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Posts Tagged ‘environmentalism’

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Locally found or made magical objects. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

Valentine’s Day brings a focus on relationships. Though I don’t observe the holiday with my husband (my daughter is obsessed with it), I’ve spent the week thinking about my connection to the land. Perhaps it’s the lingering winter and my desire to garden and forage again, or maybe it comes from my discipline kicking in when I don’t want to trudge through frigid snow with offerings.

My spirituality is very much concerned with the earth, and so it makes sense that most of what I work with is locally grown and made. Whenever I go through bouts of “distance” with my path, I always restore it in the garden or forest.

When I took the recent Imbolc course on Irish Pagan School, author and teacher Lora O’Brien discussed her issue with pipe cleaner Brigid crosses. My grove has done them in the past – mostly because they’re easier for the little kids – yet I’ve always preferred using actual wheat or local grasses. O’brien really hit the nail on the head for me when she described the plants, traditionally reeds, as a way to connect with the symbolism of the goddess and holiday. She was really critical of adults (without any mobility issues) taking a shortcut that is normally so rooted in nature’s seasonal changes, yet she tempered this with compassion. We are all learning. To paraphrase, she challenged those without access to reeds or something similar to begin planning for next year to secure a local source. (Provided you have permission, it’s a sustainable source, etc)

In Northern NY, where the windchill was -20 last night, now is a perfect time to contemplate the warmer half of the year. What do we need to do to deepen our relationship with nature? What are your long term magical goals, and what allies do you need to cultivate? What tools or offerings do you wish to procure for the upcoming holidays? When will the plants be ready to harvest? What do the spirits you wish to work with desire in return?

When I look back at some of what I’ve gathered, it fills me with warmth. Rowan branches collected on a nearby island following a storm. Stones from rivers and lakes right here as opposed to a distant pit and mined by child laborers. Beeswax candles from local keepers. Mugwort wands from my own garden. I’m excited to strengthen my bonds with the spirits of this place, but it must be done thoughtfully.

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In an effort to update my blog more regularly, I’ve decided to try a Three Things Thursday series. For the moment, I think I’ll just post three things relating to my practice – thoughts and reflections for the week, anticipation and plans for upcoming events, a toast or boast, mini review, etc.

  1. New Goal – Learn to Read Tea Leaves
    As the old year swung into the new, I had an interesting dream in which I read tea leaves for someone. I woke unable to recall my “client” or their fortune, but I clearly saw that I was confident in the matter. As a passionate fan of tea, I do find it shocking that I haven’t delved into tasseomancy sooner. When I still lived in the Mohawk Valley, my friend and mentor in our circle presented an introductory workshop on reading tea leaves, but that’s where I left it. I’m changing that this year! One of my allies must be pointing me in that direction, because I recently saw there’s a new book about the subject coming out in May. I’m very curious what your suggestions are in the meantime!
  2. The Ongoing Saga of Reducing Plastic in My Life
    As someone on an Earth-centered path, I strongly believe that we all need to adjust our lifestyles. This is going to look different for each of us, but those baby steps are necessary as we all push for greater societal changes. Between reusable bags, opting not to use plastic straws, and bringing our lunches in reusable containers, we’ve made some progress in our home. I recently learned about Tru Earth laundry strips and had to try them. Unlike most laundry detergents, these solid strips come in a paper envelope via mail subscription. No plastic! You tear them in half and they dissolve in your laundry. I know many people make their own detergents, but I’m not there yet. (Hence the baby steps! I’m pretty hard pressed to do the dishes on top of my other hobbies and responsibilities…) Two months in, and I’m really pleased. My clothes come out clean and smelling fresh!
  3. Writing Update
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    I hope you’ll forgive me for continuing to plug the upcoming issue of Stone, Root, and Bone. It’s coming out this weekend! You can still pre-order your copy from Hagstone Publishing for $5. If you already ordered one, I know I speak for everyone involved when I say THANK YOU for supporting independent Polytheistic writers and publishers.

    In other writing news, feedback is trickling in from my lovely beta readers! It’s so uplifting and encouraging to know that they are enjoying my manuscript. It’s a contemporary adult novel about Pagans with elements of magical realism and romance. They’ve given me some helpful considerations that I’ve taken to heart in my editing (and some revisions), but just knowing that they love the story keeps me going! Today, one of them sent me an email that made me so fuzzy!

    “I am loving the story and getting frustrated and anxious for things to resolve between [the characters]. The pace moves along quickly and I am enjoying it so far.”

    Yay! I hope to share it with all of you in the future!

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Helping Australia

The news from Australia is heartbreaking. There’s only so much each of us can do, especially if you live in another country like me, but if you can, please contribute.

I donated to The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie. I’ve seen them in the news a lot, and I sympathize with the work they’re doing. I’d rather my donation go right to people with boots on the ground in Australia.

On the spiritual front, if you’d like some ideas, The Druid’s Garden has some useful suggestions, including a beautiful hex sign. If money is tight for you, these are some helpful options.

 

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Ghost Flowers at Otter Creek Preserve.  Once upon a time, I had no idea what these were.  I didn’t merely shrug and forget – I took photos and looked them up after a hike.  Now I can easily identify them.  It’s a great feeling. – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

I read an article today that captured the spirit and concern of one of my recent posts.  It relates to Britain specifically, but I see a similar disconnect between people and nature in the United States.  It amazes me how many adults (who have lived in Upstate NY all their lives) don’t know the difference between an oak and a maple tree.  These are some of the most common trees around!  Or they can’t name any of the wildflowers that grow near them.

It’s really… strange to me, I guess, but then I think of all the other skills I’m surprised people lack.  Like…hearing that someone intends to throw out a shirt because a button fell off…  Say what?  Reading the article linked above made me realize how lucky I was as a child to learn about the nature around me.  My parents and even grandparents were very involved and passed down their wisdom – the names of plants and animals, how to garden, what not to touch, and even some wild edibles.  I’m always trying to add to that knowledge and pass on more to my own daughter.

There’s definitely some privilege there.  I understand that I was very lucky to have involved parents.  They could afford for my mother to stay home and raise my sister and me.  My father had a good job with benefits so he didn’t need to take any more employment.  My grandparents lived close and were able to retire, giving them plenty of time to teach me and my sibling how to sew, paint fences, weed, press flowers, etc.  Not only did we have access to green space, but we were surrounded by it and actively went on weekend excursions into the Adirondacks to learn more.  We went to the library and museums.  I realize not everyone is able to do those things for a variety of reasons.

I’m thinking about how I can help improve the situation.  Continuing to talk with my daughter about the plants and animals around us is a huge priority to me.  Reading and getting outside as I discussed in that recent post to improve my own understanding, for sure.  Perhaps I should do more with my own grove?  Going on a nature walk together and pooling our collective knowledge would be a great activity.  (Honestly, I want us to get out more together anyway.)  As a teacher, perhaps I should take my students outside.  Perhaps we’ll take advantage of the wooded trail on campus and keep a weekly or even monthly nature journal to improve their writing skills…  Simply getting outside and taking the time to observe can be so powerful*.  There are many possibilities.  Every little bit counts.

What are you doing to improve your connection to nature?  What else could you do to pass on your knowledge to others?

*I once took some little kids out on the playground with magnifying glasses just to observe the insects and spiders.  After calming them, they were entranced by a bumblebee, admitting that they never actually looked at one up close before.  It was one of the most amazing, humbling, and emotional experiences to me as a teacher.

 

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I posted this on my private FB feed today, but I decided that I wanted to share it here too.  If you are a friend or you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been very supportive of the Water Protectors in North Dakota.  You know I’ve been sharing news stories that, otherwise, many may not be exposed to on television.  I have not done anything on my blog, so I wanted to share this because, every year, I seem to do an annual grumble about Thanksgiving.  So ’tis the season!  Seriously, though, I feel very strongly about this.  It feels hypocritical.

I shared this link to “The Women of Standing Rock are Midwifing a Global Movement” and said this on it:

“A nation isn’t defeated until the hearts of their women are on the ground.” Powerful words. Watch the videos in the link.

Going into the month of November, ideas swirl in my mind. I think of Thanksgiving, something that has, symbolically, become more unsavory as I grow and learn. Autumn Equinox is when my immediate family and my people get together to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest – literal and metaphorical. This other day of gratitude in November is so tied up with the dominant culture’s damaging lies, perpetuating the idea that everyone got together and it’s all okay. I don’t think I can do that this year, not anymore, not even as a facade to make family happy, when this is happening. Even if it only gets my family to think about it more… but imagine if more of us said no. We didn’t go to or tune into Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade; we didn’t buy all those turkeys and canned sweet potatoes; we didn’t fuel the greed machine by participating in Black Friday. Imagine the message that would send… I think that’s something I need to consider doing and sticking to this year. If not now, when?

Know that I will not judge those of you who still want to gather with your family. Being with family is always a good thing. Giving thanks is always a good thing. Do use the time to discuss and meditate on the cultural symbolism of the day, though. You cannot ignore that, especially with everything going on. I can’t leave my home, my family, and my job to join the protest – even somewhat local gatherings.  I have responsibilities in the form of loans and rent to pay.  I keep lamenting that I don’t have enough money to send the Water Protectors to help them maintain their camps and pay their legal fees, but what if we didn’t spend some money on factory farmed turkeys (or Tofurkeys in my case) and, instead, sent that to the camp?  What if we all did that act?

Either way, if you support the Water Protectors like I do, let’s send a strong message this November and show our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters that our love of the Earth, the Nature Spirits, and Ancestors of Place is not just lip service.

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Dandelion Cookie Offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I seem to post about food an awful lot, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Harvesting, making, and preserving food plays such an important role in our religious traditions and holidays.

I recently recognized what has become a family tradition in early May – harvesting and cooking with dandelion flowers. In fact, I know we had a huge harvest of dandelions around Mother’s Day last year because I have an adorable photo of Bee, dressed up for the day, sitting in our backyard surrounded by lovely yellow dandelions!  It was around that time that we made dandelion cookies.

On Saturday, after treating myself to a fabulous hot stone massage, we returned home, then Bee and I gathered some dandelion flowers.  Day by day, I’m teaching her to respect nature, how Mama Earth provides food for us, how we work with other creatures like the honeybees, and how to express our gratitude.  Seeing her grow in her knowledge and vocabulary is just magical.

When the cookies were done baking, I saw that one looked like a heart.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to give that one back as an offering to the Earth Mother.  Bee picked a few too many flowers, so we gave those back as well.  Between the birds, the ants, and the rain we had last night, the cookie is indeed going back into the Earth Mother.

Land, Sky, and Sea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Land, Sky, and Sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I’ve had such a lovely Mother’s Day today.  We had breakfast in my favorite cafe in Clayton, NY, then spent some time at Grass Point State Park.  We put our feet in the river for the first time this year, and it felt amazing.  It was like a homecoming.  While Bee and her father played on the slides, I sat under some willows, where the land met the river, and meditated for a little bit.  I watched the honeybees pollinating the flowers all around me, watched the terns swoop through the air, listened to the St. Lawrence River whisper against the sand.  Nearby, plants grew, an otter carcass decayed, and seabirds sang over the small, rocky islands.  Everything, everyone, was part of the Earth Mother, and I was there with them.  Just as she nourishes me, I nourish my daughter.  One day, we will nourish others in the great cycle…  I sang to the River Spirit who is part of the Earth Mother.

It is just so beautiful and ineffable.  Cookies, flowers, songs, and prayers are but a simple expression of my love and gratitude.  Later, I did the work – I mixed new, organic potting soil with homemade compost.  Filled the pots, preparing them for homegrown veggies and flowers for our pollinator allies.  Working with the Earth Mother, working to improve my involvement with the Earth Mother, with my brother and sister Nature Spirits…  Still so much to do, so much to learn…

Whenever I do a devotional, I pray:

Earth Mother, may my greatest offering be my daily attempts to walk lighter upon you…

Every day, I learn more and grow more in my understanding, just like my daughter…

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Sugar pod peas poking out to say hello to the world! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

My daughter and I took a walk around our home to celebrate Earth Day. Granted, we do this regularly, but why not do something outside today? It was chilly, so, regardless of what season the calendar says it is, we took our winter coats out.

First, we visited the container garden in back to inspect the newly planted onion set and the bed of dwarf sugar pod peas.  As you can see from the photo, the peas are germinating!  I’m hoping that their reputation for cold hardiness gets them through the low temperatures this week.  I may need to tuck them in for a few days each night!

Sticking close to the hedge, Bee and I wandered a little further  from home to look for signs of spring despite the chill.  Right off the bat, we heard a chorus of frogs in the marsh behind our home.  Each day we go out, I tell Bee that the sound comes from frogs, and she knows what they are due to lots of reading and animal-oriented shows.  She got down on all fours and proceeded to bounce, chanting “hop, hop, hop!”  That had to stop when we reached muddier terrain.  “Squish, squish, squish!” I said, picking her up.  Her boots aren’t as waterproof as mine.  Mud boots are on Bee’s birthday wish list!

I pointed to the white oak, but the buds weren’t as obvious on him. The maples had glorious, red buds that were bursting open.  Bee liked looking at them more.  I was able to hold her up so she could carefully touch them.  “Gentle, gentle,” I cooed.  She knows that word from interacting with our cats and my lemon tree.  “Twee.  Twee,” she said.

We reached a green hill, lovely and green after the rain we received, and Bee gleefully ran up with me.  She loves open spaces to race and explore.  We didn’t linger there long because the cold wind whipped our faces.  Bee held her hat as we gingerly climbed down.  We decided to go home.  Chilly wind equals snotty noses, and Bee needed a handkerchief.  Silly mama!  Why didn’t I pack one?  They’re necessary when out and about.

Between work and toddler care, I wasn’t able to do anything traditionally associated with Earth Day.  I didn’t attend a rally, pick up litter, or plant trees.  If my husband had been home, it would have been easier to manage a bag of litter (one parent handles the bag and the other watches the tot), but it’s hard when you’re on your own.  Earth Day was simple for me this year: a walk around our little patch of home, observing the natural changes.  We made offerings of birdseed to the local spirits and Earth Mother.  I said a prayer of thanks and Bee babbled, obviously trying to join in.  She solemnly blew a kiss to the trees when we were done.  Engaging in such activities today and every day will help raise a child who places value in the Earth, a child who is more likely to be intrinsically motivated to attend rallies, plant trees, and pick up litter when she’s older.  I’m laying the foundation.  Even if she decides that Druidism (or Paganism in general) is not the path for her, I will consider myself successful if she grows up to love and honor the Earth, and every being she shares her home with.

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