Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Daffodils are Blooming

I don't really have anything to say except that in spite of freezing overnight temperatures and a recent blizzard on the mountain, the daffodils have bloomed! 

Praise the return of Spring!  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blessed Imbolc

While today is a day reserved to honor Brigid (the Celtic Goddess of healing, the home and the forge) it is also a day reserved in the Pagan blogosphere for sharing poetry as part of the Brigid Poetry Festival.  This tradition has been happening every Imbolc for 7 years.  So I thought I would post something myself. I wrote this last year to honor Persephone, of course. 

In Her Hand She Held The Flower

Did she know that fateful hour?
That her place would be as queen.
When in her hand she held the flower.

Could she imagine all that power?
On the throne, she would be seen.
Did she know that fateful hour?

She escaped from that ivory tower.
She felt a love not obscene.
When in her hand she held the flower.

Deep in snow, the earth will cower.
In the winter she goes unseen.
Did she know that fateful hour?

The brand new vines climb the bower.
In the spring the world will green.
When in her hand she held the flower.

With each season changes devour.
Moaning winds wail and keen.
Did she know that fateful hour?
When in her hand she held the flower.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reaching for the Sun

I have had a very strange feeling lately.  The last three years have been very action oriented for me. I was always doing something. Either I was working on building the tiny house or I was working on selling our other house. At some point in there I found some time go to to South Africa which was less a vacation and more an exploratory trip to start building something there as well.  But now, the tiny house is nearly done, we live in an apartment in the city, and the next trip to South Africa depends on how much money we can raise

I feel a little stagnant. I feel like the bulbs of the daffodils, just below the surface of the earth waiting for the first warm days of early spring before I can push my shoots through the thick black soil. I feel a bit like Persephone. There are some big changes coming my way. I can't talk about many of them for some very practical reasons, but I am eager for the that time to arrive.  As I was sitting here feeling terribly uninspired and festering with the thought that I am not moving forward I was once again faced with how my life and the story of Persephone's journey is once again at the same place. Is it a coincidence that this stoppage is happening in the thick of winter?  Or could it be Persephone telling me to slow down, reassess, and begin to prepare for a reemergence - a reemergence that will be a complete transformation That is scary as hell.  I need this downtime to get my shit together and be able to unravel my new green leaves in the springtime sun. 

This is just another turn on the wheel. Another cycle of life, death, and rebirth. I have trusted Persephone to follow her down many times in my life. I follow every time knowing that beyond the darkness there will be sunlight. The turning of the seasons has never failed me, and my own personal seasons are turning along with them.  Big changes are terrifying. I should just snuggle deep in the darkness of the winter waiting patiently for my turn to reach up toward the sun.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Date With Adonis (Repost)

It isn't often that I simply repost things here. But I have been thinking about Persephone and Adonis lately, so this short story came to mind. I just spent some time up at our land in North Carolina and it was so beautiful in its starkness.  Waiting for both Persephone and Adonis to return with a green blanket to cover the earth makes me both grateful for what has happened and excited for what is to come. 

“You’re thinking about her, aren’t you?”

They sat in the field of asphodel, their red and white checkered picnic blanket laid out beneath their legs. He sat with his perfectly toned and tanned legs crossed. She lay back stretching her white limbs out from her body. He was silent in answer to her question. He fiddled with the hem of his shirt and didn’t look at her.

“I understand,” she said. “I know we’ve run out of things to talk about.”

“Its not you,” He said finally, quietly.

“I know. I know better than anyone else, really. The Olympians are always figuring out ways to divide our time between there and here. I hate being a pawn in their ridiculous games. It is okay if you’re thinking about her. I owe her a debt myself.”

Adonis looked up at her, his dark green eyes inquisitive. She knew he wanted to hear the story. She was certain he had heard it before, but she knew he liked to hear her tell it.

“Yeah. It is all Aphrodite’s fault. My mother had made it quite clear that I was never to be married off like some commoner. She wanted me to be elevated to the very pinnacle of the Greek pantheon – an eternal virgin like Hestia, Athena and Artemis.” Adonis smiled a little and so Persephone responded, “you better believe I’m glad that didn’t happen!

“Anyway, Aphrodite was angry about it, as you might expect. She didn’t want anyone out of her realm of dominance that wasn’t already. She thought hard about another God who might need a partner. Several gods had auditioned for the job, including Hermes who had been Aphrodite’s lover once. But she decided on Hades, my very own uncle. I think she might have been a little jealous of me. Or maybe thought I would be too much of a rival, that by her hand she could banish me to the deepest recesses of hell. And so she bade Eros to shoot Hades with the arrow of love. The rest is history, as they say. I have been here with my husband ever since. And I do love him.”

“Then why did you fight so hard for me?” asked Adonis.

“Maybe to get back at her a bit? I am not angry at her for introducing me to Hades. But I am angry that she started the battle over where I get to spend my time. That is the part of my life in which I had no control. When she brought you here, she was begging for me to help her. She needed to hide you because she knew she couldn’t keep you to herself.” Persephone reached out with her slender fingers and gently traced his jaw line. “You are beautiful, you know.” Adonis smiled and looked away shyly.
 “Tell me about her.” 

His eyes brightened. He looked straight into her violet eyes. “I know she has a bad reputation. And I know she has had a lot of different lovers. But there is something magnificent about her. She has a draw. A magnetism. I love the feeling of her hair in my hands and the weight of her body in my arms. Her hair smells like roses and her skin glows with gold.” Adonis leaned over Persephone’s prone body, his face very close to hers.

She turned her face away from him. He brushed her ear with his lips. She knew they both thought about different lovers, but he was the embodiment of passion so why not make the best of it. “You never describe me like that,” she said.

“You are very different,” he whispered. “Your hair smells like daffodils. Your eyes shine like amethysts. Your skin is like the glorious moonlight.”

Persephone sighed. “I haven’t seen the moon since summer,” she said.

“Me neither.”

She turned her face to him. She knew that when the seasons changed they would be apart again. They might be in someone else’s arms all together. But this night was their night, their longing was a yearning for the springtime.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Song of Persephone

Because of my time celebrating with Celtic Pagans, I developed a love for a particular poem called The Song of Amergin.  This blogger does a very nice write up of the poem. I have used this poem as a basis for a couple of poems I have written myself.  It just flows so well and feels so god-like when spoken aloud. 

I have always wanted to do a similar poem for Persephone but for some reason I just never got to it.  Recently, Dionysian blogger Sannion posted his 99 Adorations and the Pagan blogosphere lit up with other version of the prayer

I didn't feel it necessary to write my own Adorations for Persephone, as it had already been done and was done nicely.  Instead I decided to revisit my old idea of writing the Song of Persephone. 

I am the maiden with the daffodils
I am the queen of the underworld
I am the savior from death
I am the daughter of the earth
I am the protector of pigs
I am the juice of the pomegranate
I am light in the darkness
I am as strong as iron
I am as gentle as the grasses
I am not lost but I am sought
I am whose name must not be spoken
I am the last face of sweetness
     …who creeps forth from the rocks
     …who whispers the mysteries
     …who is honored in life and death

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Pagan Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Yesterday, Star Foster wrote this post over at the Patheos Pagan blog. She speaks about one of her favorite poets, Peggy Pond Church, and how her poetry evokes Pagan ideas and images in a time when Paganism wasn't necessarily a thing.

This made me think of one of my favorite poets, a woman who lived and wrote poetry in the 20s and 30s and manages to evoke very specific Pagan themes in her writing.

I first learned about Edna St. Vincent Millay when I was very young. My mother had been an English teacher before I was born and she still had several volumes of poetry on our bookshelves. I specifically remember a time when I was attending Catholic catechism.  Because I went to public school, I took catechism classes as a kid. They were usually taught in the home of another parishioner. At one teacher's class, I remember that us kids rotated who would bring in and read an opening prayer for the class.  I think I might have been in the 6th grade, just on the cusp of teenager-hood.  I spent a lot of time agonizing over what prayer to read and couldn't think of anything.  My mom suggested looked for a poem in one of her poetry books.  And that was when I discovered Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The poem I read at catechism that night was "Afternoon on a Hill."

I will be the gladdest thing
   Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
   And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
   With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
   And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
   Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
   And then start down!

Of course, at the time, I was Catholic but the reverence of nature clearly resonated with me even at that age. No one new at that time how deep my relationship with the cycles of nature went, least of all me. Those those cycles of nature would eventually speak to me through the story of Persephone and would lead me to honor her throughout my life. 

Curiously enough, that brought me back full circle to the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  It was after became devoted to Persephone that I discovered some of Millay's other poetry. I don't think anyone can say that Millay herself was Pagan but her use of mythology in her writing was undeniable. 

She wrote about Daphne and Apollo in "Daphne".

  Why do you follow me?—
Any moment I can be
Nothing but a laurel-tree.

Any moment of the chase
I can leave you in my place
A pink bough for your embrace.

Yet if over hill and hollow
Still it is your will to follow,
I am off;—to heel, Apollo!

She wrote about Odysseus's wife in An Ancient Gesture:

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope...
Penelope, who really cried.
 And this is an excerpt of her poem "Invocation to the Muses" which she read at a dedication at Carnegie Hall in 1941.

O Muses, O immortal Nine!—
Or do ye languish? Can ye die?
Must all go under?—
How shall we heal without your help a world
By these wild horses torn asunder?
How shall we build anew? — How start again?
How cure, how even moderate this pain
Without you, and you strong?
And if ye sleep, then waken!
And if ye sicken and do plan to die,
Do not that now!

 But none of these make me feel like one tiny little poem does. It is said that she wrote this poem when she was mourning the death of her lover, another woman - certainly scandalous in the 1920s!

  Be to her, Persephone,
All the things I might not be:
Take her head upon your knee.
She that was so proud and wild,
Flippant, arrogant and free,
She that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Hell,—Persephone,
Take her head upon your knee:
Say to her, "My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Climbing a Mountain

I was surprised to find that blogger and adventurer Drew Jacob had mentioned me in a blog post published yesterday.  I was happily reading the post thinking "Yes, I agree with this!" when I came to this paragraph:

You might not be interested in climbing a mountain. Neither is Laura LaVoie, as far as I know. Her challenge was to build her own tiny house and downsize her life to fit into it. Then she went to Africa to use her house-building skills to help orphaned children.

Wow. He even links to my Tiny House blog and the donation page for the Zulu Orphan Alliance. I was stunned. I was more stunned because this isn't the first time Drew has mentioned me in his blog.

Other people always see you differently than you see yourself. I don't consider myself heroic in any way. In fact, what I do is nothing compared so some of the heroes I've been working with in South Africa. 

But one thing I do agree with is that profoundly changing your life changes everything. If we had never decided to build a tiny house, we would have never had the opportunity to travel to South Africa. Small steps became bigger steps and next thing you know, we were doing this thing. I don't want to live a conventional life. I've done that. I want to live an extraordinary life. And while it is exciting to see people like Drew talking about the things I do, I don't do any of it to be famous. I want to live an extraordinary life for ME.

One of my primary mottos or mantras is to Just Do It. If there is something you want to see happen, I promise you it won't just happen. You have to make the change you want to see in your life. I have done this. I am doing this. I have failed just as much as I have won.  Sometimes that happens, and it has to be okay.  But if you put forth the effort to make positive change in your life, positive change will happen. Maybe not in the way you expected, but it will.  In order for anything to happen, though, you have to actually do it.

I had to laugh, though, when Drew suggested that I didn't want to climb a mountain. He's right. It just isn't my thing. But interestingly enough, climbing a mountain was one of the things that gave me the strength to do what I am doing now.  You can read about it in the Winter 2007 issue of Neokori's newsletter, He Epistole.  (Go here and click on Issue #15).