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*sigh*

Last Sunday at the Oratory, Nicholas coughed all over us. I stand closest to him during Vespers. Now I am coughing my guts up. Joel's coming down with it too. Nicholas gave us his foul plague. Damn job.

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Solstice afterburn

We had a lovely evening last night, sitting around Sonza & Gareth's fire pit and singing/playing folk tunes. And Gareth had brought along some silver birch wine - my favourite! Of course it didn't even compare to the Lugershall country wines (it was Lyme Bay), but as the silver birch is the tree of new beginnings, I thought it was very apt.

We sat awfully close to the fire pit (to keep warm!) and today my eyes are still stinging from all the smoke! And of course my hair stinks. Also, because of the various potent meds I'm on, one glass of wine feels like I've consumed the whole bottle! Still, as I said to my friend Cseste, you need to do these things from time to time, if only to remind yourself why you don't usually do them. We're getting old now - our memories need jogging more often.

I had hoped more people would turn up, but Alan and Dougaul were busy, Jonathan had arranged to see his parents, and my Joel was just too tired. But it didn't matter, because Gareth got progressively more chatty (just add wine!) and joined in our daft girly conversations. Then Sonza got all tactile and huggy. Adorable!

Spidey kept us all amused, chasing bits of grass. I just wish he were more snuggly.

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Summer Solstice is nigh!!

I've never subscribed to the philosophy that bad computers made all the magic go away, so I've planned my own (private) ritual to celebrate this Summer Solstice using my laptop. It's a bit of a special one, as I want to finally do a self-initiation as well. It's important to me to be a fully-fledged hedgewitch before I'm married, given the pagan undertones of the ceremony.

I'm leaning heavily on the work of Rae Beth for guidance. I have a worry that the ritual I've planned will be quite mentally draining, but it's probably unfounded. I have everything written down except the visualisation part of the ritual, which I've thoroughly revised. But will I get any time to myself?? I'm very busy tomorrow. I guess that remains to be seen. I'm singing at a funeral in the morning (yay, lovely money), then I'm looking after Mila in the afternoon, and then there's the prospect of a Solstice party at Sonya & Gareth's place. Maybe I'll find a window of time before the party; otherwise it looks like it'll be a nighttime ritual - which is no bad thing! I just hope I won't be too tired.

To be honest, I can't wait. This will be the culmination of four years of studying, figuring out what path I might take, absorbing myself in nature all over again. Opening my eyes to what was always there, but which I wasn't aware of before. It's been quite a ride, along with my developing relationship with Joel. I'm looking forward to the next adventure - long may it continue!

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Exercise (.....urgh)

Well I hate exercise but I've been doing some anyway. I did my routine thingee at the Tiverton Road gym today. Plus, Alan has lent me his weights. I plan to have buff arms. Not saying it'll happen, but I'm gonna try!

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Robin & Judith's Wedding!

... Another welcome addition to my memory bank of weddings. My own wedding is only 50 days away now (yes, I AM counting them, what a wedding geek I've become).

Stella Maris provided the musical entertainment, and as I don't approve of false modesty, I have to say - WE ROCKED! Especially new-ish member Elaine, who's done an excellent job of learning our rather idiosyncratic arrangements, many of which bear no relation at all to the written pitch! Well, as all Early musicians know, pitch is relative, or as Father Jack would say: "That would be an ecumenical matter."

I was in total awe of their wedding venue.It was the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick, which isn't a hospital at all, not now anyway. It's a complex of gorgeous Medieval buildings, so they were able to have the ceremony in one hall, and the reception in another. I confess, I gasped in wonder when we were shown into the wedding hall. It really was breathtaking. Like the banqueting hall of your dreams, but real! Wooden beams and chandaliers to die for. Best of all, we had time to do a little practising in the space before the first guests started to arrive. Thanks to Rachel, who planned everything so dilligently!

Judith looked stunning. Her dress was really simple and I think those are the best wedding dresses. I was so moved when she & Robin thanked us so warmly just before we left. Of course we had compiled a list of more pieces than we had time to play, which is the way to do it, and it was exillerating to play and keep playing, building up a rhythm from number to number. I really sensed how important that momentum is in creating a strong bond within the group. I love the way we communicate with eachother during a performance.

And how fantastic is this? We finally had the chance to live one of my favourite dreams... performing on a real Medieval balcony in a courtyard. It was heaven. That was during the photograpy session. The photographer must've been impressed (I hope so, as we were playing on the balcony right next to him), because he asked for our card! Luckily, although we'd forgotten the little box of our business cards, Rachel had one in her purse.

One downside - we ended up standing for hours. I didn't notice until the adrenaline had worn off, but my feet were killing me. Damn those smart shoes. I swear my feet actually sighed with relief when I changed into my flip-flops. And then my face sighed with relief when I took off that horrible yunk known as mascara. I really must find one I'm not allergic to before my own wedding!

Now we're back at Alan's place, which is where we all stayed last night so we could rehearse together until quite late. It was a good plan. Now Sukey has been consigned to the great carpark in the sky, Eileen is our only wheelman. Alan & Eileen are cooking stew while I'm procrastinating here. Too many cooks spoil the broth and all that!

All in all, a successful day for Stella Maris. Here's to many more. Yay!

Annoying thing

I went on HWC recently, and it's nothing like as good as it used to be. It used to be welcoming. I suppose it still might be, if your opinions are exactly like those of the people who run the site, but I'm never going back there. And to think they once voted me member of the month!

Far from being an interesting and varied site for Pagans from all paths, their home page, before you've even registered, is dedicated to telling everyone that meat and meat production is evil, and the only way to save the world and have a clean consience is for us all to become vegetarians, or preferably vegans. We are told nothing of organic pastoral farming. There is no information on how you can make moral choices and still continue to eat meat. We are simply told, very melodramatically, that

THE INFORMATION THAT FOLLOWS MAY DISTURB OR UPSET SENSITIVE PERSONS, CHILDREN, OR THOSE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION, BLAH BLAH BLAH.

And then they don't even back this up with any pictures! Nor do they mention, among their 'further information' sites, Compassion in World Farming, which last time I looked didn't insist on us all becoming vegans or the end of pastoral farming, but campaigned for better animal welfare standards. HWC has become a forum for animal welfare extremists dressed up as a Pagan site - the sort of people who say we should stop keeping animals for meat, milk and eggs, and release them all into the wild, never mind the fact that such a course of action would bring domesticated, dependent animals suffering and death, as they would be unable to fend for themselves. If we are to stop keeping animals on farms, we would have to slaughter them en masse, as they are bred solely for the purpose of human consumption and would cause immense financial hardship if they were kept just for the sake of keeping them. I have no problem with keeping animals for eating if they are well treated. A human's digestive system is developed to eat meat and vegetables, so we can eat both if we want to. I've heard a chain of reasoning that it's unnatural for us to eat eggs or drink milk, as these things were made to nourish another kind of animal, not us. In that case it would also be wrong for us to eat, say, blackberries, as the flesh of the blackberry is there to nourish the growth of more blackberry bushes, not us. The flesh of the banana is there to protect the banana seeds and enable the growth of more trees - we have no right to eat it. Etc, etc. Well, actually, the flesh of these fruits and others is there to be appetising to us and other animals, so we'll eat it and spread the seeds via our... poo. Also, why should it be wrong and immoral for us to eat meat when creatures like buzzards, lions and chimpanzees can do it with impunuity?! There can't be one rule for one kind of animal (us), and another rule for all the other kinds of animal! Yes, for those who have forgotten, humans are ANIMALS. Primates, in point of fact. And many primates eat meat. Death is a part of life: it's called an ECOSYSTEM, people. If all the carnivorous and omnivorous animals stopped eating other animals, there wouldn't even be any standing room on this planet. I'm not saying we all have to eat meat. Evolution has given us the choice, but evolution doesn't tell us, at any point, that eating meat is wrong. What's wrong is intensive farming. We need to completely overhaul our approach to animal welfare. We've started in small ways, with various welfare standards and organic farming, even though we do need to do more. At least we can choose the organic products.

Anyway, I'm frustrated. I object to the assumption that certain lifestyle choices must go hand in hand. Pagans have to be vegans?!? When the hell did that happen? Where was I?! And I object to the use of a website that was supposed to be a forum for people from all walks of life to peddle one particular lifestyle. I'm sure I can't be the only one who feels alienated. Actually, that may be melodramatic of me. I'll just go elsewhere and not look back. They can't change my opinions or force me to give up meat. I liked that site and I'm pissed off that it's been usurped. But I can still be a Pagan in my own way, so it's all good.

More 2011 stuff

Joel & I have been talking about getting a new cat or kittehs! This will be a huge step for us. It'll be the first time that we get a pet together. It will be really and truly saying goodbye to Toto. More than one cat will be double the financial responsibility. I'm nervous, really - I don't know what to expect. All cats have different characters. It or they will be nothing like Toto, and I was so used to her. Seventeen years with one cat is a long time! Tosca was completely different too. Obviously! I feel bad, in fact, because I don't mention her more here. She was a sweetheart, totally barmy, but really gentle, a gorgeous tortoiseshell. She went all floppy when cuddled, like a Ragdoll cat, but she was a farm moggy from just outside Tideswell. Like all the best cats! Moggies rule. I've thought from time to time that it'd be rather nice to have a pedigree cat; I've a particular fondness for Russian Blues, Burmeses, Abyssinians, and blue-point Siameses. But unless they turn up at the rescue centre, it'll be good old kick-arse moggies for us.

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What's with all the poetry?

Actually, I just wanted to collect together the poems I love best. One of them may even get read out at our wedding this summer - but not the one about a past lover, I suspect!

As a child I was fascinated by the poem about Kagwa and the talking skull - why would the skull only talk to him alone? Is the reward for curiosity and telling the truth always so cruel? Maybe it's about letting the dead rest in peace, or the importance of not showing off. There are some things we should keep strictly to ourselves. Perhaps the skull didn't want to speak to anyone else.

Of course, the snow we've had recently made me think of 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.' The photo I included at the end was one I took myself in the Rea valley near our home. There are a lot of crows living in the valley and I managed to catch one of them in flight. I set the camera to the highest photo quality, but really I think the technology's becoming obsolete, and I need a new one.

In a way I'm glad Toto never had to deal with all that snow and the cold it brought. Cats belonging to several of my friends and family also sadly passed away just before the weather started to really turn. It makes me think that animals can sense these things coming, and tired old animals know they won't survive it, so choose to leave us before things get really bad. The snow would have certainly made it impossible for us to get Toto to the vet safely. To lose her at Christmas would've been truly awful.

Anyway, now there are all the prospects in front of us that a new year brings - including a wedding! I'm so excited that Joel and I are getting married this year. Eight months to go. We've chosen our venues and I've found my dress. I'm thinking of commissioning some special jewelry for the occasion, but we'll have to see how much it'll cost. Now my head is filling up with all the other stuff we have to get ready. I may have to go and eat a Pringle sandwich. Crunch crunch crunch. Yum yum yum.

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The door

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there's
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog's rummaging.
Maybe you'll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
If there's a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there's only
the darkness ticking,
even if there's only
the hollow wind,
even if
nothing
is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there'll be
a draught.

- Miroslav Holub


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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

- Robert Frost