Saturday, February 19, 2011

Seasonal Play List

I have said over and over again, the thing that pulls me toward Persephone is the sense of wonder I get with the turning of the seasons.  Today, in Atlanta, it will be 70 degrees in February. That isn't normal, but it is wonderful and I plan to be outside all day long.  I understand the science of the seasons, but that doesn't stop me from experiencing the beauty of them as they cycle through each year without fail.

I decided to put together a Seasonal Play List.  These are 4 songs for each season that aren't specifically about honoring Persephone but do honor the feelings that each season brings to me which in turn honors Persephone.

Since spring is just around the corner, I want to start there.


Southland in the Springtime by Indigo Girls
I've written about this before, so you can just click the link if you want to read why this song is so important to me.  When God made me born a Yankee, she was teasing.

Poets by The Tragically Hip
I wrote about the album that this song was on, but not about this song specifically.  There is something about it that just makes me feel alive with springtime energy. 

Beautiful Day by U2
This is not my favorite U2 song, but I can't deny it's spring flavor.
The heart is a bloom, shoots up through stony ground
But there's no room, no space to rent in this town
You're out of luck and the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck and you're not movin' anywhere
You thought you’d found a friend to take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace

It's a beautiful day,
The sky falls and you feel like
It's a beautiful day,
Don’t let it get away
Celtic Spring by Van Morrison
I never thought I liked Van Morrison.  And I still don't like "Brown Eyed Girl".  But then I heard the song "Into the Mystic" and understood his genius.  His songs are often seasonal and spiritual.  Celtic Spring is no exception.
Wanna dance by you by the light of the moon
I wanna see you there on a bright afternoon
I wanna sing my song, won't you play me the tune
In the regions again

In the Celtic Spring
In the Celtic Spring
Won't you come and go

June Hymn by The Decemberists
This is a band new song on the brand new album The King is Dead. I love it.  I love every note and every lyric.  It makes me want to lay back and feel the summer sweep over me. 

Summer's Cauldron by XTC
This band is one of my favorites.  I think they are underrated.  
Trees are dancing drunk with nectar, grass is waving underwater
Please don't pull me out, this is how I would want to go
Insect bomber Buddhist droning, copper chord of August's organ
Please don't heed my shout, I'm relaxing the undertow
Island in the Sun by Wheezer
You may notice a trend when it comes to my summer song choices. I like that lazy feeling of summer.  Sit back, relax, and just let the summer happen. Plus, the video has a kitten. You can never go wrong with a kitten.

Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers
But I can't help but think about how summer comes because of the ultimate sacrifice.  Persephone returns so we can enjoy the sunshine, but she leaves behind her husband and King.  This song is for Hades.


Meet Me On The Equinox by Death Cab for Cutie
The only negative thing I can say about this song is that it comes from a movie about sparkly vampires.  
Meet me on the Equinox
Meet me half way
When the sun is perched at its highest peek
In the middle of the day

Let me give my love to you
Let me take your hand
As we walk in the dimming light
Or darling understand
Autumn Almanac by The Kinks
Friday evenings, people get together,
Hiding from the weather.
Tea and toasted, buttered currant buns
Can't compensate for lack of sun,
Because the summer's all gone. 
Moondance by Van Morrison
A little song for Samhain.
And all the leaves on the trees are fallin'
To the sound of the breezes that blow
An' I'm trying to please to the callin'
Of your heart strings that play soft and low

And all the nights magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush
Can I just have one more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?
September Morn by Neil Diamond
Is it a "Guilty Pleasure" when you post about it on the Internet?  Okay, I have a soft spot in m heart for Neil Diamond.  Once I get past the creepy old man feeling.  But this song is a lovely tribute to Autumn love, like when Hades and Persephone are reunited at the equinox. 


Hazy Shade of Winter by Simon and Garfunkel
I have to be a purist and say that the only version anyone should concern themselves with is the original, not the Bangles version from the 80s.  I think this song really brings that sense of seasonal transition.  The leaves are brown and fall has just passed us, the snow is just beginning to fall.  I don't know that it gets much better than Simon and Garfunkel.

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division
This song isn't so much about winter as it is the feeling that winter gives me.  Hades and Persephone know that through this dark season they will once again be separated.  Even Hades makes a sacrifice for the good of all people. 

Winter by Tori Amos
This is probably my favorite song of all time.
When you gonna make up your mind?
When you gonna love you as much as I do?
When you gonna make up your mind?
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I always want you near
You say that things change, my dear
Winter Song by Crash Test Dummies
I know a lot of people hate Crash Test Dummies. I am not one of those people. I especially love their first album, The Ghosts that Haunt Me which is where this song comes from.  I like the nostalgic feeling I get when I listen to this song. 

And there you have it, my seasonal playlist.  Some songs for Persephone, some songs about Persephone and some songs that just make me feel the sense of wonder about each season as the wheel of the year keeps turning.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Orpheus in the Underworld

It has been a while since I brought up Orpheus her.  I had been so into the myth last year when Anais Mitchell's folk opera Hadestown was released. And it is pretty clear that I love this story because of Persephone's role in the tale.

There is an often overlooked version of the story. Even though it is overlooked it might be the single most recognizable piece of music ever written.  It is a form of operetta written by composer Jacques Offenbach first performed in 1858.

In the second act, there is a song called The Infernal Gallop which has become associated with the French dance The Can-Can.  So much so that it is often called by the name Can-Can than by it's actual name.

I couldn't find too many actual performance videos (as opposed to orchestral versions) but this one is pretty good. 

There is, however, a version of the song used in the  Baz Luhrmann movie Moulin Rouge.  The movie is, in some ways, a descent into the underworld just like the journey of Orpheus.  In this instance, it is a naive young writer with stars in his eyes named Christian who finds himself in the seedy underworld of the Moulin Rouge and falls in love with the untouchable Satine. It remains one of my favorite movies. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Just Do It" isn't just for selling sneakers...

I don't spend much time at all on this blog or elsewhere in my life preaching at people.  It just isn't something that I do.  I'm not clergy so I don't suppose I consider myself qualified to preach and even if I were clergy I don't personally find preaching an effective method of congregation herding.  That is probably one reason I am not Christian.  Of course, the reason I am beginning this post with these disclaimers is, of course, because I am about to preach.  Maybe preach is a harsh word, but I have something I really need to say and I want as many people as possible to really read what I have to say about it. To really listen to me.  Ready? 

One of my favorite motivational quotes is the famous Gandhi phrase "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  I use to think this really just meant "in regards to human rights and activism." But after years of reflection on these few words I honestly believe that it applies to everything someone does in their life.  This is a principle I refer to as "Positive action creates positive action."

I spent a good portion of my life waiting for something to happen.  I waited for someone else to present me with the opportunities to advance whatever part of my life that needed advancement.  I waited for raises or promotions. I hoped someone would see that I was a talented writer and give me the opportunity to write.  I waited.  Then one day, I had a revelation.  There was no magic opportunity fairy.  I could wait for "a better time" for the rest of my life and "a better time" would never come.  Some people say "God helps those who help themselves." Same is true for The Goddess.  I realized that I was the only person in my life who could create any of my own opportunities. And if I created my own opportunities I might be blessed with more opportunities. And so I dove in; deep.

It started small about 10 years ago.  On a whim, I emailed Anne Newkirk Niven the editor of Sage Woman magazine and offered a proposal for a series of articles.  She informed me it wasn't right for Sage Woman (initial disappointment) but would be great for PanGaia (yay!) and directed me to the editor of that magazine.  For the next year and a half I had a featured column in PanGaia.  And what that really did for me was boost my confidence.  It was no longer "I want to be a writer when I grow up" but "I'm a writer."  I was emboldened to share my work with other markets and was subsequently published in Llewellyn's magical almanacs for two years.  I met people and made connections.  I felt good about myself because I took a positive step in the direction I wanted to go.

Then I moved to Georgia and that was a big change in my life as well. I started out still writing and still active in a community that would empower me.  After a while, though, I began to get comfortable and complacent again.  I kept writing but I stopped publishing and I kept thinking "one day" I would do something else.  One day an opportunity would present itself to me.

I suppose one day it did. My best friend emailed me about 2 years ago and said "You know, I want to write and you want to write but neither of us are writing.  What are we waiting for?"  And she was absolutely right. Positive action breeds positive action.  We began writing and sending our pieces to each other.  It didn't matter if they were good, but just that we were doing them.  During this period of time I also began to publish this blog. It started, and remains, primarily a blog of inspiration.  It is dedicated to the Goddess I am most devoted to and was simply intended to be a platform for me to express my relationship with her.  I didn't really care that people read it, just that I was writing it.  And positive action bred positive action.  The more I wrote here the more I wanted to share.  Next thing I know I was volunteering for other aspects of the greater community.  Since May I have been writing for the PNC pop culture blog The Juggler. I feel like I am contributing to the world in my own small way. My best friend, by the way, has also been writing a lot.  She finished a novel and half of another and just started a new one as well as several short stories.  Positive action breeds positive action. 

I also have two other blogs.  My partner, who also believes in action over words, put his money where his mouth is and began a lifelong dream of building his own small house with his own hands.  With no building experience and armed with a dream and amazing research skills, we began to build a 120 foot cabin in the mountains.  I wrote about the process on my more private journal primarily for safe keeping.  I started to realize people were interested.  I started to realize strangers were interested.  So I started the blog.  I don't do it for the recognition but I do get really excited when I see the blog featured on other blogs or in local newspapers.

Then, over the last year, I started to get really interested in another project - beer.  Sure, I like drinking it but what I really loved about it was the art of it.  I was fascinated by the overwhelming variety and by the community of people it seems to bring together.  I also became interested in the science behind it.  I wanted to learn to brew my own.  For the first time it occurred to me that blogging could be a significant motivator in the process at inception.  If I write about what I am doing I have a responsibility to actually do it.  It makes it real. After I started posting to my blog a few friends who have made beer before were suddenly inspired to do it again.  Positive action breeds positive action.

I get really excited when my friends express an interest in starting something.  I want to be involved, I want to encourage them.  You want to start the movement for International Pagan Coming Out Day?  I'm behind you 100%.  You want to train to eventually try out for the roller derby?  Where's the next skate party?  I'm here for you.

This isn't about "Hey look at me!" or bragging about the things that I've done.  I'm not perfect and I have a lot of work still left to do.  This is more about "If I can do it, so can you."  I don't really care what it is that you do, just do it.  You want to build a tiny house in the woods? Just do it.  You want to write a novel?  Just do it.  You want to travel the world?  Just do it.  You want to change your life?  Just do it.  No one can do it for you.  I am here specifically to give you the encouragement that you can, in fact, do it. There are always sacrifices. Sometimes, there is even failure.  There are always small steps, but your opportunities are out there. Positive action breeds positive action.  Be the change you wish to see in the world.  Go ahead, I'll wait here...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Imbolc Cyber Poetry Fest 2011

Though I have been on a Hellenic path for years, Brigid has always been important to me.  She was one of the gods we evoked at our handfasting 14 years ago and I also spent Imbolc 2005 in Kildare celebrating with the nuns.  I've shared this poem here before, but I thought it would be a good day to share it again. 

The Song of Brigid

I am the smoke on the pyre
I am the bubble in the brook
I am the cat asleep on the hearth
I am the wren on the breeze
I am the heat of the blaze
I am the herb of healing
I am a red-eared cow
I am the playful otter
I am a well on the land
I am the inspiration
I am the anvil and the hammer
I am the goddess who burns the inner fire
…Who stokes the fire of the home
…Who fans the fire of the forge.
…Who is the fire of the heart

And inspired by that, in 2008 I wrote another poem for the Olympic Gods, to honor that path in my life. 

The Song of Olympos

I am the fire on the hearth
I am the lightening in the storm
I am the eye of the cow
I am the crashing sea
I am the sheaf of wheat
I am the lover's embrace
I am the music of the lyre
I am the sword and the shield
I am the hunter in the wild
I am the wisdom of ages
I am the anvil and the hammer
I am the guide of the dead
I am the vine and the grape
I am the fire in the hearth
...We are the eternal ones
...We are the deathless ones
...We are the Gods of Olympos
Tonight, we are making cheese fondue to celebrate the milk festival and I will raise a glass of beer for Brigid