Water. Color.

I have a box of Reeves water colours. Slender tubes with exotic names. Ivory Black. Burnt Umber. Raw Sienna.  I got them on sale somewhere, years back.

It started with a series of crow omens.

Look to the past.

Look to the past.

Hey. Hey! Look to the past!

OK, OK–I’m in my second Saturn return so looking to the past has become a daily exercise. I looked to the past, floating, as I am these days, in my watery dreams and visions.

I was done for the day. I had finally read last month’s British Country Living Magazine. I’d finished a Thomas Hardy short story. I’d washed the dishes and put some lettuces in a bowl of cold water to soak. My end of the day errands took me past the shelf where the box of water colours sat, waiting. Lurking.

Then I pulled out a sketch pad, dug into a box (conveniently on the same shelf as the water colours) for some decent brushes, filled a juice glass with water and pulled a plastic lid out of the recycling bin.

And I played with paint.  Swirls of green and brown and black. Rows of dots and slashes. Spirals. Snakes. Retraining my hand to the brush, my eye to the paper, remembering technique from days past. Testing, toying.  I wondered if I could still do a decent wash of color so I stirred the last bits of paint blobs together to make a greenish-grey and turned the page of the pad.

The brush wasn’t up to it–or perhaps I wasn’t. A rough wash turned into a tree trunk. A face–a punk Moomin, perhaps–sat at the edge of the trunk, a strange Green Man from the Way Back Machine.

Crows and dreams of water. Rain prayers and water colours.

Reclamation.

Restoration.

Renewal.

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There Is Rain Here…

We had two dry and hot weeks, so that when rain arrived earlier this week, I felt a lightening of my mood, an easing of the low-level stress of watering gardens of soon-to-be-food and watching the levels of the stored rainwater barrels creep ever lower until the barrels were completely dry.

It gave me a tiny taste of how people in California must feel and how we must all turn our thoughts to the question of potable water and its availability, how we must prioritize its use, how we must find ways to be sensible as well as humane.

We use drinking water to flush our toilets, for pity’s sake.  Hard to square that with the places in the world where the drinking water isn’t always safe. I am thinking this evening of the fine work of my friend Helen Bond.  You can find more information about her water filtration systems work–the Benkadi Project– in Africa here–

http://medusadrums.com/benkadi.htm

Texas has been in a drought situation for several years and now it is flooding in ways terrible to behold.  It is a powerful balance:  too little and there is drought. Too much and there is ruin. It is the same with sunshine. We need the right amount of both–the warm and the wet–to grow the food we all eat, here in this land that we tend.

We Pagans often deal in the four classical elements–earth and fire, water and air.  And I wonder how much attention we pay to the actual elements around us, the ones that make life possible here on Terra. Are the elements placeholders for support and passion, for transformation and inspiration?  Or do we–as we call the quarters in and raise our intentional working circle–do we hold in our hearts and minds and souls the true essence of these symbols?  Do we truly honor the fertile soil and thrill to the fire of volcano as well as hearth?  Can we hold in a peculiar balance the symbol of water as transformation as well as the blessing of water in aquifer and tap?

It isn’t a binary. Nothing ever is.  Water is a symbol. Water is necessary for life here, on this planet, to continue.  Can we ever love it, consider it, appreciate it enough? And when there is flood and devastation, we must summon the strength and wisdom to know water’s full power, agency, authority.

It is so with each of the praise-songs we hold as “elements.”  How far can we go in honoring them, when we are only lightly in relationship with these things, these building blocks of our lives.

That is, after all, the very meaning of “elemental.”

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Lake Eden

The Sanctity of Filthy Feet

I have big feet.  That song–“Her Feet’s Too Big”–is all about me. As far back as I can remember, I wore bigger shoes than other girls my age and when they finally settled into my adult size, they were a sight to behold.

My friend Star and I were in one of those shoe warehouse places and she waved a hand toward the shelves at the end–the far end of the row.  Gosh, imagine wearing those.

I smiled ruefully and stuck out one sandal-clad foot.  Don’t have to imagine, sister. Elevens.  Ee-levv-enns.

And now it is summer and I am in the garden most every day.  We have been blessed–blessed!–with rain for a few days now and in addition to the dust/sweat grime, there is also the wet/dust/manure.

As a certified and certifiable Dirt Worshipper, I relish–and rejoice!–in looking down at those big dirty feet at the end of a long work day.  I think there can be nothing so sacred as the stigmata of soil, vining into the lines at my ankles, adhering to my less-than-kempt toenails, festooning the arches where it tickles to clean.

Every evening, I stick my feet–one at a time–into the sacred warm water of the flowing tub tap and I rinse away the remains of the day. Then dry my longfellows and get ready for bed.

These are acts of symbolic renewal, of holiness won, lost and won again. Day by day, evening after evening.

Cut wood, carry water. Hoe a straight row, thin the seedlings.

If you do not find the sacred in these homely and humble acts, I feel pity for you and invite you to tend your own soil, your own soul.

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In Memoriam

The Dead are always with us. The whiff of scent, the echo of voice. We in the West are slowly returning to a more intentional veneration of our Beloved Dead, our Forebears, our Ancestors. And today is set aside on our ragged national calendar to remember those who died in war. I choose to remember, too, those who came home fragmented and lost, bearing wounds invisible. They died at the Somme, though they came home. They died in North Africa, though they came home. They died in Viet Nam, though they came home. There are many deaths and many ways of killing. When we as a nation choose to send the young into battle for reasons economic, we take on a burden that is too great for us ever to lift. One day can never be enough for the magnitude of the loss or the weight of the collective grief.

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pat on the south altar

Where Did May Go?

It began with the wilds of Beltane, as you know…Kentucky Derby, daughter’s birthday, looming Pagan Unity Festival. And here it is, nearing the end of its lyrical run…June is just around the corner.

In the last several years, time has seemed to move so slowly–life is full and varied, and I’ve been intentional about doing the things that really nourish me. But, holy moly,  this month has zoomed by.

My friend Star and I headed for Nashville a week after Beltane weekend and were at Burns State Park for six days and the aforementioned Pagan Unity Festival.

I taught three classes, participated in an authors’ roundtable, met with the editor of the Wild Hunt and helped with an Ancestor Ritual facilitated by my friend and colleague Priestess Nanci.  In between were visits with friends I don’t see very often and learning from excellent teachers and speakers.

We got home a week ago and the poor dry garden was waiting.  Most of this week has been spent in my home garden, the women’s garden and our new WECAN community garden. Mulching, watering, doing the occasional rain charm (to no avail).

So, I haven’t been blogging much or writing much. I am hopeful that the end of May will see some renewed commitment to finishing up the second Appalachian folk magic book.  I have a very good editor, and a ready-to-go publisher.  We’re really just waiting for Farmer B.

Did I mention I also finished and submitted an 8,000 word essay on mountain folk magic?  So, yeah, I’ve been writing a bit. And I started a new session of my online folk magic class and have a great group of students.

Hope your May has been sassy and your summer bringing you the sweetest fruits.  Because, kindred, it is very nearly June.

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and we visited the Parthenon and saw the extraordinary Athena