Thursday, November 30, 2017

Looking For The Positive

    So much going on in the world is massively stressful right now. The news makes my head want to explode: North Korea; Russian hacking; Tax Reform (the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, same shit, different day); the 45th president making cringe-worthy tweets and unscripted remarks on a daily basis; the systematic dismantling of safeguards in our government that protect education, the environment, personal rights; hate crimes on the rise; the continual uncovering of more of the pervasive sexual harassment that has been a staple diet for any woman working in a male dominated workforce; and on and on and on. I won't even get into the aspects of my personal life that are cause for an aneurysm. We are going through tough times.
    Today at work, I was so tired. So tired that I started weeping while grooving to "Under Pressure," by Bowie and Freddie Mercury. I wasn't sure if the tears were for the loss of Bowie last year, and Freddie far too soon. Or if I was just tired. Or too stressed by, well, everything. So, being the eternal optimist, I made myself divert my thoughts to search for positives to hold like a flickering light against the darkness. This is where my brain went:
    Bro Love. Yeah. I dig that it has become acceptable for men to show love and affection for each other. "Love you, bro," is the new "See you later." And it won't garner snarky comments alluding to someone's sexual preference. Men can hug. Not that awkward one armed, pat on the back, but don't allow any torso contact... or, gods forbid, and incidental bump of hips *gasp*. Guys can give each other solid, affectionate hugs. Bro Love. Bromance. Call it what you will. But as the mother of two grown sons, and a passel of other young men in my tribe, it is a heartwarming thing to see.
    Less mortification over bodily functions. Especially inadvertent bodily functions that tend to occur during strenuous athletic endeavors. It is almost a point of pride, when lifting heavy, to say, "Oh my god, I peed myself a little." Honestly, I have always said, "Pee before you lift heavy." (also, "Pee before you put on armor," but that was almost another life). And Google, "why does running make me poop," and you will get a litany of hilariously horrifying tales of rebellious digestive systems. We are finally allowed (mostly) to have our bodies do what bodies do without feeling a life sentence of shame. Okay, kids may not have gotten this message, but at least adult athletes have it figured out.
    Next on the list: Internet access to my local library system. This may seem like a simple thing, but to the time crunched who lives in an area where each library branch is relatively small, and not on my direct route home, having access to the county's file index in all its Dewey Decimal glory is fantastic. I can browse to my heart's content in the comfort of my living room, place my choices on hold, designate where I want to pick them up, and ta-da, in a few days I can pick everything up in a matter of a few minutes. Then I am on my merry way. Due date approaching? No problemo. I can log into my account and renew with the click of a mouse. It is truly an amazing luxury.
     My fat tire fixie bicycle. I know, I've probably talked this one to death with my friends. But I really love this bike. And you want to know why? The exercise? No (but, I do like the workout). I love this bike because it brings back the joy I used to get on my bike when I was a kid, and when I was a bicycle delivery person in downtown Portland when I was 20. It is pure, unadulterated fun. It makes me grin like an idiot and make derpy faces. I laugh when I plow through puddles. I take it down onto the packed river rock along the bank of the Willamette River. I ride through parks, dodging the root bulged pavement. I ride dirt paths. The wind in my face, pedaling for all I am worth, for no other reason than the sheer joy of it. And I fantasize about doing some epic adventure on this slow, fat tire bike, like ride the Trans-America Trail: from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. Okay, that would be almost impossible on a single speed bike, but the thought of it is kinda groovy.
     I think it is great that more adults are realizing that it is totally cool to color with crayons. I've never turned my back on this particular joy, but a lot of people "grew up."
     Blanket Forts. Legos. My dog Hugo. Fun music. There are a hundred things, little things, that I need to remember when the world seems dark and hopeless. Because it is neither, dark nor hopeless.
    As Gandalf observed, "Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small and everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."


Sunday, November 12, 2017


    As much as I love my solitude, of which there has been little of lately, there are times when I get the strong feeling that I need to belong to something. Be a part of the greater scheme of things, somehow. I know, I am an integral part here and there; my Fire Station, my family, my friends. My life is full. Overly full at times. But nights like tonight, as it is nearing midnight, and I am listening to music that has various emotional triggers for me, I feel alone in the world. Alone with a primal need to find a tribe. Yes, I have my family, and that is more than most people could ever hope for. My loving and loved family that I adore and who adore me. But there is still a need, an ache, a persistent itch to find my place in something that can be physically and emotionally fulfilling on a different level. It is a vague feeling, almost indefinable. I feel it like an itch just under the skin, a buzzing behind my eyelids, a humming in my skull. I don't know what it is, or how to find it.
     I know for a few years it was kept at bay with racing events, training, and life in general. But racing is a solitary endeavor, really. Most often I go to events alone, race alone, cross the finish line with no one waiting for me, chat with a few strangers, and then head for home. Yes, it makes me happy, but it isn't what I am looking for. But how do I know what I am looking for when I don't know what I am looking for? Yeah. It is a conundrum.
    And it is obvious by the randomness of these ramblings that it is midnight, and it was a long day. I am tired, my eyes are dry and bleery. And I really need to get to sleep. One more song though. Right now it is the instrumental "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers. It is a happy making song, with no melancholy lyrics to make me feel more alone. I will finish up with Dancing in the Moonlight because it always makes me happy. Even though I would love to belong to a group that would happily dance in the moonlight with me, instead of my usual Manic Dance Party for One. Ah well, still rambling and verging on the incoherent now.
    I will search, and hopefully find some place where I fit. A tribe. Or not. I admit, it has been a lifelong search that hasn't really had good results. Maybe I will wake up in the morning wondering what the hell was such a big deal. I have my tribe: my family, my Fire Station (my battalion chief admits that the engine is mine now), my friends. I am not alone. But for tonight it is just me and the dog, and music to ward off the melancholy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Shift in The Weather

    The shift in the weather, though inevitable, and not unexpected, always stirs up something deep inside of me. An unrest. A sense of urgency with a hint of desperation and dread. The first heavy rain of September, heralding the death of Summer. Already I feel an itch of cabin fever, a tickling of stir crazy. And it is only the second day of rain.
    I also know that the rain will be over in a day or so, and we will be blessed with dry weather, sunshine, but cooler temps. Again, it is inevitable. Yesterday I put away tools, covered bags of concrete, dug potatoes, and mowed the lawn, all with an eye towards the gathering clouds and my hair whipping in the gusty pre-storm winds. Then the rains came and I came indoors and baked bread. Today I ran in the rain.
    And now I sit, pecking away on the keyboard while a tempest presses against the inside of my ribcage. It is a peculiar feeling, one I am all too familiar with. I tried to describe it to my Mom, with dubious success. I feel an inner pressure, maybe I am a human barometer? An inner pressure to be going, doing, chasing, hiking, running, cycling, something, anything, anything other than sitting indoors while the rain beats against the windows. I have the overwhelming need to be doing something. But what that something is eludes me. It is an itch that can't be reached. A hunger that is vague and insatiable. It is too much like the feeling of being faced with overwhelming tasks to the point that you become dysfunctional, and all you can do is drink tea and read a book. I have done some of that today; disappear into the pages of a well written yet slightly vacuous novel with a cup of steaming tea at my elbow. I want to, need to, find tasks, line up my winter projects, litter my living room with bicycle parts and knitting and books and drawings. I need to look ahead and plan on how best to prepare my body for next summer's epic adventures while suppressing tears over adventures not yet managed this summer. I still haven't taken my new gear out for river snorkeling. Though I have gotten in some nice hiking and bike riding these last few weeks.
     It is not as if we don't know winter is coming. It comes every year with the inescapability of, well, of the seasons. They do come and go like clockwork. It is not that I dislike rain. I actually enjoy the rain. It is the loss of daylight, the short days and long nights. The darkness. And the cold. I do not like being cold. Cold makes me Sad. Being cold is honestly one of the main triggers for my winter melancholy. Cold makes me Sad. And the cold is coming.
    In my usual attempt to head it off at the pass, so to speak, I am planning my battle strategy. Online shopping is my friend, and winter workout gear is on the way. As are books to help stoke the fires of my training. Every year for the last 15 years, come September I know I have to set myself up for training of some sort. In the past, the early years of understanding, it was making sure my gym membership was ready. Now, it is making sure my living room is ready, with the gear that I need. I add gear every year. This year it is sand bags, a heavier kettlebell, and a weighted pack. Much of this with an eye towards more hiking adventures with my big red dog, Hugo. Some with an eye towards regaining my footing in the world of triathlon and trail running.
    That is all good and well, but it does nothing for my current state of unrest. The buzzing in my veins, the pressure in my chest, the thoughts ricocheting around inside my skull like so many ping-pong balls. Oh my god, maybe I am having a heart attack?!! No, that would be too easy an explanation. Another all too simple explanation would be that I am losing my mind. Again, too easy. No, maybe this is a primal need to make sure that all the crops are in, the food preserved, firewood stacked, wool spun, leaks filled, and blankets mended so we will survive the dark days warm and fed to emerge like a daffodil in the Spring. Maybe it is that simple, the primal need to be prepared for winter, but feeling like I have fallen short. There are still dry, sunny days ahead. A few, anyway. But the Rains are coming.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


    Magic is not elaborate. Magic is not complicated. It is not golden amulets engraved with runes and set with gemstones. It is not ornate altars, intricate spells, convoluted charms, extravagant robes.
    Magic is simplicity. The rainbow colors of a dragonfly's wings. A seed sprouting, growing. Dew bejeweling the grass. A stone polished smooth by the river. Feeling the magic in the sough of the breeze on a quiet summer night. It is as simple as a wish for health and prosperity while stirring the soup.
    It is as complex or simple as you want it to be. For me it is as easy as "I see you," whispered to the full moon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Small Magics

Nearly a month since I last posted. That is not good. It is not as if there were nothing to write about. In fact, quite the opposite. There is so much going on inside my head, and out in the world (which causes more things to bash about inside my skull) that I get overwhelmed with things to write. The best defense against the onslaught would be to write daily, get it out in dribs and drabs, instead of letting it collect until my brain is like a clogged pipe letting nothing through.
   The total flip side of this is that I have been so physically and spiritually focused on my gardens. Honestly. This is the year I am trying to become the gardener and hedgewitch i fantasize that I am. My Mom said my place looks "Like the home of a professional gardener." Okay, it was my Mom that said it, but she is a gardening goddess, and a compliment like that from her made my heart swell.
    Aiming for self-sufficiency on several fronts. I want to be able to have several months where the bulk of my food comes from my own plantings. I want to be able to make a little money at some point with plant sales. I want to have a decent magickal garden, overflowing with flowers and herbs, medicinal as well as magical. And from that magickal garden I want to be able to produce objects with meaning; poppits, pookas, dream pillows, woo bags, balms, tinctures, smudge sticks, charms, dried herbs for spell casting. For myself, and others. I need to bring magic back into the world, my world.
    "... a country on its way to banishing magic altogether. And that would have a very serious effect on the very soul of the country, for a country whose people ceased to believe in magic soon lost much of their ability to Imagine and Dream, and before long they ceased to believe--or hope--for anything."
    So you see, with the current chaos that is swirling around the globe, being manifested by those in charge and those with wealth, we have to be able to have Hope. We have to believe that Light will overcome Darkness in the end. That if we continue to fight the Good Fight, we will prevail.
    I don't expect some great miracle to come along and save us, deliver us from evil. But I believe in the small magics of hearth and home, peace and love, family and friends. I believe that our world is what we make of it, and that it is the seemingly small efforts that will eventually make the difference. If everyone did just one small thing, one small act of kindness, or charity, or peacekeeping, that we could change the world. A bucket or an ocean can be filled one drop at a time. It may seem that we are up against insurmountable odds, but I have to maintain my belief that each of us can make a difference, each in our own small way.
    For me, that small way is to continue to hope, to love, to unite, to heal, to help, in whatever way I can. Part of that, for my sanity and peace, is to create my own magic space, my hermitage, my hedgewitch gardens, my own small magics. To grow for the birds, bees, and butterflies. To create healthy spaces for the myriad of small wild creatures that share my world. To blend wild and cultivated, magical and earthly.  To nourish mind, body and spirit with the greenspace that surrounds me. I moved to the edge of nowhere with the intention of just this. And now, at this point in time and space, it is what seems to consume my thoughts and actions. Finally creating what has been in my imagination all this time. And isn't that, in and of itself, magic?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gardening as Defense Against The Darkness

    There is no denying that the current national and international vibe is stressful and depressing. I can only spend so much energy on freaking out over what I have no control over. So I have turned inward and have been focusing on creating and maintaining my personal environment. The last few months all my spare time and money has been going into adding to my edible landscape. This is the year of the berry. From the beginning I have held a vision in my head of a self-sustaining, productive mini-farm. Each year I have added something new, the first year I went a bit wild and planted a Texas King fig, two Stanley prunes, white Himrod and red Suffolk grapes, lavender, sage, and rosemary. Since then I've added raspberries (with limited success, so far), rhubarb (with even less success), a raised strawberry bed, a Brown Turkey fig, and 3 more apple trees to go with my 3 old trees.
   This year I am making great strides forward. I built 4 raised beds in my front yard, raised to get them above the high water table I have in my front yard, and well prepped since they are going over grass. I have planted 2 Goji berry, 3 Honeyberry, 3 lowbush Cranberry, 5 Gooseberry, a Jostaberry, and a Currant. I also added asparagus, a Brown Mission fig, a hardy Kiwi. and a Red Aronia (aka chokeberry). In the raised beds, since they are prepped and ready and the berries will take time to fill them out, I also planted carrots, sugar snap peas, Haricot Vert bush beans, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, and marigolds (to repel insects).
    In the manic gardening mode I have also managed to wrest my garden area back from the blackberries. I have 6 tomato plants, yellow crookneck squash, yellow zucchini, pole beans, small sugar pumpkins, Yukon Gold potatoes, and sunflowers.
    I am leaning towards the permaculture form of gardening. Weed and grass smothering ground cover, mulch, companion planting (pumpkins with the beans, sunflowers with the squash, and all the intermingled raised beds), and composting. I am building a second hugelkulture (raised bed based on how fallen trees decompose in the forest) and will plant it with perennial herbs in the fall.
    Another aspect I am paying close attention to is my magic herbs. I am starting seeds of Rue Herb-o-Grace, Mugwort, Wormwood, Feverfew, and Chamomile. I will get more seeds to start for fall plantings.
    Getting my hands in the soil, touching the Earth, feeling a Spiritual reconnect that I have been needing for some time. This has been important to me, even more important in the current world clime. I feel grounded and connected. I feel I am doing what I need to do to step further away from dependence on outside forces. I feel I am doing everything I can to counter and combat the negativity that is rampant in our world. The Hedgewitch is rising, I am channeling the wisewoman, the crone, Danu, Gaia.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Note From The Past

   I jot things down. All kinds of things. My desk is littered with notes to self, ideas for projects, workout plans, recipes, reminders, phone numbers, books I want to read. It is a bit obsessive. I finally broke down and started putting things in various journals. I have several with their own more specific contents: Quotes, business ideas and product designs, workouts, sketches, and one for oddities that don't fit any of the other journals.
    The point behind this is that I jot things down on random bits of paper. Today, I was picking up a small avalanche of papers that I had boxed up to burn, because they had too much financial and personal info to just toss in the garbage. Some of these were from a purge from boxes that have moved with me several times, boxes marked, "Misc Stuff From Desk." Yeah, that kind of stuff. Some of it was old, old, old checkbook registers (like 15+ years old), old tax stuff, random bits and bobs. You get the idea. Anyway, one neatly folded piece of paper caught my eye because it had a quote scribbled on the back, "There is much to be Known and above all much to be Loved, be it the turn of the Seasons or the shape of a river pebble." I stuffed it in my pocket because I wanted to transfer it to the journal of quotes (told you, I am a bit obsessive). I don't remember writing this quote down, and was pretty sure it was from a few years back.
    So, I finished with my random chores, made myself a cup of tea, and then remembered the paper I had stuffed in my pocket. I reread the quote, savoring it, and thinking it was a timely and timeless note to self. Then I unfolded the paper it was written on, It was two pages, I glanced at the second page first, just because of how I unfolded it, it was typed, on an actual typewriter, and the first line was "For children, the most important thing is that they are allowed to build a conceptual model of the world that allows them to both understand the world they encounter and cope with the new aspects of the world that do not readily fit their model." My first thought was that it was something from a home-schooling seminar I may have attended. So I looked at the first page. It was a letter to me.
    It was a letter from a friend, an honest-to-god penpal from about 20 years ago. His name was/is Graeme, and he lived/lives in Ayrshire, Scotland. We never met face to face, never talked on the phone, I don't even really remember how or why we started corresponding. But we wrote to each other, via international snail mail, for several years. This was before the internet was very functional, besides he didn't have computer access in his remote farmhouse on the edge of nowhere. Hell, I don't think I had a computer or an email at this point either. Yeah, it was that long ago.
     The letter was long and well written. I remember always being astonished by his intelligence and education, he had a degree in philosophy. He was a mentor. We had met while I was exploring Celtic Druidism, as was he. He had a vast wealth of knowledge of so many things. This particular letter was written shortly before Alban Eilar, the Spring Equinox, probably 22 years ago. Reading it through, I was struck by the topics that were covered, including climate change, family, our mutual struggles with winter depression, and the education of children. It could have been written this year and still been pertinent to my life
     One line, a quote from one of his favorite authors, John Ruskin (we both jot down quotes, you see), was, "There is no wealth but Life."  This, as you may know, has been a driving force behind many of my actions these last few years. The soul deep knowledge that my life is far better spent pursuing what is important to my life, than it is in the pursuit of money, status, or climbing a corporate ladder.
    I'm going to keep this letter, tucked away in one of my journals, as a reminder. As much a reminder of a friend and mentor, who reached out to a stranger halfway around the world, to share ideas, spirituality, and a piece of their life and soul. I had nearly forgotten Graeme, not quite, but nearly. It was a Note from The Past, a voice in the darkness, a reminder that although things change, the important things remain the same. Thank you, Graeme.