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Showing posts from 2007

She's Twenty-One

At 5:08 AM today, I became the mother of a grown woman.

It doesn't feel any different...

I remember my daughter's birth so clearly. For weeks, I'd been unable to walk or sit for long without pain; my cartilage had all loosened up for the birth, and my pelvic bones rubbed together with a sensation of thunder and lightening. By the week before I had Hillary, I was already 4 cm dilated, but when my water broke, I took the time to wash my hair at the sink before heading over to the hospital. It seemed important to have clean hair...

It was a long night. There were only two bad moments--one was early on, when I thought I might be sick (and I hate being sick). The second came near morning, when I thought about how transition is supposed to be the stage in labor when it all gets really intense and overwhelming for a while, and if this is transition, then I'm all right--but if it gets much worse than this, I am so going to be in trouble. And it was transition, and it wasn'…

Terry Pratchett Has Altzheimers

This is extraordinarily sad news: Terry Pratchett has announced that he has a form of early onset Altzheimers.

Many Pagans (as well as sci fi and fantasy fans everywhere) are, like me, in love with his longrunning Discworld novels--36 and counting at the moment. Lots of Pagan women have taken as role models characters like Morgaine or Vivianne from Marion Zimmer-Bradley's classic Mists of Avalon book. Personally, I find them both a bit gooey and treacly. And so, like many another Pagan woman with a strong sense of humor, I've always wanted to grow up to be Granny Weatherwax. On the Discworld, as here, you see,
Unlike wizards, who like nothing better than a complicated hierarchy, witches don't go in much for the structured approach to career progression... Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches, and they certainly don't have leaders.

Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn't have.
Sadly, experience and observ…

Christians and Idolators at Prayer

I had a somewhat interesting experience with spontaneous prayer today. Heavy snow is often good for that.

Our Fulbright exchange teacher, Mr. R., carpools with me to and from work each day--a very reasonable arrangement, since I'm his mentor teacher this year. I've enjoyed the exchange of educational ideas a lot, and the cultural exchange has been pretty rich, too. The initial difficulties I had, trying to communicate with him around religion, have mostly resolved since my earlier post on the subject; on a day near Samhain, he was asking about American Halloween customs, and somewhere in the midst of my multi-cultural, multi-religious attempt at explanation, something clicked. He made the connection between Hindu traditions honoring ancestors and the dead from his native India, and my family's Samhain practices. There was a brief, deeply awkward silence--as a Christian and (I thank Marcus Borg for the terminology) a Biblical literalist, he disapproves of Hindusim--and th…

Peter on Reading the Bible

I am reading a book called "Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally," by Marcus J. Borg.

I’ve just finished chapter 1, and my pulse rate is up. If I were somebody who took blood pressure medication, my doctor would be telling me this book was bad for me. I am agreeing with Borg. His religious feelings are in sympathy with my own, and his outlook on history and on the nature of truth seem not only dead-on accurate but obvious.

Yet Borg is presenting one side of a debate in our culture, and it seems to me to be the losing side.
Conflict about the Bible is the single most divisive issue among Christians in North America today. And because of the importance of Christianity in the culture of the United States, conflict about the Bible is also central to what have been called ‘the culture wars.’ … The conflict is between ... a “literal-factual” way of reading the Bible and a “historical-metaphorical” way of reading it.
Maybe the fu…

An Answer

So I may have stumbled across an answer to the questions I was struggling with a few days ago, about how to somehow live simply a life that seems too hurried for simplicity, or even thought. In an article given me by my environmental Ffriend Don C, "Fire in the Bones," in Tikkun Magazine, Alastair McIntosh shares the question he asks himself, to stay spiritually centered in his activism. McIntosh speaks of "sitting down briefly each day and simply asking,"What does the deep Spirit of Life seek of me now?"

Maybe it's OK if my life seems insane and cyclonic, if I can just keep enough of a still space to sit with that question. What is the deep Spirit of Life seeking of me now?

Even if I have trouble sitting with the question on a daily basis--and I'm going to try to create it, somehow--I know I can listen for the answer in Meeting on First Days. I think perhaps it is enough, whether I am too tired for words or not. I think perhaps it is enough of an a…

Trying to Float

Another day of being too tired to blog. Yeah, yeah, I know--technically this is a blog entry, right? But it's not what I want to be writing...

I'm going to go ahead and write this as a big, fuzzy journal entry--no editing, no waiting for discernment, just stream of consciousness. (I'll try to spare you thoughts about what I ate for lunch, however. I really do want to avoid becoming that kind of a blog!)

Every morning, as I'm waking up and getting ready for my day, I think about the things I'll do when work gets out. Today is the day, I think to myself, I'm really gonna go roller skating again. Today is the day I'll walk downtown after work with Peter and get supper at La Veracruzana, or browse for used books at Raven or Cherry Picked, or Half Moon books.

But mostly I think, maybe tonight I'll get to write. And I'll spend the time I have alone in the morning, as I'm packing up my lunch and sitting down with my breakfast, thinking about what…

"Up!"

Early in meeting for worship today, I was all caught up in my head--in ideas about what is ministry and what is faithfulness, and whether or not I'm "doing" Quakerism "right."

And then an echo of the Song of Songs came to me: "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine." And everything changed, and the words washed away in just being with the Beloved. And the Light grew so bright and good around me and inside me, that I could just about bear it:

There is an hour, every week, during which I get to drop all the hard work of trying to be something, and just be what I'm supposed to be. I don't have to be strong, or wise, or clever. I don't have to anything at all, because the Beloved is there, and it's just fine...

At those times, the image comes to me, of myself as a tiny child, almost too young for speech. Have you ever seen a little girl, one just barely walking, make her way solemnly to her mother? That's me. And when I get …

Samhain Blessings

It's Samhain...and I'm not at work.

I didn't try for a religious holiday from my employer. Though I'm pretty well "out" as a Pagan to the faculty and students who care to know, I've hardly made a point of my Paganism to my administration. Can't have it both ways, after all--maintain that my religion is a personal matter, and then go out of my way to make it universally known. And, though having a whole website on the matter might be expected to take any concerns about my "hiding" anything off the table, the fact that I'm also a Quaker--and "out" about that, as well, to anyone who cares to know--means that my religious identity does not fit easily into a soundbite.

As any American in this era of televised political news can tell you, we are not a people who take well to nuance. Anyone whose beliefs, practices, or understandings go beyond soundbites is immediately suspect.

So I didn't ask to take the day off on religious gro…

Peter on Names

I’ve decided to try spelling it “G*d.” I once saw a Jewish author do that. It was thirty years ago and I no longer remember who the writer was, but I recognized at the time that he was echoing the practice the ancient Hebrews had of never speaking the name of the Holy One. I think that practice came partly out of a deep, visceral nervousness about too lightly invoking a Name of such Power, but I think also it was a way of reminding themselves of the transcendent and ineffable nature of their God. YHVH was father to His children, but He was also creator of the universe, and it was an awfully big universe even back then. You could call Him Papa, but you always knew He had a special secret name besides; a Name that spoke of infinity and eternity and thus would never fit on a human tongue. I’m probably projecting more onto ancient Hebrew theology than was really there. Modern Christian ideas about infinite-and-eternal-God may descend more from Aristotle than from Abraham. If so, …

Afternoon Thoughts

A couple of quick things today. (Even if I finish the next part of the spiritual journey series, I won't be posting it tonight--this one is hard to write, and deserves some discernment time when I eventually do finish it.)

First off: I've been reading through a couple of the blogs I was following closely all summer. I hate that I don't have the time to stay up-to-date on all the Pagan and Quaker writers I love... but I'm very happy to notice that many of those same writers feel a bit like old friends who I may not see for months or even years on end, but who somehow I can always settle back into intimacy with.

Reading through the comments on one Quaker blog today, noting the level of honesty and openness I find there, I found myself thinking, "I love (insert name here)."

And this is about a person I have never met.

Does this make me unrealistic? Some kind of boundaryless freak?

I don't think so. Sure, if I had to live with and wash dishes with a lot of the…

Religious Freedom to Marry Appeal

Though this appeal is being made to the Pagan community, and is a wonderful chance for us to come together and show our values on the subject of GLBT equality, I would also like to encourage Quaker readers who support this cause to read Maureen's letter carefully. There's no reason that words like "religious", "spiritual", and "faith" should become the province of people who equate their own bigotry with the will of God(s. The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, whose activism was key in gaining recognition for same sex marriage in Massachusetts, will happily work for the inclusive spiritual insights of both my faith communities.

I still remember my tears of joy on the day that same sex marriage became legal in my home state... It was a time of many challenges for me personally, but that moment has become one of my touchstone moments. My own marriage has been a source of such wonder and depth in my life, that it breaks my heart to think…

Cat's Spiritual Journey, Part IX: Felicia Hardy and the Tower of Babel

All posts in this series:
Part I: Getting (and Losing) That Old Time Religion
Part II: Coming Home
Part III: The Fool's Journey
Part IV: The Underworld
Part V: Seven of Cups
Part VI: A Letter and a Kiss
Part VII: Morticia Loves Gomez
Part VIII: Nora
Part IX: Felicia Hardy and the Tower of Babel
Part X: When Babel Fell
Part XI: Community 2.0
Part XII: This Forgiveness Stuff

Picture this:
You stand in a forest. All around you, a rich smell of leaf mulch and growth fills the air. Receding into the distance are the boles of giant trees, redwoods, towering, and in the peak of green life.

From above, shafts of light pierce the canopy and slant toward the forest floor, like light piercing the living silence of a cathedral. Except for the singing of one far-off bird, there is no sound but the soft drips of moisture from the canopy above--the sound of life too rich and strong to measure.


Now picture this:
A woman stands before you. She is round, with a wasp waist and tiny feet, but otherwise like an …

New Druid Blog

David Miley, a Druid whose comments have appeared here at QPR on occasion, has begun a new blog of his own! My knowledge of David is entirely online, but his writing and his seeker's spirit have both impressed me many times. His initial entry into the blogosphere is an unusual reflection on a traditional Arthurian story which I quite liked--no surprise there, from the writer of pieces like "There is a Sound":
There is a Sound,
That supports the World.

It is tree dance
And brook babbling.
It is summer storm and volcano.
It is in us and apart.
As loud as sleigh bells -
Still, you may not hear it.

Touch tree.
Face fear.
Light fire.
Dance in moonlight.
Make love.
Sing.

The Sound is silent
Til you sing it.

For more glimpses into David's world, stop by his brand new livejournal blog. Here's hoping it will be a rich and productive outlet for his words.

On Spiritual Maturity

Peggy Senger Parsons is one of my absolutely favorite Quaker writers, and her blog, A Silly Poor Gospel, would be reason enough for a heretic like me to value Christianity, even if I knew no other wise and grounded Christians.

So it's not a total surprise that she has written some deeply wise words on the subject of spiritual maturity today--ideas she credits to her "Quaker Yoda", her friend Vivian, recently hospitalized for a heart attack and stroke.

Here's something I loved so much I had to share it:
Our value as children of God does not depend on our spiritual maturity - grandparents do not have more intrinsic worth than the babies - but neither are they less valuable. So it is with spiritual maturity. It is merely the natural consequence of time spent in the presence of the Holy One, like age is the natural consequence of life. But maturity is a need of, and a blessing to, the Body of Christ.
I know that my Pagan kin will prefer other words than "Body of Christ&…

Gazing Into Odin's Eyes

It is truly amazing how little I can remember the feeling of this exhaustion when I am not teaching... that I can't anticipate how little of me there is at the end of a day or week in the classroom.

I keep thinking I'll be able to do things: visit a friend, write a blog post, read a serious book... and I keep being surprised when, as happened again this past weekend, Saturday rolls around and I just fall down.

Sorry. This isn't meant to be a teaching blog. But teaching is looming so large in my poor little psyche these days that there's little room for anything else.

But however firm the wall between church and state within my little classroom, religion follows me wherever I go, and my experiences as a teacher and as a soul are definitely affecting one another.

For one thing, there are the conversations with S.

I'm mentoring a Fulbright exchange teacher from India, as I mentioned earlier. It's a terrific experience overall--though where he comes up with his ener…

Dive, Dive, Dive!

We're still alive and well, Peter and I... but that part of our lives we like to call our "annual trans-Arctic submarine voyage"--teaching school in two different public school systems--has begun. All summer long, we got used to daylight, exercise, friends, and time to think, play, and work around the house. I got a satisfying amount of writing done, and Peter finished building the walk-in closet in the attic and almost finished insulating it.

But now it's September, and we're diving for the sea floor. We'll be down here, under the ice, far from our summer lives of friends and free time, until we emerge again in June.

I exaggerate slightly. I'm going to go to Meeting for Worship today, and I'll be attending our local RPG group just as religiously as meeting. (Amusingly, it's the second place I find my spiritual community--several of my very favorite longtime Pagan community members attend week after week, and recently, a number of our Quaker fF…

Quaker Pagan Book Proposal

As per Stasa: "About the book on Pagan Quakerism which Jen Chapin-Smith is editing: Friends who are interested can contact her directly at jench1977 at hotmail dot com."

This announcement will remain posted longterm at Quaker Pagan Reflections' Back Page area.

Stasa has also posted at her blog a report on her experiences, particularly with the Pagan Quakerism workshop she facilitated, at FGC's Gathering this year.

A Meal of Leftovers Today

My in-laws are thrifty people, who waste very little. One of the ways this gets reflected is in their careful use of leftovers--the one baked potato that didn't get eaten gets saved, fried up with onions, and served all around, the quarter cup of pasta and seafood is set out on a plate next to the half a reuben sandwich left from the trip to the diner, and so on.

I hate leftovers. With the exception of Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, and pie, I'd just as soon never see the food again once it's been cleared away at the end of the meal, and I'm personally affronted to discover some mouldering brick that used to be a last half-slice of lasagna, that nobody ever got around to eating, after all.

I will, in fact, go to any lengths to get the food eaten the first time it's set out... Be aware, if a guest in my home, you will be expected to finish up that last little spoonful of green beans left in the serving bowl! All because I hate leftovers so much.

And yet here it is…