Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unravelling this Blog

Hello, faithful readers - thank you for sticking with me during the deep silence that has billowed forth from this portal in the past few months - the one or two posts I've done since late Spring notwithstanding.

I'm going to be moving this blog over to my own new - under construction but up and in progress  - personal web page -  not my posts will make it over but most of them will.  I will be rewriting my Thoughts on Building Community posts and continuing the series to completion  -  but from a much different perspective.

So - if you want to find me in the weeks ahead, please go to and subscribe for updates to the blog that will be taking shape there.  While the site itself has a more professional/business based agenda, I will continue to post my observations on the world at large, the integration of my core beliefs and pagan principles into everyday life and will still be "me".

If you don't make the jump, then thanks for reading - hope you enjoyed my ramblings, and we'll catch you on the flip side.

Be well.
Look sharp.

Enjoy the day.


Monday, July 19, 2010

365 x 2 / 88 = Carpe Diem

365 x 2 / 88 = Carpe Diem

Two years ago, the memories remain clear
The darkest of days
The solemn words no mother wants to hear
When her son wears a uniform
On behalf of a grateful nation, we regret to inform...

Two years ago, the memories remain clear
The long sleepless nights
A dawn of the heart that never comes
The media reminds us at every station break,
Telling a grateful nation of Canadian hero #88

Two years ago, the memories remain clear
The hard week until he came home
Down the Highway of Heroes
Yellow ribbons on trees, on fences, flags half mast
The gathering of the Clan, the Piper's Lament, a bugle's blast.

Two years ago, the memories remain clear
The turning of seasons without brother and son
The passing of years without lover or friend
Hearts can heal if memory serves with distinction
giving a grateful nation the fruits of Carpe Diem

More years to go, the memories  remain clear
The potential of time for creating change
A dog name Jimmy, inspired young activists,
The simple comfort of a pillow from home
Teaching a great-full nation how much good can come.

By Way of Explanation:
It has been 2 years since the death of my cousin, James Hayward Arnal in Afghanistan.  The life of his immediate family has changed beyond measure, and those of us in the greater family circle also still feel the ripple of his passing.  The memory becomes fresh and new with each soldier killed since James's death - and I think of those families often, even as I think of James' mom - my cousin Wendy, and his brother Andrew. 

As I read some of the posts on the Carpe Diem Facebook page this afternoon, where James is remembered and the work of the foundation he inspired is discussed, the following poem just came.  I share it to direct people to the work of the Carpe Diem Foundation and to remember all those who have still serve our country as men and women in uniform and in harms way - protecting and defending our Canadian ideals of freedom, democracy, and equality for all citizens of this fragile planet.

Friday, March 12, 2010

MEME 8: Use Your Library

Let me share with you what I am learning ....

All my life, I've loved books.  I was a voracious reader.  I still have many of the books I was given as a child from my Uncle Art and Auntie Mary, and I was fortunate that my parents bought me the classics - not the dumbed down versions of great children's literature.  My first piece of personal identification was my Library Card to the Port Arthur Public Library.  It was a proud day for this little bookworm when I made my first trip to the library on my own and came home with 10 books - the maximum that they would allow me to take out at any one time.  I read them - returned them - and took out 10 more.  Rinse - Repeat.

My summers in between University school years, I lived in a smallish town in Northwestern Manitoba -and my goal was to read every book in the town library, starting with the A's.  I got bored long before I completed my task (many of the books just weren't very good) - but at least I had a goal.

Books have always been magical - sacred to me.  Burning books is a heinous crime against humanity - killing ideas and potential and diversity and creating mental homogeneity and a type of cultural sanitation that is not healthy.  I can't write in the margins of my books -but love some of the rare old hardcovers where I have the previous owner's thoughts carefully noted in the margin.  But then - they were wiser than I.  

Over the years, I have amassed a sizable library of both tunes and tomes - which is why I hire movers to help me move and don't burden my friends with the mountain of liquor boxes (study and small!) of mixed media.  Had to have the floors reinforced on my second story house to accommodate the collection.  And yes - I want an iKindlePadreader doo-hickey at some point - but mostly for newspapers and magazines (news junkie).  And you can put it in a Ziploc bag and read in the tub.  FTW, baby.  With Bubbles.

Working in a big box bookstore was "not" the ideal job for an avid reader (other than having some product knowledge) - you don't get to read when you are at work - but we did get a discount and that helped.  Some people mistook the cozy atmosphere for that of a library - we would routinely find people copying out sections of books (recipes usually) or asking if we had a photo-copier so they could take the information they wanted without having to buy the book.  They were so shocked when we said "NO".  (hello - bookSTORE).

Like bookstores, libraries are in deep trouble.  People just aren't reading the way they used to.  Hell's bells - I'm not even reading the way I used to.  I'm writing more - but I also get more information from the 'net.  I read 1/10 the magazines I used to (you will pry Vanity Fair from my cold dead hands) and far fewer books.
Lots of reasons for that -  but I don't want to digress too far off the beaten blog topic.

I used to think of libraries as repositories of knowledge - the place to find a book on everything - and some are.  But most local libraries (like the ones here in our fair city) are NOT like the Library of Alexandria.  I remember being shocked and appalled when I heard that the Library was having a book sale - selling off parts of their collection that didn't demonstrate adequate turnover.  What are they doing? How can I possibly find the answer to all my questions if they are getting rid of books?  The next trauma I had was learning that bookstores and publishers PULP (meaning mash up/destroy) unsold books.

The Horror! The Horror!

These days, libraries (and bookstores) are in big trouble because the Internet has become the biggest repository of knowledge (both correct and incorrect) in the world.  For Free - from the comfort of your living room / bedroom / computer screen wherever you are.  Plus - with some extra permissions (paid or just requested) the average Jane can have access to immense databases, reference libraries, and institutional resources.  It is totally wild what we can find out about absolutely anything or anyone.  But the physical brick and mortar library is struggling.

Part of that is "the nature of things" and all things have their seasons (for instance, books are no longer copied by hand in monasteries - that just wouldn't be practical.)

So how do we use our libraries?  We can use our bricks and mortar libraries as places to read, learn, gather, study, write - and take advantage of their programming - meaning their schedule of events and programs.  But their hours are limited, you have to "buy in" to their organizing system (Mr. Dewey had good intentions, but things just got right out of hand! The Librarians of Congress get an A for effort, but they just muddied the waters a little bit)

We can use our virtual libraries by being smart about it - cross-checking and verifying facts; just because something is written on the intergalactic bathroom wall that is the Internet doesn't mean that it is correct.  (ah the magic of the printed word is now part of our DNA - from the time Meister Gutenberg printed the first bilbios, the easily reproducible physical manifestation of the oral tradition Made It Truth.)

Our personal libraries reflect the history of our intellectual journey, and tell others a lot about us by manifesting what we read for pleasure - we can outgrow both fiction and non-fiction books as our tastes change, or our skill set increases, or new information becomes available.  What was the first book you bought on the Craft? the second? the third? Still have them? Still use them? Find new truths that mitigate the first learning? Gone beyond See Dick Cast Circle, See Jane Cast Spells Wicca Beginner books?

Our inner libraries - our professed mental knowledge deserves the same rigorous housecleaning as our bookshelves from time to time.  We get so comfortable with "the truths as we were taught them" that we can reiterate what we have learned by rote - in fact it can almost become a regurgitation of previously digested truths that may no longer really serve us.  It may mean giving up old familiar volumes (like that quaint fable about the 6 million women in the Burning Times).  It may mean doing the usual things in an unusual way (Banishing Ritual of the What Direction Do I Draw This Pentacle When Facing this Direction?) It may mean going where no Witch has gone before (ah, interfaith research as part of the Third Degree Mystery).

Do you "use your library" - all the resources at your fingertips?  Do you pass on the books (and teachings) you have outgrown?  Do you gather together with others to learn and grow -as opposed to socialize and gossip? Do you read critically (meaning critical in a good way) - or do you believe that just because it is in a book that it must be right (unless contradicted by a post on the Internet)?  Can your own personally held beliefs stand up to some rigorous push-and-pull?  Do you know enough about a broad enough base of cultural practices, religious traditions, societal habits that you can share (not shout) your own journey in ways that someone who doesn't speak the same internalized faith-based language can understand?

Are you willing to take a random book off a random shelf and just open it to see what it really is all about? Or to take something that everyone is talking about and read it / research it to form your own opinion?  (substitute person for something in that sentence and read it again.)

A word often associated with books is "bound" - how the individual pages are held together.  If one of those pages goes missing - the story is incomplete.  You'll never know what great wisdom, what perfect imagery, what twist of plot or perversion of character development it may have contained.  The quality of the binding makes for the longevity of the book - and keeps the story intact.  Hard work, bookbinding - and it will soon be a lost art in this digital and disposable age.  The transition from leather bound hardcover to dime store paperback to digital download file that goes "poof" at the click of a button - you don't need a Fireman to know which way the flame goes.   (sorry, Mr. Dylan, I couldn't resist the play on words).  Anybody up for a late night viewing of Fahrenheit 451?  (and what book would you save? let me know - I'm curious! mine is Gone With the Wind only because Jacinthe picked As In the Heart So In the Earth by Pierre Rabhy - and since she can memorize it in the original French, she gets to pick that one.)

What binds your spine to the individual pages of your daily life experience, the people, the ideas that make up your life when you look at it from cover to cover?  Got any loose pages?  Need to find the gap in the story? Use your library - see if there is a resource to help you reclaim that lost bit that helps fill in the gaps.  And if you are coming completely unglued - get rebound - to your Gods, to your commitments, to your own sense of purpose and progress.  Renew your relationships, get out the adhesive tape and patch those torn pages, see if they fit back into the mix - they might - they might not.  Check your habits and uncurl those dog-eared corners that no longer serve you.

In my imaginary world, I wonder what the original Library of Alexandria might have looked like.  I wish I could be given the gift of fluency in all the ancient languages, and transported through time to see it's treasures, and hold some of those precious documents in my hot little hands.  (the closest I've ever come was to hold an autographed first edition of Gardner's High Magic's Aid - the Wiccan Old Testament if there ever was one).  My personal belief is that a lot of the lost documents of antiquity are hermetically sealed in the Vatican Library (a la Angels & Demons).

One last thought - I wish that we had a true Pagan Resource Centre - where we could donate our used books for the benefit of the learning curve of the Greater Pagan Community - a reading room where we could gather and read and write and learn together without any teachers or agendas - just discussion and scholarly research.  Kind of like what we started at the Witchery except the books would never leave the premises (they rarely find their way home - most of the books on the Craft purchased by the Public Library system are stolen - strange bad karma building choices for people studying about a religious path based on cause and effect.)  Where can our books go - other than recycling through the used book stores?

And on that note ... I'm off to organize a shelf or two of tomes, and see if any old friends need a re-visiting.  The only books worth keeping are the ones worth reading twice.

Enjoy the day,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

MEME 7: Plant Flowers

Let me share with you what I am learning ....

I am not a gardener.  To me it is one of those things that if I am going to get into it - I`m going to get obsessive compulsive about it - so I don`t dare start.  I`m funny that way.  Jacinthe, on the other hand is content to putter and dig in the dirt, and swear at the slugs and plant - replant - transplant - nurture  - water - coax - and pull the weeds.  Also - right now, my asthma kicks in from the mold and spores and fungi in the dirt. If you can't breathe - you can't garden.  Or praise the gardener.

I am a great admirer of beautiful gardens.  When I was a child, my mom kept beautifully manicured flower beds, as well as an extensive vegetable garden.  She came by her talents honestly - my little Scottish grandma could put a dead stick in a pot of soil and make it flower.  She once grew a 500 pound pumpkin.  My paternal grandparents also gardened- both vegetables and flower beds - I remember nasturtiums and gladioli and a rock garden with hens and chicks everywhere.  There was a bleeding heart plant by the back door - so I have one too, thanks to Jacinthe paying attention to the meandering stories of my childhood.

Flowers bring people together.  The neighbors routinely stop to chat with Ms. Pouce Vert  as she is doing what she loves to do - getting her hands in the soil and making things grow and be beautiful.  She encourages me to cut a few blooms and take them to work - but I hate watching cut flowers die, so I prefer to leave them in the garden for the bees and butterflies.  We won't even get into the environmental hazard posed by the commercial cut flower industry - but we all remember the first time we ever were gifted with flowers, I bet.  Mine was a rose bowl for a piano recital.  Ah, the 60's.  Everything was much simpler then.

Jacinthe is starting to talk about swapping seeds - or bulbs - or seedlings  - or cuttings with other friends that are also avid gardeners.  She is inspired by the gardens of friends - and we routinely stop the car when we drive past a particularly amazing display of gardening prowess - there`s one street just off Academy Road where two houses are having a Floral Feud - seeing who can out-landscape the other in the style of rambling English country garden type flower explosions.  One of the competitors has expanded their garden onto the boulevard, complete with a 4 foot white rabbit statue wired to the stately elm.  I think they win, but I`ll keep going back to see what happens next.  We aren't the only ones who stop by.

This makes me think of flowers and weeds.  A rose bush in a corn field is a weed, as much as a dandelion in a rock garden is also a beautiful plant in the wrong place.  Flowers simply bloom where they are planted -whether it be from seeds or bulbs.  Seeds can be carried on the wind, on the fur of an animal or the cloth of a coat, left behind in bird or animal droppings (seriously) - or planted meticulously one at a time in a prescribed and prepared place, then nurtured into growth.  Bulbs, like seeds, are a "plant now and enjoy later" proposition but often need to be planted the season before they are expected to bloom, and sometimes come up when there is still snow on the ground.

Where you are in life - do you plant flower seeds? Do you plan your garden of thought? Deed? Words? Do you leave behind a legacy of beautiful memories?  Are your words and deeds the seeds of encouragement, strength, insight, beauty?  Do the bulbs of your interactive garden push up through the chill of inclement weather to brighten the day?

Too often, we sow seeds of doubt, fear, distrust, dislike - the weeds in the garden of the soul.  Our minds provide fertile soil for the seeds of negative self-talk and recrimination and blame to take deep root and grow wild and drive out the more delicate beautiful flowers in our mental garden.  We leave unwanted seeds behind us, masked as fertilizer, clinging to the cloak of memories, buried in the fur of past monsters that have not yet been locked into the closet - and these weeds find such sustenance in our human nature that they thrive and choke out any positive life affirming growth in our garden.  Sometimes - they have thorns - with which we hurt ourselves and others.  Sometimes there isn't anyone to help pull them out.  They fester until something beautiful and loving withers and dies, and no amount of rain (tears) or sun (love) can bring things back to life.

We also leave the gate open - abdicating responsibility, inviting the careless to trample the hard work of others or our own labors of growth and creation.  We forget to walk on the paths, not on the carefully seeded lawn or the raised flower beds of accomplishment.  We grind beauty - truth - care under dirty boot heels and act surprised when the gardener smacks us with a rake and asks us what the hell we were thinking.  Oops. Sorry. Careless me.  Was that fertilizer I just stepped in?  Smells like it.

I realize that this is a wide digression from the community building thought of planting flower gardens, to share beauty and energy and life force.  My mind wandered into the metaphor - and it is just as valid, I think.

There is a saying - "Bloom where you are planted" - which is true.  But we also need to allow ourselves to be pruned by loving and careful hands to encourage new growth, more blossoms, and to keep us from tangling with bad companions who are planted in our emotional neighborhood.  We have the choice in each moment to plant  a flower - pluck a weed - shore up a weak branch - nurture a fragile blossom - and leave a seed or two to germinate later in the season.

We also need to ensure that we provide fertile soil for the seeds of others in our lives - to accept their prodding (done with love), their weeding (ouch! I liked that bad habit) and the calling of a spade as a spade - not a digging instrument of the sexton's persuasion.  We need to walk carefully - and make sure that our own paths are clearly marked, so others don't accidentally cause us harm because we didn't make our boundaries clear.

Plant flowers.  Real ones.  Soul ones.  Nurture them.  Weed them.  Watch for slugs, and those persistent little bugs that just suck the life right out of you.  Make beautiful bouquets with great variety, riotous colors, intoxicating scents and share them with those you love.  As the seasons change, turn the soil, plant bulbs for spring, and put down the compost to make all things new.

And remember to give thanks to the Great Garden - Mother Earth - for all her creations.  The beautiful - the thorny - the hard to grow - the ones that run wild.  Especially for the rosebush in a corn field.  Enjoy its beauty.  Plough around it if you can.  It might be me.  Or you.  Or even - all of us.

Enjoy the day,

PS:  if you are enjoying this series - please consider doing a couple things that all boil down to "let me know" - write a comment on the blog with your thoughts - friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @suhurrell and let me know via those channels what you think.  I appreciate the comments I have received so far - and your thoughts mean the world to me as I explore these ideas.  Let me know if you have shared these posts with friends or family and what they think.  I'd appreciate the feedback.  Thanks!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Charter of Compassion

`They say` that if you run across something three times that that is a cosmic thwap on the head that indicates that it should not be ignored.  The Charter of Compassion project keeps coming into my field of vision - it has been floating around the 'net for a while now - and usually these kinds of things have a limited shelf life - but this has become as omnipresent as Earth Hour.  So, since I'm the kind of person who asks - "what needs to be done" - Hey friends - what do you think?  Want to do something with this?   At the very least - sign up - pass it on.

A Circle of Pagans for Compassion - has a nice "ring" to it. Here there and everywhere.  

Enjoy the day,

Monday, January 25, 2010

MEME 6: Sit on Your Stoop

Let me share with you what I am learning ....

The poet Robert Frost wrote "good fences make good neighbors".  True enough - and we all need to know where our personal space ends and the other person`s space begins.  But nothing says "neighbor" like sitting on your front steps  or on your front porch and watching your neighborhood go by.

We don't have much of a culture of "stoop sitting" here in Canada - most of us are backyard inhabitants when the weather is good - if we have a house with a front and back yard.  We don't do much with our front yards - some are showpieces of gardening genius, some are green grass and a picket fence.  We like our little oasis of isolation "out back".  We may or may not know our neighbors.  Maybe our next door neighbors - but not the people down the block, or across the back lane.

Just for fun last year, Jacinthe and I moved the little green enamel patio table and chairs to the front porch deck for a couple weeks, and made a point of sitting outside for an hour reading the paper or knitting.  People seemed surprised to see us there.  It's one thing to see people puttering around their gardens, but to see people in Winnipeg sitting in front of their house, not drinking beer and waiting for the pizza delivery guy - seemed a bit strange.

But by day three, the regular passers by were acknowledging our presence - and by the end of the first week, people were actively looking for us to say hi to - in a quiet acknowledging kind of way.  We live in a quiet little urban suburb, a block from the local mall, with a fair bit of neighborhood foot traffic.  I think we will repeat the experiment again this summer.  Jacinthe is happy because that means we'll get new lawn furniture for the back yard.

It took so little to make a simple basic human connection with total strangers.  Not that we shared names and phone numbers or got to know them on a personal level - but our presence was acknowledged.  People now know who lives in "the little pink house".  All we had to do was show up - in the space where we are anyways every day.  We made ourselves visible - and it was painless.

The house to the west of us is a rental, and every year there are new tenants.  One day, a few years ago, the new tenant stuck her head out of her back door when we were coming home from work - we had seen her coming and going, but had never been able to engage her in casual conversation until now.

"I almost called the police today" she said very sharply, with no hello, or introduction.  "There was a strange old man wandering around your back yard this afternoon. He was stealing the walnuts that fell from your tree, picking them up off the ground.  I thought that he might be a burglar - or a child molester - but I wanted to tell you that the next time I see him, I'm calling the cops."  She looked so proud of herself, and started to close the door.

"Hey - wait a minute - that's just Gus - he lives down the block. You may have seen him walking to the mall every morning for his mallwalking.  He picks up our fallen walnuts to make some kind of herbal concoction to treat his cancer. He's okay - don't worry. Did you ask him what he was doing? He would have been happy to tell you."

"Well, how do I know he won't molest my son?  Of course I didn't talk to him - I don't know who he is.  He just looks like a creepy old man to me - so I'm still going to call the police if I see him in your yard."  It took a hour of conversation to convince her that Gus was no threat - and that he wasn't in her yard, he was in ours, with our permission, and that he wasn't likely to hurt anyone, given that he is 90 years old and bent over like a question mark.  All she saw was a strange man.  She moved out a month later, declaring that she just didn't like the neighborhood.  Bye bye.

She perceived a stranger as an imminent threat.  She couldn't see past her own fears to see Gus for who he is.  When he knocked on our door after we moved in back in 1995, I spoke with him through the screen door until I understood what he was about, and then of course went out and talked with him - like a human being.  If he thinks that making some kind of tea out of unripened Italian walnuts will make him live longer - and I have scads of unripened Italian walnuts falling to the ground - he and the squirrels are welcome to fight over them and may the best walnut gatherer win.  He never took them all - he always left enough for his furry competitors.  He just took what he needed and that was enough.  He gave us a basket of tomatoes one summer.  A more than fair trade.

He had the courage to knock on a strangers' door.  Given what he's seen in his lifetime, during the war years, he's the one who might have been afraid of strangers.  I had the courage to engage in conversation, that became a neighborly friendship. It was good - neither deep, nor wide - just good.   He stopped coming round the year before last - and I haven't seen him on the street - so he may have moved, or moved up to the big walnut grove in the sky. More for the squirrels - though with the environmental shift of climate change, we`ve had less and less walnuts lately.  Fewer squirrels come by.  All things are connected.

Life is like that.  "Wherever we go, there we are" - but are we really there - or are we hiding behind the walls of our habits, our fears, our guarded, gated personal interior landscapes? I know I do.  I'm painfully shy (yes, believe it, it's true) - and letting people get close to the authentic me feels like a dangerous proposition.  Simply sitting and reading a newspaper and looking over its top edge or around the side from time to time as people walk past and admire the flowers is not risky.  In some ways, it is oddly comforting.

In a world that is increasingly automated and disconnected, extending my humanity just a little bit helps me to cope with a big scary unpredictable world - and maybe helps others too.  By knowing who is walking past my house - I can understand that the "bunch of hoodlums making all the noise" are really just a group of teenage boys in basketball team jackets on their way to practice.  Now that they know I'm "there" - they take it down a knotch - not out of fear of being yelled at by the crazy cat lady, but because they now innately realize that they are walking past a "HOME" where that woman "LIVES" - not just a house on the street.

I can explore the boundaries between comfort and safety (a future post topic).  I can be present on the stoop of my life - and from there select the levels of engagement that I can choose to have with the passers by in my neighborhood (speaking more metaphorically).  I can make myself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually available (not the same as vulnerable) to new life experiences.  I can look at the familiar with new eyes.  I can look at the unfamiliar with hope and curiosity.

Good fences make for good neighbors- but the difference between a fence and a wall is the height and depth and presence of gates and energetic permeability.  We all need good fences - good boundaries around our lives - because that definition can be helpful and healthy.  That doesn't mean a fence has to get in the way.  It shouldn't prevent me from seeing the very approachable world around me. It might help keep the neighbor's pug from digging up Jacinthe's tulip bulbs.  That's what a fence is for - definition, not division.

I never have to extend myself further than I am comfortable - but I can remind myself that most people are good people just caught up in the busy-ness of their lives and that we have more in common than we remember we have. When I am feeling isolated or lonely - I can remember that I am also a good person, with things to offer, and that I can always find people who have similar interests in common - if I choose to engage in new and vibrant relationship opportunities.  No one will come to my house to teach me Scottish Country Dancing. I have to lace up my shoes, and go to the community centre.  Who knew there were so many people interested in this folk dancing thing here in Winnipeg.  They have socials and everything!

So metaphorically and physically - I`m going to sit on my stoop more often.  And maybe, when I look across the way, I'll see you - sitting on your stoop - reading a good book and drinking coffee - and we can lift our cups to each other - and see if we are both there tomorrow.  Or maybe at Scottish Country Dancing class, whenever the next session is.

Enjoy the day,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

MEME 5: Greet People

Let me share with you what I have been learning...

The people whom I’ve seen succeed in life have always been cheerful and hopeful people who went about their business with a smile on their faces.

~Charles Kingsley

When I was at university, there was a woman I would see on campus and around the downtown area who embodied the word "radiant". She was shorter than average, and a little rounder than average, and her clothing was unexceptional.  She was not exceptionally beautiful - but she carried herself with great dignity.  Now - when I say "dignity" - what image comes to mind?  That's not what I mean.  Nothing stuffy or snooty.  Quite the opposite.

What set her apart was that she, in some strange way that was not intrusive or freakish, somehow managed to "greet" every single person she encountered with a smile.  She always looked at the people that she met on the street, and she was always smiling.  If she caught your eye, the smile would deepen just slightly - and for that one micro-milli-second - I felt "greeted by joy".  With the brevity and delicacy of the kiss of butterfly wings on the soul.  A smile from a stranger. An acknowledgement. You exist - I see you - and there is joy that you - stranger - are part of my world.

Yes I know that is my subjective interpretation of her action.  Don't spoil it for me.

She seemed quite sane - normal - studious.  She never engaged strangers in conversation, at least not that I could tell.  She had no agenda.  I often wondered if she was the child of missionaries, someone who grew up in a foreign culture where everyone assumed that the stranger in the village was a friend that you hadn't met yet.  Or perhaps she was waiting for someone to recognize her as a Divine Being - an angel in burkenstocks and wooly socks with a backpack that contained no apparent rocks of distress only a joyful countenance for sharing.

Fast Forward 30 years.

Jacinthe has been landscaping our front yard over the past two years - she has a green thumb and a green plan and a lot of seeds and bulbs and a roto-tiller and shovel and knows how to use them.  Don't walk on her grass, man.  She's tearing it up and planting pretty things that are not our culturally acceptable invasive species.  Her own green earth rebellion against sub-herb-bia.

Almost immediately upon becoming a "lawn fixer fixture" - out in the front yard every evening and most weekends - people that we had seen pass with indifference by our house for years started to say hello.  After a few passes by over the weeks, and a few hello's - they would start to stop and chat a bit - offer some advice - pay a compliment - ask a question.  Pause for a moment of connection.

It took a greeting - given and received - to break the ice.  It felt good.  It brought a little bit of the best parts of small town living back (given that both Jacinthe and I grew up in small towns).

Let's start with the premise that 99.9% of the people in my neighborhood are not going to do me any harm. They are my neighbors - next door - across the street - down the back lane.  I see them regularly - occasionally - daily - depending on my routine.  What bad thing could happen?  There was that one wacko that got taken away for hitting his wife - and the party boys - but in recent years, everyone has been pretty sane.  Not like they are going to hurt me for saying "hi".

Okay - they can ignore me. Maybe the first time.  Still costs nothing to say it again.  To acknowledge their presence. To see the different faces of the Divine as they walk - stroll - bike - rollerblade - skateboard - amble - ramble - or hopscotch past your doorstep.  I live in the first ring of suburbs outside the inner city.  If you live get your mail from a super-mail-box, you can say hi to people at the communal mail box in your apartment building. Or to the regular face behind the counter at the Red River Co-op gas station.  To the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street , or on your habitual beat each day.

What does how I greet my nearest and dearest say about the quality of our connections?  There's the casual passing by greeting, the drive by hi - the absent minded how-are-ya before we get down to business and the reason for meeting. We all - everyone - hate it hate it hate it when someone asks us how we are and moves on with the conversation without actually listening to the answer.  Not saying we have to get all sloppy and clingy and mushy and emotional - but I want to become more mindful - to pay attention -and to make sure that all is indeed well before moving on to the next topic of conversation.  Truly, the pause that refreshes.

There are all kinds of parables and anecdotes and legends about the Divine showing up looking a lot like the average person, and the miracles or the magic happened after the "mere mortal" in the story said "hi" to start the conversation.

Anything like that ever happen to you?  Greeting someone either casually or with intent - and that person changed your life (hopefully for good more often than for not-so-good).   I know that each person I see - that I meet - that I interact with either casually or intentionally or regularly or habitually "is" god - I just forget sometimes.  Mostly cause I forget that I am god also.

The Divine shows up in my life all the time.  When I have that final encounter with the Power of the Universe, I want to hear The Source of All Life say "You had me at "hello".

Enjoy the day,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MEME 4: Look Up When I Am Walking

Let me share with you what I have been learning...

There are two parts to this meme - two physical actions that can occur separately, or together - but that are being called into simultaneous action.  1) Look up when 2) you are walking.

Let's start with walking.  That thing that so many of us do from the house to the car or truck or bus - from the car to the office - from the office to the vehicle of choice to our home.  We do a bit of walking when we go shopping - but now that malls are built on uncovered football fields, we find that we have to drive across the lot with a packed lunch to get from one big box look-alike outlet store to another.  Some of us (meaning you) are more physically active - but the simple act of "walking" is a rare and wonderous thing.

We have beautiful parks with walking trails, and very interesting neighborhoods to go walking in - there are even walking clubs like The Prairie Pathfinders. (other cities may have something similar).  But we don't need a club or even a map to go for a walk - we can just stroll around our own neighborhood.  You might want a friend to chat with, or some music or a podcast to listen to - but let's not isolate ourselves from the comings and goings around us on our stroll.

Back in the day, when I was a wild child living in the Osborne Village - and didn't have a television, my roommate and I used to go for long walks all through River Heights - looking at the old houses, admiring the gardens, and exploring our thoughts.  We would walk for hours.  We walked right through winter - except for coldest weeks.  But then - we both got boyfriends, and the after dinner walks slowly stopped happening.  We made different choices on how to spend our evenings.

After my "big Breakup" in 1993 (and I was once again tv-free), another friend and I used to go for long walks every Sunday - from downtown through the Forks, or all the way down Corydon, poking around all the shops.  It lasted all spring and summer, then life got busy, relationships got in the way of our habitual day of strolling - and those different choices were made yet again.

Methinks I see a pattern here that bears exploring.  Time to get a good pair of walking shoes and venture out - when the temperature permits cause right now it is -30 Celsius.  Now of course, I'm more concerned about falling on the ice and breaking a hip - the city does a mediocre job of plowing the sidewalks at the best of times.  But I hope I don't choose to wait until Spring.  There is beauty in the winter urban landscape - and fewer dogs outside to bark and scare me.

Now to the "look up" part.  I think this means to see the people, the houses, the buildings, the back lanes, the churches and other houses of worship, the old fire hall/now condos, whatever there is around me - and to appreciate it.  To smile and say hello to the people I may meet on the street.  TO ENGAGE with the city around me - my neighborhood - my community.

Looking up also means seeing the natural world and paying attention.  As a Pagan, I say that I worship nature but how much time do I spend out in it where the environment isn't just the venue for whatever activity I am participating in (like Folk Festival, Open Circle in Pagan Park, etc...).

If I want to participate in the changing of the seasons with more than an intellectual curiosity, I need to feel them change - notice the slight increase in brightness in the morning sky after Imbolc - see and hear the geese when the first few fly over, not waiting for the big flocks to demand my attention - to notice the little birds all fluffed up to stay warm near a heat vent, to see the crocuses poke through the snow in that great garden just south of Academy (but they won't be there long so I must see them while they are there.  The spring crocuses won't wait for me).

I need to get out more.  I need to see nature in action - and to go walking through my neighborhood - either by myself and enjoy the company of my own thoughts, or with someone and solve the problems of the world for an hour.

I experience miracles and epiphanies daily - and I am grateful.  I need to remember the touch of the Divine in all ways at all times through my days - and to trust that quiet inner voice that is both mine and not mine.  Maybe I'll look up and see the signs and wonders and get rune readings in the branches of the elm trees that have fallen to the sidewalk.  Or numerology from the random license plates that whiz by.  I need to look around. (cue CSNY: For What It's Worth).

I also need to look up.  I am somewhat infamous as "the cup half-empty girl" (hah- girl - what 50 year old women call each other).  Part of it is my inherent Libran nature - to see all sides and all possibilities, part of it is my inherent pessimism, part of it is learned behavior.  As I enter the second half of my mortal life, I have been going to more funerals than weddings, more retirement dinners than baby blessings.  I feel the losses of friends, or relationships, or even just of possibilities much more deeply - because I know that time is more limited, and that "we will not pass this way again."  My own bout with ovarian cancer in 2007 also  made me realize my mortality in a very visceral way.  I need to reconnect to "hope".

I need to look up some old friends.  I need to update my address book.  I need to write a few letters, (not emails), a few postcards (not wall posts) and make a few phone calls (not twitter dms).  I need to sit and drink hot sweet tea and listen carefully, and look up to others for guidance, and inspiration, and the pure enjoyment from the pleasure of their company.  I need to rekindle the hearthfire from the needfire and draw close to my Elders.

I need to look up.  I have come close to losing my faith in recent years.  My faith was saved by the sound of an electric guitar -and I will forever be grateful to a crazy Welshman for putting the monsters back in the closet and bolting shut the door.  On more than one occasion.  A wise man once asked me "who will you be when you are no longer the you that you are?" (paraphrased) and as the fibres of my life unravelled, that thin thread was the guide through the maze that brought me back to Brighid's altar.  She's not a Goddess for everyone - and I see her more as the Mistress of the Forge than the Lady of the Well or Flame.  I am the raw metal that She heats and shapes between Her hammer and Her anvil.  And I hope that I am learning.

We the people of the community ebb and flow through love and hate and apathy and disinterest and yet we touch each other's lives and are often there when the darkest hour is tolling to be - to do - to hold against the night.  And then with the rise of the sun, we pick up the past hurts and shoulder them like a bundle of well worn and very familiar tools, now that the tide has turned and the sandbags are holding against the rising.

When we know each other too well, love and acceptance and forward movement can be hard, especially if we (if I) keep my eyes firmly fixed on the past, on the road behind me.  We permit strangers more leeway on the narrow pathway to our heart than we do our friends, our lovers, our co-religionists.  We forget that we once found in each other something that made us look up - made us look inward - made us feel more whole.  I would look up into your eyes, and look up into the eyes of the Divine within you and say Namaste.

Take a walk with me - in this city we call home.  We don't have to talk.  Let us look up together and walk a while.  Let us see what the Street Runes tell us.  Let us hear the sound of the city whisper the wisdom of the Divine.  And then let's go for ice cream and find something to laugh about.

Enjoy the day,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meme 3: Know Your Neighbors

Let me share with you what I am learning ....

I've lived in small towns (one had a population of 34, and we were a family of 5).  Everyone knew everyone else - sometimes too well, I'd say.  Even in slightly larger towns - from a couple hundred up to a couple thousand people - everyone knows - or knows of - everyone else.  Again, a mixed blessing.  Often harder for younger siblings growing up in the shadow of rebellious elder brothers or brainiac overachieving  older sisters (ask my brother and sister how that feels).  Hey, I know you - my dad went to school with your mom back in the 40's - 50's - 60's - whatever.  Yeah - you know me - NOT.

Moving to the city and living in a University Residence, once again, everyone knew everyone -and we shared rooms with people we had never met,  from all over the world.  Strangers became neighbors and friends, and the community regenerated every year minus a few faces and with new additions.  Connections ebbed and flowed in this temporary community, with some threads carrying forward through the years.  But during those integral years - we knew each other, for good and bad.  We shared communal kitchens, and communal bathrooms, and knew who snuck a boy into their room, or was cutting classes, or was stressed out - or who wasn't coming back next term.  It was a strange kind of knowing.  Microcosmic and almost microscopic at times.

I lived in a high rise apartment for a couple years, and only knew one other person in the building - and I knew them before I moved in.  Now living in a not-quite suburban neighborhood, surrounded by people, I have casual "good neighbor" friendships with the people living on either side of me - where we can say hello, goodbye, let each other know if we are going out of town, who our housesitter is, shovel each other's driveways if we know the other is not able to - but not "real friendship" type relationships.  I know one guy who lives down the street - but he used to shop in the store I managed, and his neighborly status was secondary.

I am familiar with the faces of many others in the neighborhood, after 15 years, but I can't say I know them.  Not by name - not anything about them except seeing their kids grow up, or chasing their dog off my lawn, or picking up the empty beer bottles scattered along the  boulevard and throwing them back onto the lawn of the neighborhood party house with the Good Dad Guy who lives several houses down the block.   The party-house guys I "knew" far too well - everyone on the block knew them  -  especially on long weekends when we were inviting the local constabulary to pay them a visit when the party spilled into the street at 2 am.

The whole "knowing by reputation" or "knowing by sight" or even just "knowing by name" is dangerous (loaded word) because it is not really "knowing anything" about the other person.  When I think about the people I "know" in this way, I wonder how well they think they know me.    The truth is - we know each other not at all.  And, unless both parties break down their entrenched preconceptions, we cannot, or perhaps will not know each other.  One of my neighbors once thought I was a biker chick, because so many of the people coming and going wore black leather jackets, pants, chaps, caps.  Not bikers - just leather boys and girls.  All she saw was leather - and the only people she knew to wear leather were bikers. Nope - just some queerfolk dressed up to go out and get maybe undressed. :) Those were the days.

We all judge people by their appearance, by our presumptions and assumptions, by their associations and affiliations, by rumor, gossip, innuendo, fragments of re-re-re-recycled conversations,  - you know - the oral history of our "community."  We all do it.  I do it. You do it. It is one of the less desirable parts of the human condition.  There is nothing more disconcerting that being introduced to someone at a social event or open circle and hearing "Oh, you're Susan - I've heard all about you!"  My response usually ranges through some of the following snappy comebacks - from whom?  Laugher.   What else can I say. Hope it was either true or entertaining. Nice of you to still talk to me?  yeah - its all true? Don't believe any of it.  "well, that will save time" is my favourite.

Maybe it all comes down to "proximity".  All I need to do, to know the people in my geographic neighborhood is to stop and say hello and ask an open ended and sincere question the next time we meet up accidentally.  All I need to do to know the people of my spiritual neighborhood is the same thing - be where they are and ask a sincere question.  In both cases - I have to listen to the answer with an open heart and an open mind.  What I think I know is only what I think.  It is not what I know.  That subtle difference makes all the difference.

Here's the thing.  People change.  I have changed. So have you, over the years.  People for whom I once may have had a profound dislike, or was indifferent to in the past (justified or not) have become close friends, or at least warmly embraced acquaintances.  (Don't worry - I don't mean you.).  People who used to be part of my daily/weekly life are now distant lights on the horizon, or completely out of sight.  (remember - its not all about you, either).  We are shaped by our life experience, by our associations, by our learning curves.  Knowing our neighbors means knowing / understanding that people will change over time.  A wise man once told me that all things change, and that is always for the best.  Even if it doesn't feel like it in the moment.  And this, brothers and sisters, can be the inherent danger of sharing our darker emotions with others.

When I unload / vent / blow off steam to Person X about person Y - I am speaking my truth in the moment - regardless of True it really is.  I feel better after I put a load of energetic poop down dangerously near the shoes of the person who is my shoulder to cry on, my buddy, my pal, my sounding board.  If they are a loyal friend, they take my side, vindicate my self-delusions, if I'm lucky help me see my part in it.  The conversation ends, and we go on.  I get to deal with the object of my venting, patch it up, make it better, do whatever.

But unless they are a truly enlightened soul (as so many of my dear friends are) the person I have vented to only knows the "last lecture" about Person X - and may carry y emotions and their subjective opinions into their future.  And share them - with good intentions.  Or they can then think - my gods, Susan is such a bitch, complaining about Person X - forgetting that the venting may have been "in the moment" - and to someone I thought was safe - working out my thoughts outside my head, and helping me put it all together, cobbling some kind of perspective via verbal overflow.  Then - when I kiss and make up with Person X - Person Y may think that I am a total hypocrite - because they are still "in" that last conversation.  It takes a lot of maturity and emotional distance to not pick up other people's crap - either pro or con - and carry it with you.

How do I know this? because I have been The Person Venting, The Person Vented To, and the Person Vented About.  So Have You.  And You. And YOU too - don't say you haven't. You lie only to yourself.

From there - the "I heard her say this" or " I was there when they said that" - becomes a battle for context and compassion and consideration - and the acknowledgement of time passing - energy moving (hellooooooo magical people - don't we believe this?) and relationships having some elasticity because of we all share the pesky human qualities of emotional frailty.  There is a case to be made for "that was then, this is now" -and while not all relationships can be repaired - at least there doesn't need to be a third person stirring the pot, carrying a well-intentioned torch, or putting out banana peels in the name of friendship or loyalty or love.  Oh yeah - you and me - we 've been that person too.  Fess up.

Sometimes our dislike or indifference is shaped by misinformation - misunderstanding - mis-perceptions.  If we listen to our cultural history - without having the validity of our own experiences, we will miss out on some truly worthwhile people.  That doesn't mean we should disregard other people's experiences, especially if there is evidence of illegal or abusive or threatening / frightening behavior - I'm not talking about putting common sense on the shelf here. Everyone's experience is different, and often our reactions to others speaks more about our state of being than theirs.  (getting angry at a leader because we gave them our power,  or never speaking up but expecting something to change, or being unhappy in our relationships so we poison the ears of others regarding their mate because misery loves company.... we've all been there done that - and usually it is only the wisdom of hindsight that helps us see our half of every relationship.)

One of the most powerful truths I ever had to learn the hard way was about how well I knew someone.  My take-away from that relationship was this "there is your truth, there is my truth, and then there is the real truth that lies midway between the two".  No matter how right one of may have been able to be proven to be in a court of law - the other person's truth still held enough sway to wreak havoc for years.  Don't let the ripples hit you on the attitude on the way out.  I am a much wiser woman now - and sad that I had to learn this one the hard way.

I'm not even going to speak about intentional harm, malicious gossip, dedicated destroyers of relationships and other spiders and snakes in the garden of human relationships.  We all have the power to cause enough damage through carelessness, self-absorption and our own foibles - those who maliciously crap in other people's corn flakes deserve a good thwap up side the head.  (dear reader, join me in the confessional, we have sins to atone for, and penance to do.  We can bring each other icepacks,  for the thwapping shall commence shortly).

So - in my emotional neighborhood - as I look at those who share this fragile ecosystem we call "community"

I want to know my new neighbors - I want to know them as friends I haven't met yet.  I want to start by giving them the benefit of the doubt, the hope of a first uncontaminated first and maybe even second impression.  Fresh face - fresh start - fresh opportunities.

I want to reintroduce myself to my established neighbors, to survey the landscape and maybe reset a few fence lines, maybe lend a cup of sugar, or just share a chat or a wave across the back lane that doesn't have to seem as wide as the desert.  We don't have to be best buddies, necessarily, but we can be more cordial - share a beer on a hot summer night comparing our crabgrass crops.  I know their faces - I know their names - I know about them - but maybe I don't know them as well as I could do - or as well as I once did.  I do know that they don't know me half as well as they might think they do...  or thought they did.

I may even want to re-meet some of my neighbors that have moved out of the 'hood, so to speak.- I want to understand the past, see if there is any common ground left to roto-till, and maybe plant an olive branch - or olive seed - and see what happens.  No expectations, no cherished outcomes.  Just some peace, and maybe the ability to co-exist.  Don't expect them to move back - but if we meet up at a social event, we can at least be more than stiffly polite, or awkwardly icy.  That doesn't set a good example for the young'uns, now does it.

One last thing.  The better I know myself, the better a neighbor I will be - and the better I will be able to know my neighbors.  Delphi's neighbors got to see that first hand - "know thyself".

Enjoy the day,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

MEME 2: Leaving My House

Let me share with you what I am learning .....

In my previous post, on turning off my TV, I said the following

What's Pagan about this? Making a choice to get "OUT" - maybe even outside (oooh scarey) - to go sit in my beautiful back yard and read - or knit - or do Soduko puzzles - or just watch the clouds and the birds in the birdfeeders and admire the flowers - to go out even in winter and make a fire in the fire pit and watch the moon and the stars and listen to the city and the wind in the branches of my walnut tree. To go for a long walk in one of our lovely city parks.  To go make peace with the trees in Assiniboine Forest (we had a disagreement in 2004, and I haven't gotten over it - maybe its time).  Most of us don't spend enough time outside - or if we do - we are simply moving from one pre-occupation to another, and we don't really pay attention to the urbanized natural world around us.  We are part of the urban ecosystem - not just observers of it.
So what does "leaving my house" mean - in terms of building community?  It means interaction with other people.  It means going where other people are. It means participating.  It might even mean activism.  It means putting myself OUT THERE - with all the shades of meaning implied in that statement.

People gather at our Provincial Legislature for a variety of reasons - sometimes for celebrations - sometimes for memorials - sometimes to effect change in our politician's world view.  If there is something happening that I feel strongly about - I could join my fellow citizens and participate.  Maybe see other people I know.  Maybe connect to people I haven't met yet.  Maybe eat a hot dog from a cart and support a local independent businessman.

We have great parks here in Winnipeg.  Why don't we pack a picnic basket, take a blanket and go read in the sun at the park more often.  Nature and people - and a conservatory and a zoo (sorry don't do zoos, but others might).  There are free concerts at the Lyric Bandshell throughout the summer.  I love music.  why don't I go OUT more often?  Free is best.  Concert tickets can be pricey - but the Folk Festival is worth every penny - and there is definitely a sense of community that occurs for 5 days in July.

Charity events - for causes I support - or causes my friends support and I want to support my friends.  Volunteerism - like maybe taking a shift at Winnipeg Harvest (I have friends who volunteer there regularly).   Finding opportunities to use my gifts and talents outside of my usual channels.  Art galleries, museums, the Forks (ugh - too crowded) - the Exchange - Little Italy on Corydon - lots of great places to go for a drink - a snack - a meal - a good cup of coffee.

How many people do I wish I could spend more time with? Why not meet "out" rather than staying "in"?  Especially since our summers are so short.  By doing more - and deepening my connections to people - clan - tribe - family - friends - acquaintances - I can deepen my relationships - and expand my community.  I might even get to introduce Acquaintance A to Friend B and watch a new friendship or relationship take shape.  Or witness the birth of a new grove / coven / circle - who knows? I could mend a broken friendship or two by meeting on neutral ground.  I could fall in love all over again over candlelight or a picnic basket on the grass in front of the Lyric Bandshell on a hot summer evening under the moonlight.  Did I mention Canada Day Fireworks?

Other than the circles I cast either by myself at home, or with friends at The Witchery, other Pagan Community events happen at various locations around town.  Beltane in the Park - the Full Moon Group - Open Circles for the Sabbats - Gaia Gathering Fundraiser events for the Canadian National Pagan Conference - classes by various elders - Meet Ups - Mentoring Groups - Coffee Cauldrons - Pagan Community Socials - Psychic Fairs - Sales or events at Paganish bookstores and Occult Supply Stores - there is a lot going on "out there somewhere".

The only way I can meet new people - reconnect with old friends - mend fences - build bridges - get involved - make a difference - do something new - is to Do Something Different and get my butt of the sofa and into the places where the people are.  Online is one thing - the interconnectedness of the web reduces distance and compresses time.  It is a good thing.  AND - when we meet face to face - and share a drink or a meal or a real time conversation - we connect differently - energetically - and that connection is the building block of  the foundations of what might evolve into community.

Enjoy the Day,

Sunday, January 3, 2010

MEME 1: Turning Off My TV

Let me share with you what I am learning ...

I haven't had cable TV for a very long time.  Entire TV series have come - gone - been syndicated - become classic reruns - and I never saw an episode.  There are actors appearing in "where are they now" articles and I never knew who they were then.  It puts me at a cultural disadvantage.  Not able to participate in the lunchtime discussions at work on the merits of this actor or that program.  Sorry. No "TV".

It has given me more time to do other things.  My only real exposure to regular television programming is when I travel (usually for business) and I am a hotel room after whatever conference day is done.  More on that later.  I sometimes find myself both fascinated and repulsed by what I see as I channel surf.

In recent years, due to the gifts of numerous dearly loved and well meaning friends, I have been introduced to some of the shows that I have missed, through the magic of DVDs or downloads via a USB drive.  I am grateful for the hours of entertainment - and have amassed a small collection of a few favorite movies and TVseries. is another great way to rent movies and TV series affordabley without the hassle of going to the rental store and having to play the "what's in stock" game with their empty cases.

I love to knit - and often watch DVDs while I knit - especially if it is a more simple pattern.  If it is a more complex pattern, then I tend to listen to podcasts, so I can count stitches, read pattern graphs, and pay more visual attention to my work.  I pay attention to what I'm watching - we tend to pause the program if we want to chat, or need to get refreshments - so it drives me a little crazy when people have the television playing and talk over the show, or take phone calls - I'm still one of those people who actually "watch" the program, and don't just have it on in the background.


it is so easy for the pleasure of a passive visual experience to overwhelm my evening and add up to consuming the free hours of my week - eating up hours that I could be / should be / might be doing other things.  In the past several years, - especially as my volunteering in my spiritual community has been radically dialed back to a few essential projects -  I have become much more of a couch potato than I ever thought possible.  Blame it on Babylon 5 / Deep Space 9 / Lost / Stargate SG1/Atlantis / Dead Like Me / etc...  It is "the series on DVD" that so easily becomes visual popcorn.  Can't watch just one.  So - in 2010 - I plan to enact the first principle of Building Community - to turn off my TV more often.

I've almost pretty much stopped teaching classes - or taking classes.  I used to teach at least one night a week, and take a couple classes a year in different things - metaphysical stuff, human interest stuff, tai chi or other things of interest.  I need to get back into the swing of structured learning.  Community / Cont Ed have a lot of cool courses - affordable ones too.  I met some of my dearest friends when I was teaching a Cont Ed class.  Meeting new people with similar interests builds and expands my community.  Maybe I'll even find some volunteer opportunities - go do some good somewhere.  Open to suggestions.

What's Pagan about this? Making a choice to get "OUT" - maybe even outside (oooh scarey) - to go sit in my beautiful back yard and read - or knit - or do Soduko puzzles - or just watch the clouds and the birds in the birdfeeders and admire the flowers - to go out even in winter and make a fire in the fire pit and watch the moon and the stars and listen to the city and the wind in the branches of my walnut tree. To go for a long walk in one of our lovely city parks.  To go make peace with the trees in Assiniboine Forest (we had a disagreement in 2004, and I haven't gotten over it - maybe its time).  Most of us don't spend enough time outside - or if we do - we are simply moving from one pre-occupation to another, and we don't really pay attention to the urbanized natural world around us.  We are part of the urban ecosystem - not just observers of it.

I was thinking about the energetic / spiritual food I was taking in during my dozen or so nights of channel surfing in the past year.  Like radiation - a limited exposure is not deadly - but what about people for whom the satellite dish is their nightly object of worship.

There is nothing much good on regular television programming.  The domination of reality shows is a phenomenon that, in my opinion, speaks to the worst side of humanity and the lowest common denominator.  I always thought that soap operas taught people how to behave badly and have unrealistic expectations in human interactions (naked unfiltered emotion driven discourse based largely on assumption over reason)  but the few reality show episodes I have seen make those look like Miss Manners Guide to Extremely Correct Behavior.  Lying, cheating, betrayal, jealousy, backstabbing, artificially created tension, and combative (if not downright pugilistic) situational ethics - and I'm talking about Top Chef - not Survivor.  We also have the "life lived for the camera" school of reality show - John hates Kate,  the Family's tarnished  Jewels, celebrity rehab - Liars and Rock Stars and Scareys! Oh My!

Don't even get me started on the I Dreamed a Dream Talent Shows - as staged and manipulated as anything else. Don't tell me they didn't have any idea that Ms Boyle could sing - aren't there regional tryouts etc before you get to the Big Gong Show in front of an audience?  Glad she didn't win - and nice that her cd is selling well - but it was the premise around the performance that delivered as much bravado and crescendo as her above average but certainly not exceptional singing talent demonstrated.  I wish her well.

There is NOTHING wrong with chillin out - watching a flick - catching a show - enjoying a game - but remember that thoughts are things and we become what we ingest.  A little junk food is great for a break, but a steady diet can't be good for anyone.  There are shows that I love - but I want to make sure that I am sitting on my butt in moderation - and a little less habitually.  Maybe more podcasts - so I can knit ever more complicated things.

Not a criticism of television watching - but an endorsement of quality over quantity, and of exercising restraint and moderation in all things - especially marathon weekends of watching Babylon 5 - or Deep Space 9 - or Lost - or Stargate - or ... or .... or .... Robin Hood. Now that's one I haven't watched in a while - and I have a new knitting project just begging for some rows to be knitted ...... :)

Enjoy the day,

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