Sunday, July 31, 2016

🌽 Unlikely Pagans 🍞

Harvesting nourishment and creating celebration from endings.

Not actual photo of the faculty party

Although the faculty and their spouses from my former husband's department were a far cry from a bunch of wild Pagans, they were accustomed to my unconventional celebrations.  

They dutifully brought items with bread or corn, as instructed by me, for a Lammas gathering (see below the row of corn for more information about this holiday) on August 1, 2009 at a sunny beach on the shores of Lake Michigan.

This crew did not always play happily in their sandbox at school together (many minor kerfuffles), so coming together in celebrations created a more friendly playground.

I had been inviting the faculty to occasional holiday celebrations or small dinners with menus and/or rituals reflecting obscure holidays from around the world for a decade. My ten year wedding anniversary was two days after this event on August 3. 

None of us knew it, but this gathering was to be the last time that we would be together.   

Some of them are dead now and some of us were never that close. With many it was just too awkward to remain friends--given the reason for my surprise and sudden departure from my marriage a few weeks later. 

I still have friends from that era, and hear tidbits about their lives, but it was strange to have a bunch of people I cared about gone from my world without a good-bye.

Had I known that I would never see them again, the day would have been much different.

The thing is, we never know when it will be the last time we see anyone. Life is full of sudden surprises. Creating celebrations and enjoying whatever time we have together deepens our appreciation of each other and of life. 

Also, whether our inevitable endings are planned or not and whether they are fairly insignificant or devastating; honoring terminations helps them become as beneficial to our evolution as possible.

I am grateful that I have the memory of those unlikely Pagans laughing on that warm summer day at the beach, as we awkwardly ripped our loaves of bread apart, sharing our offerings, with the crumbs trailing between us into the sand.


Lammas falls on a New Moon this year. I will be traveling, so I am just offering you the above vignette and the below post from last August. The New Moon is on Tuesday.

Originally my blog was a story from my life offered on the new Moon and my full moon offering was a newsletter, but the full moon posts has morphed into more of a blog. Since the full moon posts are not on my website or on Google but only go out to my Sparks and Leaps list, this may be new to some of my readers. And some may have missed it the first time around. But even if it's a repeat, for some of you, I think it's worth a reread. 


Correction, that is "Happy Lammas" (or Lughnasad - pronounced Loo nah sah).

Lammas (meaning loaf-mass) is a holiday that begins at sunset on 8/1 and goes until sunset 8/2. It is shared by Christians and Pagans and marks the beginning of the harvest season. It is traditionally celebrated with community gatherings, family reunions, blessing the fields, bonfires, dancing - and bread.

Keep this cheerful theme in mind - we will get back to it!

There are an abundance of celebrations and myths around the world that center around the theme of harvesting grain, some dating back to the stone age.

The basic motif of death and resurrection runs through most of these stories and whether you are religious or not, this theme is worth pondering in the context of navigating life transitions.

 Sickles and Cycles

Consider a grain of wheat that is buried in the earth, sprouts with life, grows tall and then is harvested with Death’s favorite tool - a sickle.

Next it is ground into flour which is baked into bread. The bread nourishes a person who contributes to the lives of others and who will eventually encounter the sickle and be buried in the Earth where the body will, in turn, nourish the soil that is waiting for another grain of wheat.

Our lives and all of our endeavors and relationships on the planet follow the same basic pattern.

Sometimes we see the threat of an ending that can and should be postponed, and this may rightfully spur us to prolong life. We might find a cure for our life threatening disease, revive a dying relationship, fix that old car or save an ecosystem, but  eventually the end will come to all.

When the sickle appears we usually feel fear and believe that something is WRONG. We resist the end of whatever cycle is completing, not realizing that new growth (which is always preceded by some kind of death) is necessary and beneficial.*

Yes, that sharp blade is scary and we are biologically hardwired to resist pain in all of its forms. But pain, like death, is inevitable and also brings beautiful gifts. Practicing the art of learning to dance ever more gracefully with this truth, also prepares us for the final transition. And it makes living life a whole lot more enjoyable!

Okay, let's get back to the part about celebration. I lured you in with cute llamas and then dragged you into bleak scenarios of pain and death. Please forgive me.

One way to help us look for and receive the gifts of our life transitions is to tune into the seasons of nature. Many of our holidays (holy-days) have some connection to these natural cycles. When we engage in familiar rituals, connect with loved ones and/or community, decorate, feast, sing and dance, we celebrate the rhythm of life.

In addition to the four seasons, we observe the moon waxing and waning and day turning to night. Although we have distanced ourselves from these natural cycles in many ways in our modern world and we attempt to distance ourselves from the natural cycles of life changes, as Heraclitus pointed out; "nothing endures but change".

Rather than expend enormous amounts of effort trying to create "security" and control endless variables, it might behoove us to accept a little more chaos and mystery - especially in our ever more rapidly changing world.

As we reconcile ourselves to the fact that we simply do not know with any certainty what is next, we can also take comfort from the cycles of nature and our connections to each other. What better way to do this then with celebratory rituals?

The full moon that occurs the night before Lammas this year on 7/31 is also a blue moon, in that it is the second full moon this month.

[2015 was a blue moon - 2016 Lammas falls on a New Moon -  also considered a powerful combination]

Full moons are thought of as powerful times for letting go of that which does not serve us in order for renewal to occur. Blue moons are considered even more powerful and associated with rare circumstances.

Whether or not you believe in the Christian or Pagan story behind Lammas or the power of blue moons doesn't really matter. If you are experiencing a transition in your life, and struggling with an ending, why not pretend whatever story you want to believe is true and construct your own little ritual. Create a rare circumstance!

There is tremendous power in stories and rituals. You might be surprised to see what happens if you write something you want to let go of and burn or bury it under the full moon. Invite your loved ones to celebrate with you in a meal (be sure to include bread -even if gluten free!) the next day.

Or if you prefer something with a more Christian flavor, take out your Bible and hunt for all of the miraculous stories about bread. Bake a loaf, or draw a picture of one and bring it to your church on Sunday, August 2. Ask for the support of your community there and pray for help with surrendering any fears to God.

Whether you subscribe to a particular belief system or not does not matter. You can still experiment with forming an intention to let go of any stories that are not serving you, being willing to accept what is happening in the moment, taking some kind of creative action that demonstrates your intention to engage, connecting with others in celebration and expressing gratitude.

It is always helpful to give thanks for the abundance you have in your life (hint- Did you eat today? Do you have running water? Does anyone love you? Are you able to read these words?).

Celebrate your time of transformation, rebirth and new beginnings.

What have you got to lose?

My photo of the last full moon

* for those readers who have no belief in any kind of life after death, I realize that the prospect of enriching the soil may not be very reassuring, but hopefully creating an enduring legacy or just knowing that your presence on the Earth now is nourishing the lives of others will provide some comfort.

Monday, July 4, 2016

💥I Did Not Die on that 4th of July💥

The reason I decided to turn around and swim back to shore of Fish Trap Lake rather than go further and drown was because I realized that I would ruin everyone's Fourth of July celebration.

The location of this drama was at a friend's luxurious lake cabin located somewhere near Motley in Northern Minnesota. It was a muggy, buggy day sometime in the mid 1980s and I was in the middle of an ugly bout of depression exacerbated by severe anxiety over an incomplete five page college paper.

Yes, I realize that wanting to die over a five page paper and deciding to live because I didn't want to be a buzz kill for a party seems silly, but it was deadly serious to me at the time.

It's not that I had blown off the paper, or even that it was likely I wouldn't get an "A" as I almost always did despite freaking out over every single paper of my academic life. I probably had enough material for a PHD dissertation. I just couldn't choose what to leave out and how to focus so that I could complete the assignment.

Not my watery grave.

I'm currently in a similar situation in that I have an over abundance of material that requires decisions on what to eliminate and how to organize my book. Fortunately, even though the stakes are much higher now, I have learned a lot in the past three decades about how to face what surfaces during critical times and how to remain buoyant.

It's not that I don't get frustrated and impatient and even experience fear and despair at times, but I have become more gentle and curious about the shadow aspects of myself and what they can teach me. I recognize that fighting those parts of me and the patterns they perpetuate never works and only causes suffering.

Lately, I have been experimenting with sincerely welcoming and loving these players that have wreaked lifelong internal havoc as though they were scared children.  I am listening empathetically to their survival based concerns while at the same time maintaining boundaries that do not allow for bullying.

As I'm cultivating a closer and friendlier relationship to those previously exiled inner kids, it may or may not affect my ability to make choices on my writing as quickly as I would like, but I am shifting from trying to fix that into a deeper appreciation of the imperfect, lovable human being I am. As this appreciation grows, I become more and more grateful for the miracle of my life.

I wish that for all of you imperfect humans as well. May we all declare an interdependence day with all aspects of ourselves and celebrate with a big sparkling display of love.

I also wish that this New Moon which falls on the 4th of July this year might portend a new direction in the midst of the rather muddy waters in which this country seems to be currently floundering.

Stephen Dinan, the founder of The Shift Network has a book coming out on July 5th called Sacred America, Sacred World which transcends right and left politics and offers a manifesto for our country’s evolution. I was recently listening to an interview with him and Saniel Bonder and learned a new word. I love new words -- and this one relates to a topic I have been thinking about night and day for months!

Theodicy: “vindication of the divine attributes, especially justice and holiness, with respect to the existence of evil.” Saniel proposed there is an American Theodicy. He said that primary documents like the Declaration of Independence represent the spirit of America. He contends that much of this spirit has been lost in our political climate in recent years.

My last blog explored evil's contribution to our evolution. Since writing that, I have been continuing to ponder both personal and planetary evolution and the role of conflictual changes.

I have also been dialoging with many people about what kind of relationship we need with those whose political and moral views do not agree with our own. So I was especially intrigued by this concept of theodicy and it's relation to what is happening in our world right now.

Much as I love my country, and am deeply grateful to be a citizen here, it has been increasingly challenging to be proud of the USA in recent years.

I am hopeful that one way or another, no matter who gets elected or how people react, it will all turn out to be of benefit in some way. Given that there is not a whole lot else I can do at this point, hope seems like a good strategy!

And speaking of wishes and fresh starts and muddy waters, I end this shorter than usual blog to dive back into writing my book. I am remembering that the roots of the lotus are deep in the mud.

I was tempted to end this Independence Day blog with a deliciously ironic video of a photo-op gone wrong in which one of our presidential candidates was attacked by our country's national symbol of a Bald Eagle and had a bad hair moment.  Instead of being snarky and cynical (although I admit  alluding to it is not completely taking the high road), I decided to share something more in keeping with celebrating our country and our children --both our inner little ones and those young citizens who will become our future leaders.   So here you go.