I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality lately, especially after attending Ostara rites with Reclaiming LA a few weeks ago. Some folks have asked elsewhere what it means to identify as paganish-Quaker, and after my long years as a UU pagan, that’s a very good question.
I’ll just start here, today:
I’m spending the week at The Rainforest Village Resort in the Olympic National Forest. It may just be the most beautiful place on earth, and it’s a fantastic location for a writing retreat.
The Village is remote and quiet, and surrounded by glorious natural beauty. At any moment, I can turn from my work and look out over lovely Lake Quinault, ringed by spruce-covered hills and wreathed in swirling mist. When writer’s block strikes, I can step outside and enter a trail just feet away that takes me under mossy trees dripping with rain. Sigh. Dirt-loving pagan paradise.
Another particularly enjoyable aspect of the retreat is the company of other writers, several of whom I’ve only met previously on Twitter. I feel like I know them well, and meeting them in person for the first time was like greeting old friends. Opportunities to meet new friends, too. These are my people.
Where is your happy place as a writer?
Not been much going on here lately, huh? I’ve been keeping super-busy with end-of-term preparations, homeschooling, Clarion fixations (such as ever-expanding reading and packing lists), and gardening.
I do love digging in the dirt. My black thumb syndrome has dramatically improved this past year, but I was beginning to think the spring window was going to zoom right by, and I wasn’t going to get enough new planting done.
However, last weekend I cleared out a lot of old growth and this weekend, I have been working to replant. One exciting aspect of this is the opportunity to eat up remaining foodstuffs that were grown by the earth in my front yard and cultivated by my own hands. It’s a thrill, if you’ve never done it.
Here, three heads of cabbage that came straight from the garden into the pot. It was peppery and delicious. I have a couple more to go before that particular bed can be replanted, but I put out a bunch of bell pepper seedlings and I’ll probably put in the hot pepper ones tomorrow. Yum!
Of course, I should be writing.
It’s been raining for two days straight, and I feel like I’m going to sink down into depression if it doesn’t stop. The weather has that effect on me. It’s a good thing I don’t live in the Northwest or in England, or some other place where it rains or looks overcast all the time. This drives the Florida girl crazy.
At least the cabbage plants (on the far right) enjoy the rain. They have been growing steadily and forming nice, firm heads without any effort from me whatsoever. The mustard (in the foreground) have finally bolted so maybe next week I can collect seeds.
Mr. B has an earache, and now he’s watching Race to Witch Mountain over and over. Ugh. There’s only so much I can take of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, explosions, and so on.
I’m also pacing and then leaping to the phone every time it rings, in hopes that it’s Clarion calling. Sigh. I said I wouldn’t freak out this year, but as time passes, I’ve become more agitated.
Yesterday, it rained so hard that the top popped on my rainbarrel. If you click on the photo on the left, you can see the water overflowing the spout and pushing up the lid. After several months of drought conditions, this is amazing to witness.
Garden is happy. Then it rained all afternoon again today.
Now, central Florida just needs, like, seventeen more inches to meet normal annual rainfall.
I’ve spent the better part of the week trying to hold onto the sense of peace and purpose I gained from attending Florida Pagan Gathering this past weekend. It’s a twice-annual festival which always inspires me to better my life and take action.
I attended great workshops with cool presenters. I learned some absolutely beautiful songs for groups from Margot Adler (yes, the journalist from NPR). With my family, I learned about incorporating spiritual practice into daily life as a “family coven” with Lydia Crabtree. I gathered a good amount of perspective on the future of paganism as a growing world-wide religious movement, with folks like Gavin and Yvonne Frost (who are, BTW, very anti-Christian while I am not) and T. Thorn Coyle. Best of all, I watched my husband and child jump the Beltane fires and dance around at the fire/drum circle. Amazing levels of joy.
It’s hard to come home after that, although finding ticks in your clothes and scorpions in your campsite are enough encouragement to leave! I have a refreshed appreciation for creature comforts and a renewed spiritual bond with both family and friends who attended with us.
Has it really been a whole week since I posted? What have I been doing?
I met this guy at the UU, and this guy at the UU in Clearwater, and those were very engrossing experiences. I have been actively increasing the size of my garden, which is now yielding tomatoes every day that my family can eat.
A bit of writing and some reading, but nothing remarkable. On Wednesday, I had a meltdown of sorts over trying to coexist peacefully with my Aspie offspring. It’s very weird, driving down the road and sobbing at the same time. It feels oddly intimate and isolated at the same time when you’re sitting at at traffic light, next to other drivers, with tears running down your face. Isn’t that the name of a band, “Drivin’ and Cryin'” or something like that?
I guess I’m thinking too much.
It occurred to me this morning that the Clarion acceptance contact I’ve been waiting for could be a letter in my PO box, which I haven’t checked since Thursday, so I hitched the trail bike to my cheapo boardwalker, and Mr. B (my child) and I pedaled on down to the post office.
“Oh, my legs!” he wailed at some point. Anyway, no letter in the mail. I know that some lucky folks like Jordan Lapp have been contacted via phone call, but I’m thinking that may be a Clarion West thing. I have it in my head that the Clarion SD contact will be emailed/written. Correct me if I’m wrong!
But alas, nothing of note in the PO box so far. On the upside, while I was at the post office, I finally mailed the contract for the academic volume I’m editing to my collaborators so they can sign it, too. Nothing much is happening with that, so I keep forgetting about it.
Then back home to return to repeatedly checking my email in case there’s a notification in there. I also discovered a tidbit that might appeal to other Clarion hopefuls who are sitting around biting their collective fingernails. Clarion’s website suggests reading Kate Wilhelm’s The Storyteller while waiting, and a large portion of it can be found for free here. Or you can pay $16 for it.
I also tooled around in my garden today and got my toes dirty, which always forces me to slow down. It reassures me, too, that life goes on, however cheesy that sounds. I went back and listened to the UU service about springtime that I did last Sunday, which you can listen to here if you like, mortified as always by the weird sound of my own voice. There’s probably a scientific reason why we don’t sound the same way to ourselves as we do to other people, just like a kind of body dysmorphia where we don’t perceive ourselves the same way others see us.
Mentally rambling, that’s been my day. Just trying not to think about it as much by keeping busy.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by too many choices, I’d like to feel bored.
So why start a blog? It’s one more choice, one I can settle down with for a few moments and not feel guilty. I chose it.
Today, I should have been doing specific things (a list was even made). These activities benefited other people, generally, not me. I am a chronic volunteer; it’s damn near pathological. It must be the validation I receive from being needed that convinces me to volunteer in the first place, but later I experience ongoing sensations of being trapped from which there’s only momentary relief.
I chose to avoid those activities and spontaneously built a sad-looking compost bin out of old bricks I had in my garage. They were old and painted yellow: one split when I chucked it out of the garage into the yard. I stacked the bricks in a Red Rider wagon and hauled them around to the other side of the house. I pushed a row of them down into the wet earth and then stacked more on top, the result is something like the ruin of a burial cairn. Sweat ran down my stomach and soaked into my shirt, and I had dark, dirty bits under my fingernails. I raked up leaves and filled the space I’d built, then rushed inside to retrieve the plastic bowl full of kitchen waste to make my first deposit.
It was weirdly satisfying. About an hour was spent on that little project, an hour that I wasn’t being “productive.” No one helped me, and it’s unlikely I’ll be validated or praised for it in any way. Why’d I do it? I’m not going to dwell on the why and wherefore, just the satisfaction. Whatcha think about that?