperate and lick your wounds. Then you can return to your community renewed as the clever and powerful badger that you are.

Finally, here’s my advice to a friend who was feeling ungrounded, displaced, abandoned by Goddess and community. I offer it here for you, with a few additions and points of clarification, if you have need of grounding. Here is a too-brief check-list of possibilities, if you are finding yourself in the midst of the falling Tower, unable to do more than gasp as the earth rises to meet you.

–Have you set an energy trap?
–Have you set wards? Are your shields up? If you can’t do that, let your community know and they will shield you until you can.
–How is your altar?
–Go out to your land and ask for help. Invoke your Ancestors and the land spirits. Take an offering. Bring some of the dirt in with you. Put it in your pockets, on your altar.
–Brick dust at the secondary entrances to the house–windows, back door, crawl space door. Not a line, just a drop.
–White dust at the front door–can even be baking soda. Salt works, too.
–Light a rue candle, if you have one.
–Spend time outside, sitting on the dear old Earth.

The best advice I have is “go to ground”. Earth everywhere. Dirt, dirt. Then evaluate and see where you are.

Go to ground, sisters. Earth everywhere.

It’s Tower Time.

Tower Time Document One– A Knowing, Cassandra-like

Prologue
This may seem like a bit of an anti-climax after all these years of warnings and thoughts and predictions about this Tower Time business. I’ve decided to create thematic documents, so I can add information as it comes up or as experiences should be recorded. I hope these are helpful to you as we navigate the times that are our times. So please consider this a first edition.

Tower Time Document One
A Knowing, Cassandra-like

I feel I owe you all a slightly more thorough explanation of “Tower Time,” a phrase I have been using somewhat cavalierly for a decade or more and one which I find myself using with increasing frequency.

I don’t remember precisely when it began, this quiet knowing that has grown, for me, into a certainty. It began with a pinch of insight, a glint of what was happening globally reflected in local events. It was more than a lack of harmony, of simple chaotic modern life—this feeling hinted at larger activity, a shift in the zeitgeist, a disturbance in the Force.

This early knowing pointed obliquely to the old dream of every old feminist—the Collapse of the Patriarchy ™. Since our fiercer days in the long-ago 1970s, many of us have modified our speech—often because people refuse to understand that Patriarchy ™ is a system or a set of systems and is not merely angry women being mad at and blaming men. We now talk about Hierarchical, Top-Down Systems—HT-DS, for those of you who must have an acronym for everything—and that’s the language I will use here. But for those of you who still call the Patriarchy ™ by its oldest name, you may translate HT-DS to “Patriarchy” and you will be accurate.

Tower Time is named for the card in the Tarot deck, of course, specifically the Smith-Waite deck (which is the one I’ve been reading for more than thirty years). The Tower is one of the more direct cards in any reading and it lends itself to these times.

We—you and you and me—are living in a time of dramatic transition. The West is transitioning from the Age of Fossil Fuels, not gracefully, I might add. We as a planet are experiencing the most recent in a series of mass extinctions. We have moved into a post-Industrial Age—what the brilliant John Michael Greer calls “the deindustrial world”—where we collectively have lost the willingness to grow our own food and not piss in our water source. Whether or not you believe that the climate is changing globally through human agency is completely immaterial to me but I believe it is occurring and we lack the political will and the political power to override the interests of business and industry (and, let’s face it, the dominant culture) to mitigate that in any way.
The clear knowing that I felt has grown more insistent in the intervening years. It is this: we are living in times when these massive, ancient and toxic systems, that have both created civilization as we know it and doomed it, are crashing under their own weight of history and grief. It is the death throes of patriarchy that we are experiencing and it will die as it has lived—in violence and oppression and injustice and death.

I did mention that this may be difficult to absorb, didn’t I? Many people nod and express their own sense of the rightness of this information. Others refuse to believe it, pointing—quite accurately—to the many instances in history where a group of loonies has believed it is the end of the world. I won’t engage in argument with you or read long reports that have come from dubious media or academic sources. This is intuitive—that is the very nature of a knowing. You are free to believe or not, as befits your sense of the current time and your knowledge of history and as that sense dictates.

Here’s a thing I do know. This is the time we were made for and one of the reasons we’re here. Tower Time.

Religion as empire, state as empire, education as empire, healing as empire—all are recalibrating in their individual descents. Each of us is in our personal place as the Tower erupts and crumbles. Some of us stand on the top, blissfully unaware that anything long-term is occurring below our feet. Some are trapped amongst the turrets, calculating a way off. Some have flown away and are gone to wherever and whatever comes after this life, after Matter has become Spirit. There are rock-climbers who are testing hand- and foot-holds as they work their way down the walls to perceived safety. Some are among the rocks at the base and some are out of sight, gone on to do the new work.

Because there is new work and it is past time to engage in it. Our work during the collapse is to not stop there, gawking at the impending calamity. We are charged—and many people are deep into this work—with creating new systems, systems that are genuinely cooperative, nurturing, sustainable and of greatest importance, resilient. There are groups that are forming in some areas to learn new/old skills, to get going with the new times. But they often bog down in meeting after meeting, talking through modes of governance, of how to hold a meeting without Roberts Rules. Remind them that time’s a-wasting and that talk can happen while food is being planted or tended or preserved. Decisions can be made while looping rugs and milking goats. If your group is dreaming big dreams but spending most of their time arguing protocol, you made need a new group. Because it is happening now. There isn’t some future Big Event that is looming on the horizon that marks the Beginning. It’s here.

As I sat with other gardeners around a fire a few weeks ago, I realized something it–if you have been waiting for the other “shoe” to fall, for the crap to hit the fan, you can stop waiting. It’s here, friends. Time’s up. We are in it–whatever it is. Continue gathering your allies, holding those you love close, planning, working, playing and thinking. But make no mistake, it’s here. Tower Time. Put on your game face and keep your courage up. These are the times we were made for.

Per ardua ad terra!

Garden as Metaphor, Gardener as Priestess

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Working in the gardens I tend is excellent exercise, provides healthy fresh food and affords me more opportunities to touch the sacred soil. I came away this morning from a general clean-out of beds in the Summer garden and was a sweaty, stinky mess. The wheel barrow was filled to overflowing with leggy catnip and run-away blackberry canes. A blighted Early Girl tomato went into a bag–because of the blight, she can’t be composted with everything else.

(And as I type this, I’m realizing there’s a mound of green bean plants on the back stoop. I was supposed to pull the last of the beans before they go into the compost. With any luck, the possums and raccoons will be otherwise engaged and I can do that in the morning.)

Last night, the women who tend the Women’s Garden did some planning and dreaming while sitting around the brazier in the Crone’s Courtyard. We laughed and ranted and could almost taste next year’s crops, wondering how we can get the excess out to people in our community who need fresh food.

For years now, I have written and talked about Tower Time. I have this deep knowing that we are living through momentous times, times in which we are experiencing the collapse of ancient systems that have plagued humans and the Earth for far too long. Tower Time is hard and complex and, frankly, a little scary. We have been talking for some time about this as a Coming Attraction.

As I gazed into last night’s fire, I had another knowing. It’s here. The other shoe has fallen. The shit has hit the fan. The Abrahamic god, who has been a cipher for so long, has vanished from the firmament. At last. At last.

The hard work today–in the temple of my garden–was as sacred as setting the altars at Mother Grove. Pitchfork in hand and wheel barrow at the ready–no less the act of a priestess than lighting the incense and replacing the used tealights. My robe is grubby too big pants and filthy garden clogs. My priestess crown a blue handkerchief drenched in my sweat. My holy book is the rich soil. My choir that neighbors’ laying hens.

When we see it all as sacred, we all are the clergy who tend it. When we love it as the Divine, we will be willing to fight for it. In the face of idiotic politicians and greedy investors, we know the worth of this thing we love, that we honor, that we worship.

Take your ordination in the rains from heaven and the winds of change that have gathered around us. Let it come, this new world. As I have written before–these are the times we are made for.

Fear not.

Making Merry

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The whole world seems so sour and fraught these days. I have spent many good long hours in one or the other of the gardens I tend, weeding and harvesting. The dirt always seems to be a good tonic for the blues.

Well, that, and wine.

August has come in with good grace this year–gentle skies and soft weather but with a cool nip to the morning air that speaks of the autumn that is ready to unpack its bags at the door. Even as I pick the heavy ripe tomatoes from the Early Girl plant that is taller than I, the pang of their loss is lurking around the corner. I have eaten tomatoes every day for a week and breakfast has been buttery-crisp fried eggs on a base of sliced tomatoes several mornings this week.

It’s time to plan the fall and winter garden but I’m not quite ready yet. I did put in some late-ish beans and cucumbers but the lettuces and other greens that will fare well enough over the winter must wait a few more weeks for their planting.

It is my responsibility to create this month’s Full Moon ritual at Mother Grove and I will honor this queer feeling of grief with an altar to Melancholia and a chance for my community to sit in a place of quiet and healing, if only for an hour or so.

Triumph!

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(I haven’t made a picture of today’s lush harvest–please imagine the fat red globes with the bright eye of your imagination.)

There is nothing in the whole of the wide world as delicious and magical as the first tomato of the summer growing season. And when I write “tomato” you need to know that I refer to full-sized ones, not salad toms or tommy-toes. Blessed Juliette has already given us some of her sweet fruit and the little golden tomatoes at the women’s garden are gleeful in the amount of their fruiting.

I was cleaning up 1/4 bushel of apples–readying them for the freezer and from there to the cider press–when I thought I’d check the summer garden to see if the cucumbers and beans had sprouted after our recent days of rain. (The cukes have, the beans have not.) And what to my wondering eyes should appear but an apronful of warm Black Cherry salad tomatoes and the first of the Early Girls.

Most people who love tomatoes have their own opinion about what constitutes perfect ripeness–I am no exception. The Early Girls are exactly the right combination of redness and firmness.

And tomorrow I will eat them with some rough sea salt, and a side of sliced cucumbers.

Blessed be the First Fruits of the season.

A Longing for Frogs

I attended a week-long festival last month, in Illinois. My housing was in a big yurt, with a clear dome at the peak. It was set amongst a ring of middle-aged oak trees near a small pond. Every night, I fell asleep to distant drumming from the fire circle and the loud chorus of frogs from the pond.

I didn’t know I was missing them, to be honest. Somehw I’d forgotten the spring peepers and the tree frogs and their wild mad trillings. Gone from my recollection were the warty and wonderful toads who lived in sideways terracotta flower pots. There were box turtles then, too, that required a springtime turtle patrol willing to slam on the brakes and press the button for the four-way flashers, leap from the car and move the slowpoke to the verge.

Frogs and turtles were so present, so plentiful that they were the backdrop of summers past.

Those profundo frogs in the pond took me back in time and place and my heart constricted to remember. I haven’t stopped for a turtle in years, haven’t sat in a rusty metal chair in the evening, watching lightning bugs, listening to tree frogs.

We’ve done this, this lessening of the natural world. We humans are responsible for these quiet summer nights, this uninterrupted travel.

Last night, I sat in a folding chair and watched the lightning bugs in their giddy blinking. There was a train whistle, music and laughter from the neighbors’ house, traffic noises from the bridge. No peepers, no profundos. Only a desperate silence that provoked such longing, such dreams of summers passed.

Waiting for Rain

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Where I come from bones are not dry. Bits of flesh cling to them, torn by hungry teeth. Bones are greasy, tasty, marrowful. They pile up in the center of the table in a big cracked bowl and the sturdy ones–the steak and pork chop bones–go to the always-hungry patient dogs.

The bones are slick with fat, proud armatures of Southern cuisine. But the land under my feet today was sharp in its dryness, the grass honey-colored and brittle. The gardens are watered nearly every evening but the grass must wait for the absent rain.

When the rain barrels are full, my watering can is generous to a fault, even the undying perennial herbs–the catnip, the sweet woodruff, the mountain mint–get a splash before the mulch goes around.

One rain barrel–a catchment one, not a storage one–is all but empty, holding its wide mouth wide in expectation of largesse from the roof. The blue storage barrels, sealed and cool, are being tapped now to keep the cucumbers growing, to sprout the new beans.

The weather spirits have teased us for a week now, darkening, setting thunder punching through the old sky, making promises they don’t keep. On the radio, we hear cheerful voices foretell sunny warm days, perfect weather.

Perfection would be three days of a slow-soaking rain, of carrying my crippled umbrella wherever I’m bound, just-in-case. Perfection would be full barrels blue and grey, and a week of not carrying cans of water to the peppers and tomatoes.

We wait and water, water and wait.