Monday, October 31, 2016

Blessed Samhain

Samhain, or festival of the Dead, means Summer's end. It is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year. It is also the beginning of the spiritual new year. And perhaps the one marker of the year which resonates with me most.

Time, as we mark it now, is an illusion upon which we agree for the sake of the smooth running of the cultural world as we know it. It was first needed in a formal state for navigation of ships. To determine longitude and latitude you needed a compass and time. Universal time. Greenwich Mean Time and time zones. And Daylight Savings Time proves it is a fairy tale. But agreement in that story told by idiots allows planes to take off and land continents away per a schedule.

The Universe, however, goes by its own schedule, which we are told slips and slides some. Adjusting to those variances causes calendar adjustments now and then. Most recently to the Gregorian Calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It was a correction to the previously used Julian Calendar. It was originally undertaken not to correct for a 0.0002% error which resulted in an 11 minute annual error to the the solar year but to keep Easter near the Spring Equinox.

In 1852 you went to bed on the evening of September 2nd and woke up on the morning of September 14th. People rioted in the streets because of those lost days of their lives. And while this historic deletion of eleven days on the calendar was done for the sake of Christian holidays it cemented the concept of time per astronomical events followed in many pagan or earth beliefs. There is now talk of another adjustment to modern marking of time. The earth has slowed in its rotation and orbit.  Even the Boxing Day Tsunami reportedly effected time by minute amounts.

So to single out tomorrow as the end of Summer and the beginning of the coldest part of the year is abstract at best. We are prone today to call Winter Solstice as the beginning of winter but some say it is now the middle of winter really. Samhain as the beginning of the spiritual year is as true as Lady's Day being the beginning of the Catholic New Year before the Gregorian Calendar. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thoughts upon Stacking Firewood

I think I would get the firewood stacked faster if I did not examine every piece. Mother called it lolly gagging. Teachers said I did not pay attention. And Miss May, who lived next door, said it was woolgathering, but sooner or later I would have enough to knit a sweater. Or write a blog or create a painting. Seriously there are some interesting things in your woodshed.

And stacking firewood is not dissimilar from the Zen revolution of Chop Wood Carry Water. 

"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water"

And maybe checking out all the unique pieces of wood isn't exactly what the Zen masters meant by chop wood, carry water. But I find piece in doing routine and repetitive tasks. Gandhi spun wool, literally. I stack firewood or drive the empty miles of the high plains or carry water to my studio plants. And sometimes I find enlightenment and sometimes a good photograph or a painting or great piece of wood I can use for something other than to burn.

Sometimes I discover answers to issues I shoved to the back of my mind. And solutions to problems I was not even aware I was pondering. And now and again a revelation or enlightenment. Some people pray but I stack firewood. Or drive to Raton. Or go for a walk with my camera and dog. I have never been able to just sit or kneel. I chop wood, carry water.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Dark is Coming

Yes, I live at 8725 feet above sea level, a hardiness zone of 3.5 to 4. And a statistic quoted on a ski resort site says we get 210 inches of snow a year. Note: it is wise to remember never at one time and oddly not accumulative. It snows and it melts and then it snows again and that melts. The most I can remember at any one time was 72 inches over three days beginning the year 2006 with a whimper. And that snow hung around for a long time.

I perusal of blogs of that winter reveals a lot of references to the Alaska TV series Northern Exposure, the Little House on the Prairie books, and blizzards in general. But that was a very usual year. Old timers said the worst in 70 years.

Mainly what I dread about the approach of winter, thankfully late this year, is the approaching dark. I would not have to look at the calendar to know winter is coming. Like birds, who know when to migrate, locals instinctively know when to build up stocks of firewood, etc. With me there is also a need to add color and light to my interior spaces and wash the windows.

Blooming orchids sneak into my grocery cart. This year, because I have learned how to make them bloom again there is quite of collection from previous years.

And I become concerned with lighting, totally adequate all summer long, which suddenly needs increased. This year it was the kitchen. I have installed three sets of under-cabinet lights. And changed out the ceiling fixture for a ceiling fan with three bulb light set.

Let there be light

And this year I decided to use the studio for what it was originally intended for - a green house. I have decided to see if I can keep fresh greens and herbs all winter long. To that purpose I augmented the light through the windows with a grow light and stand. I even transplanted some of the summer Swiss Chard to a pot to continue its growth inside this winter. 

The Salad Section

Early results prove promising. This weekend is about stacking the delivered firewood in the protection of the wood shed, rolling up the hoses and hanging them on the fence so they can be found, and covering the garden and flower beds with straw and/or cardboard.

For all this prep I still dread the awful change of times coming next weekend. Followed quickly be time to vote. 

It isn't the cold. It is the dark I dread.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Not Decluttering

Orchids in the sun in my studio

I took a break yesterday from an extensive pantry clean out to chat with a friend on the phone. She was decluttering her life too she said. I do not like the term. As an artist I find a certain about of clutter to be inspirational. And obviously so did Miro. Though frankly he was the painter of the most uncluttered canvases I can name.

Miro's studio

So, no, I was not decluttering my pantry and kitchen yesterday. I was repurposing them. I do like that term better. 

Since late December of last year I have taken a long look at my eating and cooking habits and slowly re-aligned my diet to my body and its health. This has meant finding space for new things both in the nutrient area and in the tools for preparation. Clearly the toaster oven (used once in last month) had to go to allow space for the new Ninja food processing tool. Cabinet space had to be freed up for the salad spinner, etc.

And in trying to find storage area for the raw cashews,pine nuts, dates and crasins the emergency canned goods had to give way. Much in the same way adding oil sticks to the studio supplies meant tossing out the old acrylics I once used for mask making. I confess to no longer eating canned vegetables and soups. I make my own soups and freeze them so in the not too distant future I will require a small chest freezer. But for the moment I just had to box up the canned goods I no longer use and take them to an organization which redistributes them to those who not only still eat them but need them.

There probably is still a lot of clutter, by Oprah standards, on my counter and in my pantry but it is usable clutter which supports my lifestyle now. I still have all the copper cookie cutters hanging on the walls of the kitchen even though it has been years since I baked cookies (most recently dog biscuits with the bone cookie cutter). Removing them would be pure decluttering. It would be removing the richness of my environment for no reason. They are not in my way. The cans of Campbell's soup were.  

Now the goal is to remember where I moved everything.

This re-alignment of my kitchen to meet my needs means I have a new life style and not just a new diet.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Painful Week for Women

Denial, a refrigerator magnet I own, states is a Goddess-given survival tool. And women have used that survival tool for centuries. It isn't easy to stay in denial about the verbal and physical abuse women have put up with to keep the peace or keep their jobs or stay in a relationship.

But there is a cost to keeping the peace. It steals our confidence and our freedom and our aliveness. We stay married to avoid being single or we find living single works best because the men we pick are wrong. We learn to pal up with other women to do things men get to do alone like long walks in the woods. Some of us quit our jobs we sacrificed so much to get and keep. I could not live with the compromise of keeping my mouth shut to keep my job.

Mother said I was stubborn and had not learned the lesson of keeping silent. I would be happier, she maintained, if I was not so prideful and intelligent. I even toyed with becoming a nun. My aunt told me I could become a boy if I could kiss my elbow. OMG, I tried. You were safe if you were a man or boy.

These days I am self-employed and avoid large parties and lonely walks in the woods without a gun. I tell myself it is because of the bears. Bears don't scare me. Men do.

This week the news broke about Donald Trump and his abusive conduct and degrading language in relation to women. And the walls of denial came cascading down not just for me but for a lot of women I know on the internet or personally. I had to admit the world had not gotten better. Women are still third class citizens without equal rights to even our own bodies. But the truly hurtful part was when men I know excused Trumps shameful behavior. My cousin maintains Donald apologized. And said it was just words. Locker room chatter.

This man who would be president believes women are to use and abuse and demean and be graded on boob size. And a whole political party seems to agree with him. The nation seems to be putting down the women who reported the behavior. One, who lives in the deep south, is even moving to a foreign country to be safe. Fine example we are for the world. I am more thrilled than ever I chose to not bring children into it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I Love Being Alone

When I was very young I was told repeatedly I was shy. I was always at the edge of play and when given a choice would go to my room and draw or to the fork of the cottonwood in the backyard and read. In school I always got the "does not play well with others" in the notations on the back of the card.

My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hill, was the first to comprehend I did better on my own. When we had school plays or concerts to prepare for I did the scenery or was sent to the office to redecorate all the bulletin boards in the lobby of the school.

In high school I never went to dances or decorated for them. My participation in school electives was designing the cover for the literary magazine. In physical education I liked gymnastics or modern dance. As an adult I hike with a couple friends with our dogs but not the Trekkers. I liked skiing because I competed with myself. Photography was always there in my life because it was something I could do from the edge of a crowd or all by myself or with another photographer. I like my crowds small. Very small. Two is company and three is a crowd could have been coined by me.

I do have friends but I prefer limits on numbers and exposure. And most of my closest friends are of the same mind.

Every once in a while I dip a toe in social waters and come away chilled to the bone. You think at my age I would know better. I really I do. I just get stupid now and then and commit to something I know will leave me bruised and exhausted and full of self-loathing.

Remind me the next time I agree to be on a committee or board or accept an invitation to a party.