Bear In Mind

Thoughts of pushing my cross-country skis through sparkling, freshly fallen snow are ingrained in my mind, but this is the only place they have resided. How was I to know that Mother Nature had other plans?

Past Winters found me housebound for the same reason. Uncooperative weather. Have I been brainwashed by those old movies that featured visions of ‘the white stuff’ twinkling as it fell from above?  My inner holiday child frolicking joyfully on a mindless course that went from lobbing orbs of the ‘stuff’ at cranial targets one minute and lacing up my skates to glide on frozen water the next?

It’s been unseasonably above zero before yesterday and whatever snow fell to the ground is long gone and is revealing lawns in various mottled shades of green and Camel, assuming that Camels only come in tan. Leaves are scattered in the yards of those of us who put our mulching mowers to task and shun the multiple rakings it takes to be void of them entirely. Yet, we’ll rejoice again when we see evidence of new ones adorning the trees when Ostara arrives. Except maybe for Dick. Dick enjoys his retirement…I guess. When our daughter and son-in-law were here for the holidays, she marveled as Dick crawled around his lawn on all fours with an empty plastic gallon ice cream bucket, handpicking any rogue leaves from his otherwise pristine field of green. She was mesmerized, while my husband and I have witnessed this on so many occasions it barely warrants a peek out the window. Interesting neighbors are fun. At least I list that as one of the reasons that we are living in an urban neighborhood instead of where I long to be most days…look on any map for ‘the middle of nowhere’ and that’s where I’d like to call ‘home’.

One of the reasons that I’d like this location is due to my love affair with privacy. The days I am out in the garden, in my own little world, only to discover pairs of eyes screwed into me as I dig and plant, in that world that is now populated by others, makes me have to make a decision. Do I carry on as if I don’t know they’re scrutinizing what I’m doing, perhaps with a critical view or do I get all self-conscious? Do they know I’ve lost my trowel for the fifth time as I try to look as if I’m just planning my borders instead of looking for it? Did they see me reach too far and fall face first into a hosta? Does my ass look big(ger) in these pants?

The other reason I’d like to live in a more rural, translated ‘removed’, area is my love of wild things. And, yes, I adore the trappings of mundane life and can strip the numbers off a credit card in a leisurely afternoon, but I am a Witch. One of Mother’s children. Her other forms of life are ‘family’ and I love to be near them.

My posts regarding the variety of these siblings will give any new reader some insight as to how much my life revolves around them. My yard is home to any of them who grace me with their presence and I’m grateful for them all. There is no distain for the Worms that I save when I dig into their habitat and carefully place them out of harms way or the Birds that rank as ‘undesirable’ by avid Birders. Like, I’m going to put up signs, “No Grackles Allowed”. Come on… my dad used to shake his fists at them…and they laughed hysterically, flew away and came back to the feeders when he wasn’t looking.

Am I being selfish if I’d like to hear Coyotes howl at night…and join them? I hear they have them on the west side and just want to shoot them. Barbarians. If they don’t want their Pugapoo to be threatened, get off the sofa and accompany the beloved pedigreed pooch outside when it does its business instead of just letting it out and forgetting it’s out there.

Give me a home where the Buffalo…well maybe not Buffalo…but the Deer and the Antelope would be lovely. Wolves would be nice. We do have Rabbits in the yard, but the Opossums, Skunks, Raccoons, and Woodchucks stay in the more wooded areas…note to self…plant more trees. There had been a Bear sited at the Arboretum, but I think they relocated him. Judging by the way it feels outside now, I would think a Polar Bear would not be unaccustomed to paying a visit.

As soon as we get some snow, operation ‘Ski Pole’ is back on. Maybe if I complete my task of tracking down some new wax it will entice Mother Nature to let it fall. A khaki hued hydrangea is nodding at me outside the window… mocking me really…

Ah, a Crow flew over. There is life out there and it’s not frozen solid. On that note, I will place something alluring in the feeder and wait for her to land. Maybe Dick has lost his ability to draw me to the window, but a Crow will get me every time.

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Prey For Me

Homing in on his presence as soon as I approached the driveway, my eyes remained focused on him. Perched on top of the arbor, he sat there like a sentry guarding my front door. I hit the button to access the garage, yet he remained, not the least bit wary of the noise the door made as it chugged open. Grabbing my teal Pierre Cardin duffel bag, I set it on the garage floor, went outside and prepared for a confrontation. The last time that my husband attempted to drive him off, he challenged with an attack posture, ready to stand his ground. However, my connection was familiar and he found no need to be aggressive with me.

“Beckwith” I began, “we’ve had this conversation before”. His flesh ripping talons wrapped firmly around the metal frame of the arbor as his sharp-sighted stare met and fixed on mine. We know each other well. He is one of my Nature Guides and our relationship is one of respect, however beyond the stance of the predator, is the underlying current of meeting an old and dear friend. Many times he has served to comfort me and give me that unwavering sense of knowing that his conspicuous presence always provides. My mind questions, and he is there with the answer. Some of those of like mind would call him an ‘omen’, but the love we have built over the years bonds us, and he is so much more.

This Witch knows well the ways of Nature. No ‘fluffy bunny’ notions of endless rainbows and joy filled frolicking through infinite meadows of wildflowers cloud my reality with their puffy white images of having everyone and everything ‘just get along’. My dear comrade was here to hunt.

The array of feeders in my yard attract a variety of Birds. All Squirrels have been named, ‘Samwise’ and they entertain with their aerial antics to climb the pole and feast. I don’t bother with feeders designed to keep them out or ‘baffle’ them with devices that serve only to make them more creative. Like all living things, they need to eat. They too, have lost their instinctive fear of this human and never go too far when I approach. Instead, they jump to nearby ‘Evelyn’, my white flowering crab tree, and meld with the branches in an attempt to appear as if they are not separate entities. Sometimes, flicking their bushy gray tails, they excitedly scamper about as I replenish the feeders with their favorite black oil sunflower seeds and shelled peanuts.

In the Summer they are joined by Chipmunks, all named ‘Alvin’, and Thirteen Striped Ground Squirrels, all named ‘Rocky’. My tiny charcoal gray Shrews, aptly named ‘Taylor’ in honor of the performance given by Elizabeth Taylor in her role in the movie, “The Taming of the Shrew”, often dart in and out of tunnels to clean up the fallen seed at the base of the pole. However, at this time in late November, they are all hidden beneath the snow in their carefully constructed burrows of frozen earth. For now, they are safe.

The Rabbits, each sharing the name of ‘Violet’, come to feed mostly at night, their black silhouettes beneath the pole appear motionless except for the swivel of long ears that serve as their radar. From time to time they will sense my presence as I watch them through the window and will sit up on their hind legs, sniffing the air. Even if they see me, they soon go back to searching for the unopened seeds that fell from the trays above. This year, I put out small bunches of dried grasses that I found in the pet store, sold for tame Rabbits. I’m hoping this will supplement their diet with greens that lay hidden beneath increasing measures of glistening snow. Not only will it make finding a ‘salad’ easier for them, it might also help preserve some of my plants that they uncover and munch on.

As much as I feel the loss of the wild things that respond to my dinner invitation, I know that I am also providing a place of ‘easy pickins’ for raptors such as this Hawk that now uses my arbor to his advantage. It’s the circle of things. Prey and predators, just as the Great Mother has planned it, all to create a balance. It’s only when humans feel the need to intervene that things go terribly awry. With their high powered rifles and clothes to ‘blend in’, they try to justify their thirst to kill something that they have deemed to be inferior. It’s not driven by the need to survive in the wild like this Coopers Hawk, who has the decency to appear in the open, visible to it’s quarry.

The argument of keeping the threat of over population in check fails miserably. Nature does that too. By allowing Her in Her infinite wisdom to prevail, the chain remains unbroken. But, soon the ignorant rule and the vigilantes go out and kill the natural predators that take down the sick, the old, and those that weaken the herds and flocks. Diseases are born of the desire to take the ‘trophies’.  As for the need for meat, how much is that per pound by the time one adds up the cost of the weapons, the ammunition, special clothes and gadgets? Then, there is the lodging for those urbanites who travel to the wild areas, the food and of course copious amounts of alcohol that are consumed. Is it a case of accidental deaths when hunters shoot each other or the otherwise sedentary die of heart attacks? Maybe it’s just Nature’s way of ‘thinning the herd’.

If they want to hunt as a ‘sport’, do so as it should be defined. A contest or game of skill between two equally armed opponents. Toss down the gun, chase your prey down on foot, and wrestle it to the ground. You win.

The loss of life that has taken place in my yard is evident by the occasional clumps of fur and feathers and blood spatters in the snow that prove that Beckwith has had a successful hunt. I’d rather that he not take advantage of the situation that arises as a result of my desire to give back to Nature by feeding and sheltering some of Her children. I tell him often, as I am telling him now, “not here, Beckwith”.  He honors my request and flies off the arbor to hunt in the fields. However, he would not be who he is if he didn’t search for an easy meal when his efforts in the wide open spaces have been fruitless. He would not risk his own life by venturing from the places that he feels safe and protected from this urban sprawl.

The strong, wary Birds will escape. The young, fast Rabbits will outrun him and the agile, cleaver Squirrels will hide with ease. They will survive as he will survive and the delicate balance will not be tipped by contrived and convoluted methods and notions of the folly of battling Nature. This is a game of skill that humans cannot win.

Nature Comes A Callin’

The lull between Samhain and Yule, is for many, a time to gear up for the shopping, seasonal decorating, baking and planning for family gatherings. Long past is the era that knew the need to read  omens and pay attention to each nuance the world outside the confines of our air tight, well insulated lives has to offer.

A shift has happened within me and I am no longer all that interested in the mundane, commercial side of life.  Instead, everyday my mind wanders off to the land of the ‘wild things’. Even as I work at my desk all week, I peer around the maze of cubicles to focus on life outside the window. The second story view allows me to take in the expanse of sky and tree line of the well landscaped grounds that blend into the Nature preserve that boarders the company’s campus.

Something inside me, a knowing that has become so much a part of me that goes well beyond impulse, has me searching this enchanted realm with the sharp eyed gaze of the Hawk that summoned me in the first place. With the precision of a high powered spotting scope, I home in on his form in the upper branches of a distant tree. I knew exactly where to look as if he had suddenly sent up a flare to get my attention. His message for me is unmistakable, and I take a great measure of comfort in having received it.

This is my life now. My commute home is consumed by the anticipation of occupying my own ‘perch’. A flurry of Dove wings going aloft, accompanied by the squeaky hinge sound they make, greets me as I open the front door. Hot beverage in one hand, I knock the hard, frozen daubs of bird shit off my chair with the other. Dressed in layers, that end with my long black cape, serve as my own cozy cocoon. The twig table at my side holds my cup of steaming broth and the iron griffon headed arms of the chair reach out to hold me. The only thing left to do is allow the deep rolling exhalation of air escape my smiling lips. It freezes instantly, a wispy, swirling web of white…this is the color of a sigh.

The sharp, jagged cut of frigid wind has been here for some time now. From time to time the last vestiges of warmth would taunt those too naïve to accept that it was not going to stick around. As for me, I’ve looked at a map and a calendar and know full well that based upon my location in one of the Northern states, it was going to get cold, snow and freeze. To expect anything else is a ridiculous waste of time and energy. When the barrage of complaints about the inevitable hurtle toward me, my verbal targe is already in position to fend them off. “I like Winter” I declare, ” if I didn’t I’d move to where they didn’t have it”. Even though the season exists in other places, it is not synonymous with ‘glacial tundra’ the way it is here. Why the hell be miserable? Constant complaining does not have the effect of Magick words. Swaying palms will not appear and runners of baking sand will not unfurl before them unless they go to where those things exist…unless they’re willing to do that, I wish they’d spare me the daily onslaught of weather rants.

There is something about the first true dumping of snow that relays the message that the final curtain has fallen. Thanks again to my trusty calendar, I know that Yule is over a month away, but once that snow yanks up the corners and blankets everything, ‘Winter’ is getting comfortable, settling in and has no intention of leaving for the best part of 6 months.

I had wandered down to the great room around midnight and stood before the window. Once again, the call of the wild filled my ears and stirred the embers that fed the fire of my desire to be more ‘out’ than ‘in’. The originator of that call doesn’t have a clock and wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn about the late hour even if it did. This time, a Rabbit demanded my attention with the urgency of a child yanking at my hem. It foraged for fallen seed at the base of my Bird feeders, imprinting the snow with a series of dots and dashes that it leaves behind as if there was black ink on its paws, stamping a sheet of unmarked, virgin white stationary. I climb back up the stairs and head down the hall to the bedroom, and burrow beneath my brocade comforter. A deliberately implanted, vision is conceived followed by the birth of a dream, of…what else…uninterrupted wilderness and Wolves, Bobcats and Bears…oh, my.

So, it’s all official now. Time to swap the lawn mower for the snow blower in the spot near the garage door for easy access. A quiet sense of joy fills my heart. The example that Mother Nature leads with, to go within and find comfort and solace near hearth and home, displays a wild side this year. That is the one that I see and that is the one that I will emulate. The whole thing seems void of choice and effortless. Without so much as the inkling of forethought, I am driven to be as close to all things wild as often as possible. If I was one of them, the ones that live in the forest, in the fields, breaking trails that wind through prairie lands, I’d be reacting to what is referred to as ‘basic instinct’. Wouldn’t we all if we blocked out the din of the ‘tame’ world that we have erected and sought refuge in, as if what’s ‘out there’ is something to fear and in some cases, something to loathe?

I will write about what I see, but more importantly, what I feel as I explore and discover the places that I am drawn to because what is hidden there and the messages that ride on the wind might not be just for me alone. You, the reader, might hear something too, feel a stirring or sense a shift in the stony plates that pave your usual highway and transform it into a path carpeted with moss and fallen leaves. But, for now, I must bring an end to this entry that carries ‘Winter’ on it’s back, for I hear Nature calling to me, “come outside and play”.

Litha…Party Of Two

The rest of MoonShadow Coven’s members had other obligations and that was okay. Usually, I would host my annual Mid-Summer Faerie Ball, but this year I just kept putting off working on the details until it was no longer feasible to put it all together and pull it off in the flawless fashion that I demand of myself. When Sarinea commented that if I really wanted to host this bash, I’d have had the menu planned months ago, I realized that calling it off was a wise choice. It was going to be a much quieter Litha.

Dianthus had no other plans  and still wanted to come to Madison so she arrived Saturday morning. After a round of hugs and a trip to the guest room we made our way to my favorite Asian buffet and sushi bar with my husband, Randy in tow. The only other stop was going to a thrift store that we like, due to its nicely organized stock of really interesting items. It’s run by Lutherans, and for some reason they seem to have a knack for parting with some very unique knicks.

We played a game of ‘what the hell is that’ with an elderly lady in a brightly colored head wrap and kept her entertained with our old married couple banter. I picked up something that appeared to be a twelve inch tube of fabric stuffed with beans that had a loop on both ends. “What’s this thing…a husband beater?” The lady could be heard laughing two aisles over. “I gotta see this”, she said as she rounded the corner. My husband took it away from me, partially to keep me from using it and also to demonstrate what it actually was. He draped it around the back of his neck and said, “you put it in the microwave to heat it up and then put it on your sore neck”. By then, I was off to the next moment of discovery. Dianthus found a framed print for her kitchen and some stone finished coasters and we left empty handed, deciding there was nothing we couldn’t live without.

Back at the house, I poured myself an ice cold cucumber infused vodka martini while Di opted for her flavored water as we found ourselves on the deck to see if we’d become mosquito bait.  We slapped ourselves senseless for a bit, but for some reason the pests soon Magically hummed off.  We talked about our radio show, Hocus Focus,and gardening, birds, spiritually and more gardening as the birds, ground squirrels and rabbits played and ate in the yard below.

Di had requested the recipe for my mother’s famous carrot cake and I agreed to give it to her with the stipulation that she never defile it with frosting. The cake is so heavy and rich that topping it with the ubiquitous cream cheese goop would be both an abomination and render it inedible like when they have to douse an already sweet desert with sticky syrup. I get a toothache just thinking about it. This cake is dusted with powdered sugar and that’s sufficient as well as simple and elegant. As a surprise, I made the cake so Di could eat her fill and take what was left home to her husband. In addition, I also made some pastel colored sugar cookies…it’s a well known fact that Faeries love sweet things…and so do we.

Two cookies and a piece of cake later we made our way to my inner sanctum, affectionately known as my ‘broom closet’ to listen to a couple of our shows that are now in archives. It’s always fun to do that when they’re not as fresh in our minds because we can critique them with the same mindset as hearing what our audience hears. We like what we hear. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/moonshadow92/2014/05/25/hocus-focus-radio-topic-table-talk-and-divination

The mosquitos were beyond the practice round launched earlier on the deck and were now forming battle lines like Celtic warriors and we had no desire to meet them head on so our plans for a bonfire were scrapped in favor of calling it a night. Di wanted to get an early start for home Sunday morning so plans for hitting a local breakfast buffet were also amended to coffee and a few more cookies.  Tentative plans were made for me to head up north to record more shows since they flow better when we’re all together as opposed to using Skype. More hugs and she was heading down the road while I settled in a chair to savor the experience.

Sometimes the quiet grace of time spent in the company of the dearest of friends is exactly what is needed. Perhaps next year the fervor of a riotous romp, costumed in Faerie wings, will be too enticing to be written off as easily as it was this year. Dianthus and I agreed that we both needed this…time to talk, unwind, and enjoy a bit of Nature in the yard.

So, as the Wheel of The Year turns another cog, Solstice past, we are heading into the dark times now. No sadness comes as a result of this, only the contemplation of being in harmony with it all and the gentle acceptance of each season as it rolls out its own carpet. Be it lush green grass, gold and scarlet fallen leaves or crystalline snow, I will jubilantly dance upon each one.

 

 

Not My Child

Before you call for an exorcist or ground the little darling for life, let me explain a few things.  Number one,  It could be worse. Number two, it’s not at all what you’re thinking.

Let me address number one. If your kid is exploring the practice of Witchcraft in the way that it was intended to  be practiced, know that it does not revolve around looking Goth, vampires, or putting a hex on aunt Mildred. If that is what they are exhibiting, then that is not Witchcraft, but rather something that smacks of role playing games. If that is the case, rest assured there will come a time that they will grow out of it or go through life being really weird or just get beat up a lot. Being like this past their 20’s pretty much assures that they will spend their lives asking, “do y0u want curly fries with that?”

However, if they are indeed involved with the practice of The Craft, they will be completely responsible for their actions. That means, there is no devil or sin to blame when they do something that they shouldn’t. Knowing that all things are circular, involves the consciousness of the concept of the law of return or the scientific principal of cause and effect. That being said, it is required that one live conscientiously and in harmony with all of life. Being responsible for one’s actions is accepted without question. It’s not the parent’s fault, the school’s fault or the fact that they may get picked on. All actions are based upon a conscious choice. Whether that choice proves to be right or wrong, the responsibility lies with the person making the choice.

So, if your kid does something that has a negative effect on someone or something, they should be aware that they will need to face the consequences for the part that they have played. Most likely, the path that they are exploring is Wicca, which dictates, ‘an it harm none’. That means that they cannot ,with a clear conscience based upon intent, walk past litter without picking it up, not  hold open a door for someone, or fail to assist life-kind in whatever means possible to allow for the comfort and life sustainability of that species. There is no place for entitlement here. This is a place of service to all of life. That means that they also must respect good parents and express gratitude for the gifts of life and sustenance and willingly give back. Household chores done in a joyful manner  are a means of giving back. Expressing respect for honorable elders is required. Doing one’s part to live in harmony with Nature and ensure that She endure, is prerequisite.

If your kid expresses a desire to practice The Craft, seek a teacher and mentor who understands and adheres to the principals of the teachings. Money should not be the focus of the lessons, nor should your lack of involvement. Working together should be encouraged so that you know and understand the curriculum of the study. Above all, if you are uncomfortable with anything, you have the right and the duty to have your concerns addressed. No one that is qualified to teach The Craft will teach a minor without parental permission so your child will not be instructed in a religion or ‘faith-based’ path or baptized without your knowledge or acceptance under the guise of ‘Bible camp’ or any other means by which to lure your children ‘for God’.

Number two, Witchcraft, has nothing to do with evil intent of any kind, spooky stuff, or most likely anything you may have seen in the movies or on TV. Magick is real, but if it is done to the detriment of life-kind, one is held responsible. This is not about hexing or cursing, in that  any Magickal working is considered to be the physical manifestation of ‘prayer’ in the same way that a candle is lit or prayer spoken  on behalf of someone in a mainstream religion.

All things vibrate with energy.Certain things have what is considered to be correspondences. In the same way that a frequency corresponds with a specific energy path to allow interception with a particular radio station, is the same way that certain elements in Nature vibrate with a similar current. Witches study the various correspondences and means to connect with a specific vibrational current of energy and we work with them to bring about a change. Doing Magick for one’s self is always acceptable as long as it doesn’t disturb the vibrational frequency of others unless they give their permission to do so. That means, if you want to do a work of healing, that too requires permission, in that you are manipulating the energy of another person, even though your intent is admirable.

So, don’t get upset if your kid is exploring Witchcraft or Wicca as a spiritual path. Yes, it’s one of those alternative things out there that other people won’t understand. It takes a strong character to pursue this path and it’s not for those who cave to peer pressure or are willing to sacrifice their integrity for the sake of being popular. It means that your kid won’t be inclined to do drugs, being that it harms the body, or be disruptive or fail to study to the best of their abilities. They might wrestle with their conscious a bit more than average and even question things that you do that may seem to contradict the standard of ethics that you are requiring of them.

Later in life, they may strive to help others at the expense of their own comfort level. They will be inclined to live consciously and live in harmony with Nature. Your kid might forsake the trappings of conventional life in order to focus their attention on something that will benefit all of humanity. They might forgo cheating on their taxes, steal on the job, or do anything that they might consider to be at odds with their conscience or sense or their own code of honor.

So, you see, it could be worse. Your kids could be involved with things that are self-serving. They could be self-absorbed and feel that they are entitled to everything exactly as they want it regardless of how it effects others, including you. If your kid professes to  be a Witch and is any of those things, they are role playing and this phase will pass.

However, if they are really pursuing the study of The Craft…expect stray animals and donations to charity. They might want to become vegetarians and spend time in Nature. They might express an interest in a career in science or epi-genetics or ways that will enable them to help people. They’ll suddenly be more interested in giving back than getting. Yeah, they could do worse. And so could you.