Sunday, June 21, 2015

Shrines Of My Own Experience

"Today I embark on a pilgrimage to shrines of my own experience, going back to places I once lived, places that will be filled with memories. In each of our lives there are these landmarks, physical histories that we inhabit, where the moments that made us who we are unfolded, at that time in vivid reality, but now as if only in a dream. Can we ever really go back? Yes and no. I will walk the same ground, see shapes and faces that I remember, but time has wrapped her gray skirts around the light of my past and the years have kept their promise of change. Still, it will be good to go home."
                                                                                           -Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston

Steven Charleston is a heretical member of the Choctaw, retired Dean of the School of Divinity at Yale University, former bishop of many diocese, and author of some pretty nifty spiritual truths, like the statement at the beginning of this post.

Bishop Charleston posts daily inspiration on Facebook and I seldom find myself disagreeing with him, although our paths have become spiritually divergent over the years. I admire his vision and dedication, and the fact that he often questions his chosen path. Even while questioning, I get  an undercurrent of the unshakable from him. It appears that the questions are for clarity and not due to a confusion about his journey. I admire his steadfastness. It gives me stability.

Midsummer is always bittersweet for me because it heralds an anniversary of  major life changes. I sold my family home, lost my sweet feline companion, and a dear friend, moved to a new location in an area that is pretty much politically and religiously at the opposite end of the spectrum of my personal tolerance - all within the weeks surrounding Litha over the period of a decade. I've said it before-I am not a Summer person. I do need the sunshine and light to keep the wolves of clinical depression away from my door. I love the sheer greenness of the grass, the trees and the flowers. But I am not a Summer beach goer; I don't bask (or bake) in the sun. I burn too easily, even slathered with sunblock. I don't like the relentless heat that goes on for days, or the unpredictable severity of Summer's storms. I love the ocean in the Winter, when the beach is deserted and the sand beneath my feet is firm from the cold. I like the crisp wind and the grey-blue sky that blends seamlessly with the endless water. I love the ice floes, the foam, and the cry of the gulls. I like the nakedness of the shoreline.

Back to the pilgrimage that the Good Bishop mentions. The places that have become shrines of my experience are many in the last few years. Not all of them have particularly good memories attached to them, but I can look back now in retrospect and find something good and positive-though bittersweet-in those days. Without trying, I have become the person I am most comfortable being. I have been fortunate to have fallen into who I am. Thanks be to the Goddesses and Gods who have been my companions! Perhaps before I had been trying too hard, driven by personal demons and mistaken beliefs about being successful. Today, revisiting landmarks and their histories, that which resonates most with me is that I am enough just as I am. That particularly speaks to who I am spiritually now. Many times have unknowingly worked at my Craft. I know so much more now than I did as that  17 year old who had an inkling that magic was all around me, but was clueless about how to access it in any measurable way. I know more than that young woman engrossed in formal theological study who later took vows to bring knowledge of the Divine to others. I know more-thankfully-than that fateful day just beyond a year of coven study. I know that the titles and degrees are simply descriptive of my journey and that though they were part of my path, they were not the journey.

Here in these mountains I am hundreds of miles from the place I spent most of my life, where my people lived and died. I have not been back for nearly eight years, and so much has changed. I still keep up on things a bit through online news, but it's no longer the place I left. That life is firmly behind me. There are a few friends I'd love to see, but we keep up through phone calls and email, so I'm up to speed. If I could manage to make myself invisible, I'd like to walk around the old neighborhood for a couple hours to collect the part of me I left there. And  I need to visit the graves of my loved ones just once more to leave some flowers and take pictures for my memory book.

Occasionally, it is good to go back, even when it's painful. It puts where I am today a little more in perspective and gives me clarity. Last night I gathered my tools-the tiny iron cauldron, the glazed chalice and leaf-shaped plate, the cut glass bowl that holds ritual salt, the water shell, the incense dish, sacred blade and assortment of crystals, candles and oils with the intention of rededicating all of it to service and the common good in the next day or so, whenever I invite the elementals and faeries  of my Scot-Irish/German/Italian heritage to the dance around the small symbolic fire with me.

Something else I'd like to go back to is celebrating the fest days of particular saints-something I happily did as an Anglo-Catholic but was uncomfortable doing in the early throes of obsession with Paganism. I have never been anti-Christian, but let's just say that the theology and liturgy fell out of my favor for awhile. Further self study has given me a new perspective and renewed interest in the subject. On St. John's Eve I plan to do my own little home head-washing ritual: maybe I can work in some of that rainwater that's been coming our way lately courtesy of tropical depression Bill. Not even going to pretend this will be anything like the actual traditional ritual on my end, but it will be something to satisfy my needs.  In case this sounds like something you'd like to explore further here's an excellent article: I'm finishing this post on the morning of the Solstice. The sky has just begun to lighten over the mountain behind me, and everything I can see from where I'm sitting is in long shadows. I love the sound of mornings here, when birds of all varieties are singing and the air is still cool. My visitor this morning is a tiny house wren just outside the window. I've been watching it for five minutes now, trying to imagine what that little being is thinking as it searches the sidewalk for crumbs and bugs. I am trying to visualize what it's like to be so unaware of my self that I simply fit into the scheme of things so innocently. Since I will never be a house wren (probably,reincarnation not withstanding, but who really knows?), it's presence this morning is a gift five minutes that I am not wondering or worrying about all the things I have to do today. Oh to be as free as that tiny bird!

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