The Horn of Plenty

I have always loved those woven horns of plenty that are–or at least used to be–a big part of Thanksgiving and harvest decorations. I have several of them in various sizes and have used them in several interesting ways. Years ago, I designed and directed a production of “Beowulf” (yes, that Beowulf) and we needed a bunch of drinking horns. I couldn’t find anything that approximated what I needed (and was affordable), so I covered small cornucopias with felt and the actors used those, pretending to drink their strong drink. And a few years before that, I was a Garden Gnome for a Hallowe’en party and a covered cornucopia made a wicked gnome hat. But I digress…

The symbolism is powerful–both for its shape (horn, crescent) and for the notion that an inanimate object can bestow on us all that we need to sustain our bellies. Do you recall those films of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” where the Ghost of Christmas Present appears riding a cornucopia?

Brilliant.

And how about the objects in stories that are magically enhanced to grind out food and drink?  “Why the Sea is Salt” is a classic one, but most modern moms will also be familiar with Strega Nona’s pasta pot. Sure, it’s a wonderful skill to be able to spin straw into gold, Rumpelstiltskin–but a little grinder that will feed my family and my whole village–that has a real value in my thrifty peasant mind.

Was that the true delight of a cornucopia–to feed poor people who worked hard in order to have any food at all? In these hard times, folks dream of winning the lottery or the PowerBall or even Publishers Clearinghouse. I wonder how much more useful it would be to simply have all the food you need, without having to prepare the soil, sow the seed, tend the crop, harvest and then preserve it? What if you could go to a horn of plenty and simply take out of it what you want to make for supper? Would we appreciate that gift or would we come to take it for granted in the end–growing lazy and indolent without the deep connection to the source of that which sustains our bodies?

I think I  answered my own rhetorical questions, didn’t I?

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Water, Dust and Gaia

I tormented myself last night by watching two documentaries back to back. One was about the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. To hear the pitch of their voices as the people recalled the power of the water and wind was shocking. They weren’t ready in any sense for the extreme nature of…well, of Nature. Several of them recalled previous warnings that amounted to little more than a heavy rain and scattered power outages. So many people thought they could withstand it, could hole-up and make it through. And they were terribly wrong.

The second documentary–and I am watching the second part of it now–was the latest Burns’ documentary on the Dust Bowl. A series of disastrous decisions and actions led to an enormous catastrophe for the land and the people. I recalled our recent drought-filled years and the drought that still plagues Texas and other places.

Flood and fire, wind and human greed and stupidity. Evidence shows us that we humans don’t learn lessons easily and the lessons of the Dust Bowl years should be reviewed every few years so that we don’t forget and don’t assume that we have the technology or the wisdom to never face that again.

To never inflict that again upon the rich and giving soil of our land–can we manage it? Can we engage in action that preserves the very land that sustains us? I have my doubts, friends. I do not live in the oasis of much hope.

And then today a friend wished my a Happy ThanksGaia and I found a genuine smile lurking around the corners of my mouth. Thanks to the land that supplies all we need, in spite of our neglect and abuse and disconnection.

Happy ThanksGaia to all of you. May we all remember well.

A Day in the Garden

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Earlier this year, I became one of the people who took on the task of tending the Women’s Garden at Herland, on behalf of Mother Grove.  The house and garden belong to our community’s Beloved Crone and we like to spend time with her.  Our book group–the Lerner Book Tribe–meets there once a week.

It’s a big garden and we have big plans for it. But big plans in a garden require lots of time and lots of people-power.  The weeding got away from us this growing season but we did manage to harvest cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, herbs, green beans and some squash.

We are very blessed this fall to have the help of a group of college students who are taking a women’s studies class.  The class walks over one afternoon a month and they work really hard.  There are about 16 of them, and their professor, and it is my challenge to keep them busy for almost 2 hours.

Last time, they weeded all the weed-filled beds and then we ate pizza and talked about the Divine Feminine.  Today, they set to leaf raking and we cleaned the planting beds and got them ready for the winter-over planting that will happen sometime in the next week. We worked for almost two hours and then we ate soup and discussed the Gaia hypothesis.

We are creating a women’s center as we weave community and it probably needs more volunteers and more in-depth attention. But for now, I am filled with gratitude for these hard-working students and their teacher.  And for a beautiful cool-but-not-cold day in which to make one more step in the right direction.

Now I am planning an orchard, some solar panels, a small wind turbine. But I need another and regular small army, like the one today. An army of happy and hard-working gardeners.  That’s the sort of army I can definitely support.

Belatedly Veterans’ Day

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

We’re so far removed from World War I now that we don’t have a visceral sense of the modernity of that war, of the shock and devastation left in the wake of Armistice Day.

Let me be very clear–war is a horrible thing and, as a student of history, it is rarely necessary. But war is a force that gives us meaning, as Chris Hedges suggests in his book of the same title. The great epic literature of our collective culture–from Gilgamesh through the Greek tragedians, from Shakespeare to Miller–have sought war as a cauldron from which emerges our truest nature as humans.

We all loved MASH, though we hated the Korean “conflict” that was its theme. Here in the South, we still know the names from the War of Northern Aggression–Bull Run, Gettysburg, Antietam–and Faulkner reminded us that, in the South, (and I suspect throughout the human condition) the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.

Part of our fascination, rightly so, is with our warriors–the citizens who are brave enough and dedicated enough to go to foreign places and face death. For us. For our country. For our dream of what America can be.

We didn’t treat them right after (and during) Viet Nam and we learned that bitter lesson. We are so careful now to parse our anti-war-talk–to remind ourselves and our fellow citizens that we may be against whatever conflict is looming in our cultural lives but we are proud of our soldiers. We love them, we are proud of them, we honor what they are doing for us.

So, here on Veterans Day, I want to acknowledge my love for the Veterans in my life–my dad and grandfathers, my Ancestor who was in the Confederate army, my old lost friends Arloa, Jackie Hilton. Hard as hell, the adventures of a lifetime, life-changing, horrific, enlightening, magical. War. Peace. Service. Sacrifice.

It is the stuff of legend, of religion. The foundation of our collective cultural life.

The best and only thing I can say is this:

Thanks.

Marigolds For Everyone!

Good heavens.  Humans will argue about anything, won’t we?

Over on the BookFace, there is a tempest in a teacup about the Day of the Dead. Thanks to an influx of immigrants across the southern US border, Dias de los Muertos has become very popular in fairly mainstream American culture.  We all love sugar skulls and Ancestor altars, and those cool dancing and dressed-up skeletons are too much fun.

It isn’t so much cultural appropriation as it is falling in love with someone else’s holiday–like Gentiles who can’t resist Passover or Jews who put up a tree in December.

But there’s a backlash now explaining that the Day of the Dead celebration is not the same as Hallowe’en, you silly USians. There is even a rude graphic showing a thin Dia skeleton-girl kicking a chubby stereotype Witch in her ample behind.

No need for that, surely?

But the explanations I keep reading have finally made me laugh out loud.  What we Euro-Amers don’t understand, apparently, is that the Day of the Dead comes from the amalgamation of ancient indigenous celebrations of the Beloved Dead with the traditions of the Catholic Church around All Saints and All Souls Days. Which is where Hallowe’en (All Hallows’ Eve) comes from.

And those celebrations came from the Catholic church utilizing the ancient celebrations of indigenous European tribes before Their Catholic Majesties laid claim to parts of the so-called New World. So, really the Day of the Dead also has ancient European roots to go with its ancient MesoAmerican ones.

Then what are we fighting over?  The difference between sugar skulls and carved turnips?  Between a celebration that begins at the end of October and another that s begins at the start of November?  The point should be, in my opinion, that the Catholic Church was brilliant at using indigenous peoples’ celebrations against them, in order to get both converts and territory.  Something else they learned from the Roman Empire, I reckon. Except the converts part. The old Empire wasn’t much about that.

If no one minds, I’ll simply put some marigolds (see above) on my Ancestor altar and let it suffice for all of the above. I can’t imagine that the Dead (or the Divines) give a fig about who is honoring them, as long as we bring love, respect and the appropriate beer.

A Thin Veil and Full of Holes

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I was part of a private Samhain ritual tonight that included a deep meditation and some trance work. Following our work together, each person in the group spoke of their personal experience and visions. And then we had some pie.

It seems to me that this veil we often speak of–this veil between the world of matter and spirit–hasn’t really been much of a boundary for a long, long time.

Tonight seemed to prove that again–as if we needed another experience of hearing the voices of the Ancestors and the Beloved Dead. But if we have access to these long and old memories, what do we do with the information that comes to us in meditation or on the autumn wind? Can we trust what we seem to understand from such dubious sources?

I believe we can. My experience in this arcane kind of listening has shown me that I often hear what I need to hear–whether it’s the addition of maple-syrup to Grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe or the chance to jitterbug with the grandfather you never knew.

Winter is upon us now, as reckoned by the old calendar, and the Long Dying of the Year continues now until the Solstice and the rebirth of the agricultural year.  Listen carefully in these times of growing darkness and see what is revealed to you.  Make a list. Keep a record. Be prepared to be surprised by what you learn about yourself and the world around you.