It’s Like a Place You Can Visit

I seethe. Ache, really, an old wound. It’s the unfairness of it, is all. It’s seeing how small bricks and a little bit of mortar can build a cultural edifice. To wit: coffee, an outdoor terrace, a friend. A young man walks by and I comment to my friend about this gent’s scrawny sexy physique. My companion, also male, remarks, “You’re bi; why don’t you ever comment on women the same way?”

I didn’t have to think very long for the answer, because this has been a thing near the forefront of my mind for a long while now. Like a ball tossed: “Because they hear it all the time. It’s an invasion to do that.”

“What? How the hell do you mean?”

I sipped my coffee. “Do you like it when women come up to you, don’t talk directly to you, and comment on your physical appearance?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“Do people do that while you’re at work?”

“What? No.”

“How about in class?”

“No. That’d just be weird.”

“You’re right, it would be weird. It is weird, and there isn’t a single place where most women aren’t subjected to those kind of comments. For you, it’s an ego boost. It’s a place you can visit, but your ‘real world’ has different rules. For us, we can’t leave it.”

He leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest. “You know, it’s not very feminist to make objectifying comments about anyone.”

“You’re right. And you’d know best, wouldn’t you?” I jabbed out my cigarette.

Faces

They aren’t masks, these faces we wear. Not all of them. They aren’t things we can take off and put on, but rather slivers of ourselves.

I know my mother still sees the petulant teenager; she’s still there at times, with a streak of indignance at the unfairness of the world. But that face has softened with time. She has new companions: the manticore, for whom rage is sometimes the only glue that holds her together; the mouse, too afraid to do wrong in the world to do anything at all; the gardener, for whom all relationships are to be nurtured like plants, even poisoned vines; the ham, who is always on stage, for whom every action is watched, and therefore holds meaning. None of these faces are just a show; each one is a vital string– strike a few, form a chord, this is me. The gamer geek and the outdoor explorer are separated only by a thin veil, if they are separated at all.

I cannot universalize, though here, I know I am not alone. Friends have told me the same story, fractured selves, a piece here in this category, a piece there in that. We never show our whole face. We show ourselves in slices, artful arrangements, illuminated this much by the falling of that light, a hip bone shown in a thin band by the light from a high window at sunset, the nape of a neck and the expanse of a back under a bare bulb dangling overhead. Like theater gels, like gobos. Which self will we show? You will never see my whole face.

From Small Seeds

I planted on Lughnasadh. I planted okra and I planted pumpkins. I planted aubergines. And in no more than four days’ time, there were sprouts. And after a week, one week, they were four inches tall. That’s some magic for you.

What makes me marvel most, though, is that for large projects around the house, I drag my heels; they are start-stop-start affairs. My garden? It doesn’t matter how huge or outlandish the project, I simply do it, in pieces if necessary given my tight schedules these days, and the world feels a better place when I’m out in the dirt and weeds and plants. That, too, is a kind of magic. It’s a magic akin to renewal, and my pantheon has a place for words and history, truth and lies, stimulants and geekery– but not yet one for the green growy things of the earth.

I will sit by my garden-goyle and wait, today. I will absently weed my late-planted tomatoes. And I will ask to know what garden Gods guide the forces of my plant beds, the vast expanse of Myakka prairie, the tunnels of rhododendron of Tennessee. Demeter/Ceres doesn’t fit, for the garden is a wilder place than people give credit. Pan does not play well with Caffeina and Triceratops. I will wait until I see a vision of soil-stained hands and hiking boots. I will wait until the tree roots encircle my heart, until the river, tannin-brown, brings to me leaves from a book I cannot read. Then, I will know. Then, I will know.

Of Vice and Virtue

I am rather particular about my vices. Being a sensualist, I see them as rare delights, made better by that rarity. I am very picky about my coffee, which, admittedly, is no rare delight. I’m choosy about my booze, preferring mead and lambics. I do not consider myself a smoker, but I occasionally indulge in two specific sins in the category of tobacco: cigars and Djarum Black clove cigarettes. Come September, the latter of those will no longer be legal to sell in the U.S.

This, as you can imagine, depresses me. Gone will be the days of LARPers breaking from game to go smoke a cancer-stick as black as their characters’ souls. Gone will be the days of goth clubs smelling sweeter, slightly, than other clubs, the air tinged with tobacco and spices. I, however, will not give up. If I have to import them myself for my own personal use, so be it. If I have to gather a gaggle of friends to share the expense, so be it. If I have to go to Canada or Mexico to get me some smokes… dammit, so be it.

All this from the woman who smokes two packs a year. As I said, I’m very particular. Don’t fuck with my vices.

Lughnasadh: A Planting Festival

Some months ago, a friend and I had tossed back and forth the notions in Paganism of practice being tied to the land, that the meanings or focus of holidays could changed where seasonally it makes sense to change them. For instance, the longest night of the year, Midwinter, isn’t so long here, and it doesn’t snow– we grow oranges, so our danger is frost; why not ritualize this? Or in another instance, Imbolc sees in the strawberry harvest here instead of a time of cold and quiet, instead of lambing season. She had wondered if other Pagans switched meanings dependent upon the land and climate too, but when she expressed this idea to a group of Florida Pagans, lectures ensued: “Florida does so have seasons! You just haven’t been paying attention! Listen to the earth!” Well, someone wasn’t listening to that conversation.

The entire idea of a religious practice rooted in the earth demands that the local seasonal changes be honored– but many Pagan authors such as Starhawk and the late Scott Cunningham mention a connection primarily with the sun’s cycle. And while the path from solstice to equinox to solstice marks a journey of the sun, the planet turns and the seasons change and the land itself is transformed.

Rituals are hidebound things. People don’t like to change them because their power lies in their repetition. If Lughnasadh is a harvest festival in Europe where modern Paganism takes its cues, people seem hellbent on celebrating it as a harvest festival, even if the land around them is doing something entirely different. Here in Florida, there are no grains to harvest. It’s too hot. This is the killing heat. We get thunderstorms almost every day. For those who do not garden, it could be perhaps a storm festival, a stillness-in-the-heat-festival. But I get out in my yard and dig soil. I put seeds in the ground. I go water specific plants (not the lawn!) during drought, and I control pests through predators (eat wasp larvae, white grubs! Or better yet, they’ll eat you…). August is a time in south Florida for planting hot weather vegetables: corn, eggplant, squash, okra, beans. So Lughnasadh is a planting festival, here. Florida’s seasons dictate this. I am not going to decorate with wreaths of wheat above my altar when I can decorate it with empty seed packets and know that what I do is fitting for place.

But then, it is like that elsewhere in the world. It’s Imbolc time in the southern hemisphere. In New England, the blackberries and raspberries are ripe and ready; time for a Lughnasadh pie. Each place has its own cycle. Each people have their own pattern, whether they make seasonal rounds from place to place (ancient tribes traveling with the seasons, modern snowbirds fleeing winter), or they stay where they are and watch the world around them change. Pagan practice is what must adapt.

More universally, ritual only serves us if it links us to our abstractions: we do these things to honor, to remind, to celebrate. As Pagans, if we are celebrating something which doesn’t happen where we are, tell me, what does that ritual serve? It links us instead to a faraway place and time. This could be well, if we weren’t lying to ourselves about what we are doing. Pagans have at least some notion that what we are doing is part of an earth-based spirituality. So be part of the earth. Here, Lughnasadh is a planting festival, y’all. Come Samhain, we’ll serve fried okra at the feast, have ourselves some grits with those pumpkins. But it’s time now to get our fingers dirty, to handle seeds.

Blessed Lughnasadh.