Friday, August 26, 2011

Gaea Groaned

Tuesday afternoon Gaea stretched her arms and groaned. The earth shuddered along much of the  East Coast of the United States from the tectonic plates shifting miles deep beneath the surface, the point of impact being identified by the National Geological Service as near a small town in rural Virginia.Here's all the techno-stuff if you're interested:( To be truthful, I'm only mildly interested in the scientific end of it-and not interested at all in the conspiracy theory/religious wing-nut stuff flying around.

What I do know is that at about ten minutes of two on Tuesday afternoon, I was alone and working on Lois' Cottage (see previous post), and the house was blessedly quiet. The sun was shining in my bedroom window and I was thinking about dropping the shade to cut the heat from the sunlight, and I noticed the stillness. The leaves had stopped moving, there was no breeze. The birds-which had been happily, noisily chattering-went silent. There was a vacuum moment in time which I didn't pay really close attention to, and then then it sounded like someone was upstairs walking around, then stomping, then jumping up and down. The house gave three slow-motion waves....and I realized we were having an earth central North Carolina. Earthquake on the Piedmont.  The shaking went on for nearly 10 seconds before I got up and stood in the doorway, like all the disaster training films I used to prepare thousands of volunteers when I was Coordinator of Disaster Operations for the Red Cross years ago. I remember being in an Earthquake in Delaware in the early 1970's, and it was terrifying and violent. The house-and everything else-vibrated back and forth in a rapid blur and there was a loud booming rumble. Plaster fell out of a patch in the ceiling in my bedroom. I've also been in minor quakes while working in LA, which caught me off guard but weren't frightening; everyone just stopped what they were doing, shrugged and went back to work when it was over.

What did impress me was that the epicenter of the quake was over 200 miles away from us, yet it felt like it was right beneath the house. What impressed me more was that it did damage in Washington, DC. Almost immediately the doom and gloom crowd started posting the stats on Facebook and the Internet: The National Cathedral was going to fall down because the main bell tower was leaning, the Washington Monument was twisted and would immanently collapse, the White House was in know the drill. The maudlin media services love a good misery story, and with all the focus the Dominionists have put on destroying national symbols as of late, they were having a field day.  I immediately emailed my friend Richard who's in charge of the PR department for the National Cathedral to ask about  damage. Realistically, I knew there would be some- the cathedral was built in the time honored fashion of stacking the huge stones to interlock rather than adding mortar. My great-grandfather and his sons were all expert stone masons who worked on the bridges and tunnels all over New York City so I understand the physics employed. Pop and I built a stone wall out of river rocks on an estate when I was a teenager. It was a long, involved process to find stones that would drop into place and fit together like they were glued...but it works. In the case of a building, the sheer weight of the stones keeps the place from falling down, but it creates immense pressure on the ground below. The ground settle never actually stops. Flying buttresses help redistribute some of the force, keeping the walls intact.  There is literally an army of stone masons employed at the National Cathedral because stones shift, come loose and fall out all the time. Within the hour, the news I got back was that a couple of statues had fallen over and  three of the fleur-de-lis finials had toppled off the pinnacles on the main tower. In the larger scheme of things, that's small change, folks. The tower was most certainly not leaning, but there were cracks throughout the building, and they considered the damage minor. Nothing like the media hysteria and rumors.

I have a  special fondness for the National Cathedral- whose proper name is The  Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saints Peter and Paul. The National Cathedral title came much later. Sts. Peter and Paul is an actual church with an very vibrant congregation engaged in the community. I used to drive down to Washington weekly for clerical meetings from my own home cathedral, and the building is like an old friend. I have been through work corridors and tunnels concealed by huge wooden panels that are not open to the public, and one of my favorite places in the entire building  is the the Chapel of  Joseph of Arimathea down in the basement at the crypt level. The ashes of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan are interred there, among a host of other notables. The plaque at the Keller/Sullivan crypt is in braille. It is dark, cold and still, as one would imagine. It is at once awesome, thrilling and  terrifying to realize that the whole building-millions upon millions of tons of rock, sits just above the low, heavily vaulted ceiling...and you are squarely beneath all of it. It puts things into perspective.  The Space Window, the most unusual in the church, holds a chunk of moon rock in the middle top nimbus of the stained glass. I am also fond of the pulpit, carved from stone from the bell tower of Canterbury Cathedral- and the last pulpit Martin Luther King , Jr. preached from just a week before he was murdered. (This is a fantastic blog with photos of the National Cathedral  taken by a local tour guide:  If you're a history buff like I am, you'll love it!)

Back to the earthquake and the news it's generating. As soon as I could get online after the shaking stopped, I posted to friends on FB that I wondered how long it would be before the Dominionists started taking credit for the shake, rattle and roll events on the East Coast. Seems a ultra conservative Rabbi beat them to it with a pronouncement that the earthquake was God's displeasure at the passage of the gay marriage bill in New York- now there's one I didn't see coming. Then there were the " God was after Obama" set. Can anyone take them seriously? I mean really- if  Yahweh were that pissed at Obama, would you think He would be a better aim, you know, like bring the White House down on his head or knock Air Force One out of the sky with a lightening bolt, or just give Obama a massive MI and be done with it? Doubtful he'd mess up the whole Eastern seaboard. And as for the bunch of loonies who thought God was destroying national symbols, can I just point out that the worst damage in town was to a building with no steel infrastructure and a few cracks in the Washington monument? Columbia, the goddess of Freedom and Democracy, is still firmly attached and standing tall atop the Capitol , which is more than I can say for their cock-eyed theory. The prize goes to the conspiracy theorists who have managed to make numerological connection between Mineral City, CO, and Mineral, VA, both towns with mining histories, and the 'fact' ( and I don't know this for certain) that a major fault line lies midway between the two towns, and it was that fault that ruptured and caused the quakes.

Can we just take this for what it is? It was a natural occurrence. It happens, folks....Gaea occasionally groans.

Tuesday she heaved a sigh, and we were reminded who is really in charge of our world.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lois' Cottage my spare time I make doll houses. Not pretty little dollhouses from pre-cut kits: custom dollhouses and all the stuff that goes inside them. I usually make them from scratch, cut from foam core display board. The furniture is balsa wood, and the furnishings are sculpted from polymer clay which is cured in the oven right in the kitchen at home. I use acrylics, tempera and enamel paint to finish everything. Sometimes I incorporate metals such as copper and punchable tin. The vegetation is made from mosses, shells, pine cones, sticks, small stones- you name it. The 'river rock' base of this particular cottage is made from antiqued pistachio shells my friend Jule saved for me. I use a lot of 'found' stuff because I like the challenge of figuring out what to use it for and how make things....and it's affordable. Making miniatures is an expensive hobby if you use kits and purchased items, a lot of enthusiasts do just that. Some people are collectors, and some are artisans. I am the latter, and I learned to make things out of necessity because I couldn't afford to buy them and I loved the hobby. I have used kit that were given to me as gifts, but none of them have been used to make what they were intended to make originally, because I 'kit-bash' them, which is  changing out certain elements and replacing those with custom parts. I save everything from the kits and eventually they're used for other projects. I make dolls, too.

I use Xacto knives, disposable scalpels, dental picks and scrapers, pins, Emory boards, and a small hack saw and miter box to cut and shape things. I also have a Dremel tool with detachable sanding and cutting heads. It's the most elaborate tool I own. Everyone has their own personal preferences.
This outside window is made from balsa and found plastic. I think the  'glass' is actually part of the clear clam shell packaging from the cell phone I bought last summer. The bird bath is the inner seal from a half gallon OJ  carton- the ring was cut off and saved for something else. The faux plaster on the exterior of the cottage is a layer of the paper which covers the foam core- it was stripped off, flipped so the rough side faces out, then reapplied with a layer of white glue and painted. The wind chime to the right is  thread and clay painted with metallic nail polish.

 I wish the photos were clearer, but my cheesy little 4 pixel digital camera doesn't take close-ups very well!

This is a part of the rear exterior of the cottage, showing the vegetation, river stones and a few fun things- a toad house with a painted copper roof and to the far right, a green turtle shell, made from a 'push mold' I made from a silver ring I own.

This is the upper room of the two-room cottage. The stuffed chair is polymer clay over a wire armature. All the other furniture pieces are cut from sheets of  balsa wood, which are purchased in packs.( Occasionally I buy a specialty piece of fancy molding or mill work.)

The food stool, night gown, socks, boots and pitcher and bowl are all polymer clay, as are some of the more detailed 'fancy' books. Other books are made from scraps of balsa covered with paper.

This is the downstairs main room.Once again, the fireplace is clay over wire. There is a stack of wood inside and it's fitted with a battery-powered artificial candle votive flame. All the furniture is painted balsa. All of the furnishings except the 'crystal ball' and candle holder on the table are sculpted from polymer clay. The corn stalks in the corner are balsa shavings with clay leaves. The candles hanging by the fireplace are pieces of thread dipped in wax. The rag rug the cat and rat are sitting on are braided embroidery floss.
This is a detail photo of the side board cupboard. The fruits, vegetables, bowls and books are polymer clay. The crystal ball is a clear marble glued onto a jewelry finding. The tarot cards are paper with designs drawn in colored pencil.Yes, there is a cup of coffee. You should know me by now!
This is the main room of the cottage. Look closely at the blue bookcase on the right hand wall and you will see a skull next to the books, and a tiny white goddess figurine on the next shelf down.

The buckets of kindling are scored balsa wood and found sticks. The broom is a twig of sweetgrass. There is a bubbling cauldron on the top of the fireplace, a grimorie, and a green mortar and pestle. The brick floor of the fireplace is balsa wood that has been scored and painted.
This final photo is a detail of the upper room.The mattress is cloth ticking stuffed with the cotton from a medicine bottle. I usually make clothing from clay because it drapes better than fabric and I have control over the position and color of the object. The cut-out in the floor is how the witch gets upstairs- there will be a rope ladder installed as soon as I find the correct  diameter of utility string to make it from. I tried a ladder made from twigs and didn't think it looked quite right and hit on the idea of the rope ladder, then ripped out the balsa wood floor to change the configuration of the hole.

All of my dollhouses and vignette boxes have a story to go with them. I draft the story, then cartoon out the house or box. This one is a  simple witch's cottage in the woods.The witch is out wort-cutting, but she's not too far away, she's left her tools-and a cup of coffee-on the table.Her hat and cape are hanging next to the book case. Lois wanted an orange tabby cat in her cottage, so I made one from a push mold modeled from a pewter charm and then detailed it into shape before firing the clay. The rat on the rug is a little 'bonus' I threw in at the last minute. I figured the cat would be busy while the witch was away!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Don't Know What We've Got Until It's Gone

 As a minister, I'm interested in trends affecting religion in general because it helps me stay in touch with current issues and better assist those I serve. The Pew Charitable Trust ( no pun or religious reference intended, that's the actual name) is a great resource because it gathers information scientifically and tracks it in a manner that's easily accessible, in very specific categories: Religion and politics( including voting and political campaigns), Religion and the law (such as the recent Ten Commandments controversy) ,domestic policy (gay marriage, faith-based initiatives) and world . Well worth it to take the time and read-and it will take time because there are so many things of interest once you tap into the site.

What the Pew Foundation fails to delve into in detail about cults and hate groups is usually covered by the Rick Ross Institute which investigates and amasses up-to-the-minute information
The site's introduction states that it's "...An Internet archive of information about cults, destructive cults, controversial groups and movements. The Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey (RI) is a nonprofit public resource with a vast archive that contains thousands of individual documents. RI on-line files include news stories, research papers, reports, court documents, book excerpts, personal testimonies and hundreds of links to additional relevant resources..."

Where the Pew Charitable Trust may be restrained, the Rick Ross Institute is not-which is a very good thing if you are keeping tabs on a particular cult or hate group. They sponsor the Cult News
( NOT affiliated with Cult Watch, which is a branch of the Church of Scientology, itself considered a cult by some in the mainstream). Clicking on the Cult News link will instantly take you to the latest information which is archived by date.

Today's offering included an excellent history of the Dominionist Movement and the New Apostolic Reformation at I highly recommend you read it because it gives a concise history of the movement, it's connection with current politicians, and why it and they should be a genuine concern to every citizen of this country.

My personal interest in NAR began in 2005 through an article in Rolling Stone Magazine ( now archived at the Rick Ross site: )
It sounded crazy to me at the time, and it still sounds crazy to me now, but there is a new tinge of danger to our Constitutional rights because the NAR has gained membership and momentum via Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry and the ever present Sarah Palin. In case you missed it, a Kenyan NAR affliated witch-hunter
( Yes, witch hunter) named Thomas Muthee visited Palin in her native Alaska and anointed her just prior to her Vice Presidential bid. Bishop Muthee is one of the movement's most prominent practitioners but has some how been overshadowed by the hoard of crazies who follow Cindy Jacobs.( If you haven't caught Jacobs in action, check You Tube).

In case you missed the ' Anointing of Sarah'- and most of the mainstream press did- here's a video of the action.  My initial opinion was that it had the usual bombastic, over-blow vibe of an ecclesiastical carnival, and I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief when  Muthee anoints Palin specifically against the 'power of witchcraft', because I have a difficult time taking such an injunction seriously. Who would be out to hex our favorite Stepford Politician? According to Muthee, practically everyone in the world who isn't a member of the crew on this Ship of Fools.

Recently some of the NAR's more bizarre claims were  highlighted by Rachel Maddow's  show on MSNBC. Among their 'factual' assertions is that the Japanese stock market collapsed because the Emperor had sex with a demonic sun goddess and that the Statue of Liberty is a demonic idol. Even Oprah failed to escape this proclamation of bat-shit crazy ( Thank you George Carlin for my favorite latest descriptive term) as she was called "...a forerunner to the Harlot movement", or as Maddow reframed it for clarity, " A harbinger of the Anti-Christ." Got that? Oprah is the point man for Satan.These aren't just a random sampling of the NAR's claims, this is their usual, everyday stuff. Public policy researcher Rachel Tabachnick has been studying the Dominionists for the last six years and contributed this opinion the day after the Maddow show aired,"These video clips  ( used by Maddow to illustrate her show) should receive much more national exposure, but they need to be viewed in context of the movement they represent."

At one point a very well know mainstream denomination, the Disciples of Christ, briefly took interest in NAR's form of theology, but upon deeper examination, dropped it like a hot potato...or a glowing coal from hell. To put distance between themselves and the NAR as a form of damage control, the DoC then released documents warning against the  ranting of Dominionism, calling it "... unscriptural triumphalism...", proclaiming against "...the problematic teaching that present-day offices of apostles and prophets should govern church ministry at all levels", and against "excessive fixation on Satan and demonic spirits". They also denounced the concept of generational curses, a term often hinted at by the Dominionists.

The previously mentioned Rachel Tabachnick submitted an article to the Talk 2 Action website last week defining the Dominionists' declaration of 'spiritual warfare' against the rest of us at should be read and re-read until it is clearly understood that the NAR is much more than your usual a bunch of evangelistic nut jobs. They mean to be a serious threat, and they are gaining support  and credibility through their association with politicians who already hold office.

Their three pronged plan of spiritual warfare is uncomfortably close to malefic magickal practice because it not only includes the casting out of demons, but attacking practitioners of spirituality at every level, including Witches and Pagans, Freemasons, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims...and other Christians and Jews, all of whom they consider an impediment to their gaining world domination through the confrontation and eventual overpowering  of current world religions,territorial principalities and governments and entire nations. They would systematically purge society of ethnic groups and entire communities...does this sound even vaguely familiar to you? It's not exactly an original idea. Check the history books under 'Former Paper-hanger Seeks to Dominate the World'.

Bishop Michael Reid, a Pentecostal evangelist in Britain associated with Oral Roberts University fell into disgrace through sex related scandal and quickly resigned his post and association with the International Communion of Charismatic Churches only to found his own Global Gospel Fellowship. Although seemingly possessing a morally unsavory character, he is undeniably an expert on the subject of  the type of theology espoused by the NAR and groups like them. His book Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare: A Modern Mythology? rips apart the theological claims of the NAR with Bible-based  laser-like focus:
"There is no foundation in the Old Testament for this practice ( strategic level spiritual warfare), nor any indication that the Devil has any intrinsic power or authority. Satan's only weapon is deception and his only sphere of influence that which God permits for His own eternal purposes." Later in the book he continues,
"In the New Testament, the picture is similar; there is no evidence to suggest that Christians are called to engage in an on-going conflict with spiritual forces in the cosmic realm. The Scripture is quite clear in its teaching that Christ defeated Satan completely at Calvary and that Christians have been freed from his power."

It's been awhile since I've used the rhetoric, but I seem to remember that the idea was that Christ had defeated Satan and cast him into the abyss. Having made that point, I now wonder why the Dominionists are challenging  the Biblical  holy writ they seem so keen at quoting as their platform. While I don't profess to be a  fabulous theologian, it does seem to me this thinking essentially usurps the power and kingship of the God they so ardently support, placing Him in the backseat while they take control of  driving the car.

In other words, the Dominionists are doing  precisely what they accuse the rest of the world of doing: putting their egos above, beyond and before the kingdom of their God. In theological terms, this is much more than a lack of humility, it is stealing the rightful kingship from God. In other words, instead of the total submission and surrender required by Christianity, they have rejected His dominion and made God in their own image.

I wrote in response to  an article by Covenant of the Goddess First Officer Peter Dybing recently:

"As a member of a local interfaith ministerial coalition, I've watched this cult gain strength and numbers since 2005. It's grown slowly, but it has been noticeable because it plays the 'Jesus' card to the poor and poorly educated through fear and lies.They're scaring people into joining them with the ridiculous message that 'true' Christianity is under attack, that "pagans and non-believers" are trying to take Christ out of Christmas, etc, and that a secular society is out to get them.

Of course, nothing could be father from the truth but that's a difficult message to get through to people who are already frightened and paranoid about the economy and convinced that the US government is out to enslave them.

The New Apostolic Reformation, and related groups with a variety of similar names, have been working the public like a carnival barker works a crowd through its hollow promises of prosperity and respectability for those who feel disenfranchised and marginalized. It's marriage to certain GOP 'stars' such as Perry, Bachmann and Palin has made it's malefic intention politically respectable in many quarters. The Dominionist projection upon a confused and fearful public that their version of religion is as American as apple pie will gain them success at the polls unless the clergy of this country unite- Pagans, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and mainstream Christianity must go into our pulpits and lecterns and counter this attack on civil liberties and human rights before it is too late."

That pretty much sums it up for me...and I'm not alone.

If you can't see the forest for the trees, it's time to cut some dead wood- pass this along to your local politicians. This is not just a Pagan issue. The NAR  is a dangerous threat to human rights and civil liberties for everyone. They are not mainstream Christians- and never were. They are a cult that wrap themselves in the American flag and the garment of Christ for respectability. Beware the deception, because if they're permitted to get control of the White House and Congress, they'll topple the government. Think that's an extremist view? Read between the lines: Their goal and their God is money and power.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hey, I Got An Idea...Let's Move!

As much as I appreciate my little room which someone from the local UU has graciously provided while I sort things out in my life, there looms ahead the day when I will move out...soon, the Gods willing, and if plans continue to go well. I'm perfectly willing to obey all the 'rules' because it isn't my house, I'm cool with that. I can tolerate the hippie-dippy, non-conformist, anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-anything-that-affects-me-and-prevents- me-from-getting-my-own-way attitude of the homeowner who parrots that the 70's were the pinnacle of the peace and love era while she flaunts her own personal agenda-but only because I can walk away and close the door to my room. And it do...often. Very often.

Thank you Hera and Vesta and House least I have a roof over my head. At least I am not sleeping on the street or in a homeless shelter. I have my belongings packed away in boxes, and to tell you the truth, I'm not even sure what's in any of them or what I actually own anymore. My whole material life is in fifteen medium sized boxes and three plastic storage totes, all sandwiched into a three by ten space with a few under the bed...which means whenever I think about something and want it, or it's something I need, I have to shift the boxes around and dig through them. I have 'done the drill' so many times in the last 3 years that I have no idea what's actually in any of them anymore.

It's driving me insane., I want to put stuff places and be able to find it. I'm tired of  the search through boxes that turns into an archeological dig and takes up an entire afternoon of my time. It makes me feel like a second cousin to Lord Carnarvon. I want somewhere I can  leave the newspaper and come back to it a couple of hours later and not have to worry about finding it folded and laid on the floor in front of the door to my room with the anally passive-aggressive message," THIS IS YOURS AND YOU LEFT IT SOMEWHERE." The message that this is not my house is loud and clear. I am 55 years old and speak English fluently: I understand. I have never taken advantage of the generosity extended to me, it isn't in me to think to do so. My mounting level of exasperation (and therapist) are telling me that it's time to move on for my own peace of mind.

The thought of moving is usually daunting for most of us. Psychologists have placed it high up the scale as one of the most stressful things an individual can do.Truthfully, I was exhilarated when I sold my grandparents' house in what used to be the pleasant blue-collar neighborhood I grew up in but has now become a  place of cheap, transient rentals surrounded by an industrial park. The neighborhood had soured into a mean, nasty place to live, ruled by bullies who felt they were entitled to destroy and steal anything in the yard that wasn't that wasn't nailed down. During the week I was moving, a neighbor at the end of the block killed his abusive father, and the body lay out in the yard for at least ten hours in full view of the street before anyone took the initiative to dial 911 ( I was driving around the block in the opposite direction; I think I might have noticed someone laying face down on the lawn with a bullet wound in his forehead six feet from the curb.)

My first apartment since college was a ground floor corner unit a mile from the university where I was teaching. At the time it was the only place available that would take animals, so I moved in. It had a tiny front stoop, a large living room, a dining room (which I'd always wanted), a nice bedroom with windows on both sides, a roomy bath and a tiny kitchen, but with lots of cabinet space. The floors had a sway-back sag to them and there was a hole behind the stove that I had to block with a cookie tray to keep Tinker the Cat from exploring the walls, but it had been freshly pained and the carpet was clean... I wasn't exactly in love with it, but it was mine for the year I held the position at the university before I took a chaplaincy internship at a resident homeless facility.

I never felt  settled at The Farm, but maybe that was because I knew it was going to be temporary. Most of my personal effects were in storage, I was fifteen miles into the country-the real country, where the nearest commercial establishment was a gas station that sold ice cream. The upside of this was that it wasn't totally unfamiliar territory: my great grandparents were buried a couple of miles away and I could actually see the steeple of the church where they were buried during the Depression. My interaction with the clients was rewarding and honed my counseling skills and enriched my personal ministry. The downside was that the building I lived in was pretty awful, there was no TV or radio reception in the area, people were suspicious of 'outsiders', most of my clients had been recently booted out of the local prison or mental institution yet were still addicted to an astoundingly impressive array of illegal substances, and Tinker died during that time. (Sigh) Such is life...

I completed my second internship the next year as the house manager of a transitional housing facility  half an hour down I-95 south of  Philadelphia. The House was actually two connected two-story row houses in a very ethnic, very old Polish section of the city. Across the street was a magnificent stone  church and it's rectory. Three elderly Roman Catholic priests lived there, and I could see the light come on in the kitchen at 5 a.m. and shadowy figures moving about behind the curtains- a strangely comforting routine as I sat on the field stone porch  across the street drinking my own coffee and watching the sun come up. Inside The House lived a rotation of  residents- mostly young African American mothers and their children  who had formerly been homeless but were now on their way to regaining a foothold back in the real world, and I was their house mother,big sister, confidant, social worker and secret keeper. I hated to leave, but the time came when the job was over and I graduated. I hated the thought of moving only because I didn't have an inkling where I wanted to move to: apartments were expensive in the city, and although I had diligently saved, there was precious little money to start my life over with...but I did.

My next home was about as perfect as it could get, and I have to tell you I was ecstatic and totally in love with the apartment I found, the neighborhood it was in, and my new job in a local hospital. Life had gone from uncertain to absolutely-freaking-fabulous in the blink of an eye and after the moving truck left.

I never thought I would enjoy living in the city because I was raised in the suburbs. To my grandparents, the city-especially the industrial east side- was some place you moved out of when you achieved an ounce of success. You got away from your ethnic roots and whatever negative, painful baggage was connected to them and became someone else in the suburbs: it was the place of the American Dream. At least it was while I was growing up, and I have to say that despite a really crappy childhood for many reasons, I still have fond memories of the place which I waited patiently all my life to inherit but couldn't way to leave a few short years later.

I moved to the west side of the city, the side that was growing and reasonably safe, into a high rise building built right after WWII. It was old, but it had a lot of charm, and was still pretty classy in a 40's kind of way. It had magnificent hardwood floors throughout the unit; a huge living room, dining area, a galley kitchen with two doors, a large bathroom and short hallway. There was a door between the living room and the hallway that essentially made the bedroom and bathroom into a suite...a foyer. I had an entryway where you could choose to walk into the kitchen or the living room, lots of windows and maximum light on the top floor of what was in another era  one of the swankiest buildings in town. The window sills were ten inches deep, and when I was still unpacking I used to pull up the kitchen stool to one of those windows and eat my dinner while watching the sunset and the city lights glistening like diamonds; the place had a magickal vibe to it.

It was located in the 'artsy' part of town (and the Irish section)n and still boasted a genuine roadhouse/pub with live Celtic music on the weekends. I furnished my personal utopian queendom with the vestiges of my grandparents house that had been in storage for so long- the dresser from my childhood bedroom, an old desk my grandfather found at the dump when he was in the Army, a tacky, square, 50's style Formica table and chairs that looked reasonably nice with a table cloth, a dry sink, several bookshelves, an old cabinet my great Aunt gave away because she "got a new one" which is, as it turns out, one of the only heirlooms in the family...and the ancient steel porch glider from the backyard which I painted black and refurbished. ( I had ripped an article from Country Living magazine earlier which featured a glider re-purposed into a sofa with new cushions and a slipcover, so that's what I did. It was comfortable enough to sleep on and surprised the hell out of the unsuspecting who sat on it and quickly found out that it moved, LOL.) Life was peaceful and mellow, even though few of my friends visited because the street parking was terrible. It was mine...all mine...if it was possible to be in love with a location, this was it, and I was smitten.

It was, and they say, too good to be true. Life was going along swimmingly when a three-pronged tragedy  occurred: the building was sold ( we were assured by the former owners we wouldn't notice the difference), I lost the best paying job I'd had in fifteen years, and the building was going condo.

Which meant I would be moving soon...and this time I wasn't happy about at all.

Now I was faced with boxing everything up and moving again, this time from a place I was absolutely crazy about and wanted to live in for a long time. I had considered during the last move that technically I could live anywhere I wanted. I'm single and have no immediate family, just a few distant cousins I haven't seen a a long time (and can't say I miss them). I could move out of state if I wanted, and I had seriously considered the Maryland Eastern shore ( done that), New England ( A real possibility, but expensive with too much snow), Nova Scotia ( interesting, but too cold), Colorado ( It would never be the same as when I used to visit and work there). My BFF lives in North Carolina, and we used to talk about living close enough to go to yard sales together. So, North Carolina it was, and I began to pack...

So here's the real meat of this should be titled Moving: Where Did All This Crap Come From?
So,just where did all this crap come from? Moving to another state and being virtually caught off guard was daunting. I didn't have the money to store my things long term, and frankly I was afraid to, because of my friend Leanne's hard lesson in that department: unable to make the payment one month, she lost everything to the storage company. I wasn't about to loose what precious things I still owned that mattered to me, so I had to thin my belongings down to the essentials.

That's when I discovered the over-flow. Culling my Christmas Yule decorations down to tree ornaments and a few things from my childhood, everything else was packed to go to the resale shop...five boxes worth of garlands, wall hangings, lights and assorted ho-ho. There were two huge garbage bags of perfectly good, usable clothing-some never even worn. All the book cases went, and much to my chagrin, so did my precious glider. I figure when the time comes I will find another one if it's meant to be. The only furniture that was saved was the a fore mentioned little cabinet and my great grandmother's sewing cabinet. There were four complete sets of dishes: a set of china (for 8) from a flea market; a set of dishes with holly around the edge that I bought for 14 dollars because I couldn't afford the Lennox Holiday set I really wanted; green pressed glass luncheon set I was neutral about and the clear dishes I actually used everyday which came from the Dollar Tree. I figured none of them would survive the move, so they were added to the Next-To-New Shop treasures. We all know dishes are easily acquired, so I figured that eventually I would get a set I actually liked.Ditto all small appliences with the exception of the espresso machine, my coffeemaker, the Belgian Waffle maker- and a ridiculously expensive coffeemaker that was a premium from my days of buying Gevalia through the mail. My entire Halloween collection-which had been ravaged during a previous storage period by well-meaning church members who confused it with some flea market stuff-went along. It's the one thing I will not part with and will fight for because so much of it is vintage and irreplaceable. I also saved my library of occult and religious books because I knew I could never replace them. My biggest regret was loosing my drafting board I'd had since college, and  I mourned the loss of my brand spankin' new seven foot lighted Christmas tree which was used only once. I hope both found  happy homes.Everything went on a friend's enclosed back porch and was retrieved within the year and is now crammed into the a fore mentioned closet or under the bed.

Being forced to come to terms with the clutter helped me to prioritize the things I wanted and needed. A lot of it is useless to anyone other than me, frankly...but it's mine. It has history and is meaningful. It thrums with life force- mine and that of others, through inheritance or gifts.

When I move again, it will probably be into a small space which will be a temporary home until I find what I really want-and can afford at the time. The boxes will still exist to mock me, although hopefully they will be replaced with plastic storage tubs by then...which will still mock me, but it will be a higher level of mockery at least.

Hera bless me and my piddly things; smile on this wanderer so she can come home again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To Tat or Not to Tat...That's a Big Question

I love body art!  Once the realm of sailors, soldiers and motorcycle gang members (according to Hollywood stereotype) you never, every saw a tattoo on a woman. Unless, of course, she was a...ahem...'soiled dove'. Ladies did not entertain the thought of getting tattooed, particularly good Christian ladies, because, wasn't done. Conservative Jews also eschewed tats because it was believe to defile the body which was made by God in His image, and to embellish the body with permanent ink was something the Chosen did not do ( but the Gentiles and pagans did.)For some Jews, there is also the understandably nasty reminder of the Holocaust. Tattoos are a part of numerous cultures, permanently etched in ink or through scarification of the skin, temporary by the uses of henna, or other mediums. Embellishment of the body through this form of art was to beautify it or used to commemorate an event you never wanted to forget. (Remembering a former boss of mine who had a record of his military service in the Marines tattooed on his forearms in blue and yellow. They had faded and were covered with hair and really, really ugly. But I've also seen some really touching military-service themed tats that were just stunning, so it can go either way.) Sharing a tat as a membership ritual isn't unusual, and firefighters and EMS providers ( prior to DNA testing) who were likely to get into major disaster situations were known to have their individual badge numbers inked on each arm and leg, the back of their neck, and some place on their torso for- identification purposes in a worse case scenario. (Gruesome, but practical.)

My Celtic ancestors were into tattoos and occasionally painting themselves in woad-(Isatis tinctoria) a plant of the mustard family grown specifically as a blue dye. I understand this was to scare the crap out of any perceived enemy who would encounter a group of blue-skinned creatures and perceive they  could not possibly be of this world. It might have done it for me... I still think the Blue Man Group is pretty weird, although I've never seen them come galloping over a hilltop screaming and armed with  coarse homemade weapons...The weaponry would be just as frightening as the blue faces, in my humble opinion.) I'm pretty certain the Navi People in the movie  Avatar were blue skinned for the same reason- it made them appear other worldly and god-like ( thinking of some Hindu and Buddhist gods who come to mind.) No humans have blue skin unless they're hypoxic  or suffering from acute arsenic poisoning ( Wow, the stuff you learn in paramedic training: not only makes you able to treat a smorgasbord of physical ailments, but virtually unbeatable playing Trivial Pursuit, too...).

Like I said at the opening of this blog, generally, I like tattoos. Well over half my friends have at least one, and I have my own. The artist who did mine was a big muscular guy named John who was professional, caring and kind - and who immediately talked me out of putting the tattoo just above my ankle bone because it would be excruciatingly painful: he barely touched me with the needle, and the whole design was moved up an inch and a half (avoiding a bundle of nerve endings) to where it has happily resided for the last eleven years. I'll admit I was nervous because you hear all sorts of horror stories about tattoo parlors and the hideous infections you can contract there. I'm not by any means saying this is false, because I've seen some pretty nasty skin infections due to lack of proper sterilization or bad technique. While John was making up the stencil for my design, I checked the place out for cleanliness. They had just painted and the place was immaculate; the supplies were all disposable, and when John changed needles and colors, he changed gloves. The needles were dipped in A&D ointment when he took up the pigment. He was gentle when wiping the excess away, there was little blood, and he would occasionally ask how I was doing  to check to my level of discomfort.  There were a lot of colors in the design I chose- a monarch butterfly with wings full opened and a rosebud; John was truly an artist because the design looks like it was painted on my skin. It was a two and a half hour process, and I was given some antibiotic ointment, a printed sheet of aftercare instructions, and an emergency phone number for any questions or if it looked like I was having a reaction to the dye. Most medical clinic and emergency rooms do less when they discharge patients.

My friend Joyce and I went to dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate my acquisition of body art. As I was leaving, John had quipped, " You should go get yourself a steak. Guys have fainted on me after being in the chair that long". I knew this was a rite of passage. It was already special because my co-workers had taken up a collection for the tat, which was my 44th birthday present from them. Joyce and I not only followed John's advise and had a marvelous prime rib dinner, we each had a whopping piece of cherry cheesecake  for desert.

Then the endorphins wore off and my leg began to feel like I had a four inch second degree burn on it. I'd removed the bandage, cleansed it and applied the ointment as per the instructions, and it looked good- just slightly swollen and red, but the sheet against it felt like someone was scraping it with a pitted knife blade, so I slept with my leg outside of the covers in bed that night. The next morning I awoke to a slight throbbing, and a sense of weight and warmth on my foot-furry, purring warmth- and then the sensation of  scrubbing the wound with a Brillo pad.

Tinker the Cat rested firmly on my foot, dutifully cleaning my boo-boo with her sandpaper tongue. She licked it hard, in every direction, then looking up at me as if it say, " It's okay. I'm gonna keep this up until I get this damn bug off your leg. No worries, I'm gonna make it all better." Then she went back to her  ministrations.

Ungrateful human that I am, my first fleeting thought was about the germs from whatever Tinker had been licking prior to my leg, I mean, it could have know where I'm thinking. There was a slight aroma of fishy cat food in the air when she burped. I momentarily felt like Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon being kissed by a feline version of Snoopy," Ugh, I have cat germs!" This necessitated a call to the tattoo parlor and John's partner yelling over to him, " Cat's licking her leg". There was a pause and I heard a muffled, " Tell her it's probably good for it, but she should wash it off, put on some A&D.... and keep the cat off of it." I like these guys. I'd let them do my next tattoo, but I've moved and they're 600 miles away.

Did I just say, my next tattoo? Why, yes I did. I went in thinking this was the only one I'd ever get and was planning what I wanted to add to it before I left the building. I now 'get' a lot of the reasons why people have multiple pieces of body art. I also get why they are addictive, and I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing, because it isn't. But I understand the physical, endorphin-driven high you get from being worked on, and my Jungian-trained mind likens it to someone who cuts them self  for relief. I totally understand where that cones from it now that I've been living with clinical depression for the last nine years, because I went through a period of wanting to hurt myself because I hurt so bad. There is a psychological mechanism at work in the pleasure/pain center of your brain when you're getting the piece done...and those chemicals kick in again when you look at the results and relive the experience. It's an out-of body oddness  that's totally liberating with just an edge of fear...definitely an element of pleasure/pain (maybe with just a vague hint of S&M thrown in the mix.) Some people describe hitting the level of endorphin max-out as spiritual, and in the case of scarification, that's exactly what I believe  it is...rapture and orgasm in one.

Although becoming more acceptable in the mainstream, tattoos are still taboo and frowned upon generally in the workplace because they still don't fit the corporate image. They have just a hint of rebellion and 'bad-boy' in them that seem to be better suited for Rock Stars that Corporate VPs. Most employers take note of the type and number of tattoos on a prospective hire-along with number and locations of piercings. Don't kid yourself into thinking that they don't do this. Adopting an 'it's their problem' attitude will do nothing other than keep you unemployed and hungry in most places. I'm not talking about the cute little daisy chain around your ankle, I mean the full battle armored dragon on your arm, or the tribal tat encircling your body. And if you have a tat on your face other than something applied by an cosmetician, you will be filed away by the state employment board as only suitable to work for as a bouncer and recommend you join Ringling Brothers Circus. Nurses have it especially hard because the majority of elderly patients have  a preconceived notion of what caliber of person has tattoos, and won't permit you to administer a sponge bath much less treat a serious illness.  No, it's not fair and judgements shouldn't be made based on your body art...maybe.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've heard me talk about caution and discernment before, usually in a religious context. I'm going to caution you to think and consider what you're doing when you go in for that first tat...let's face it, it's going to be a part of you forever and at least a few days after you die until the skin slouches off your bones, so for the Love of Mike (or whoever) think about what you're doing, then give it a few days and think about it all over from the beginning. No matter what you've heard, having a tat lasered off is no easy feat and it does leave some disfigurement no matter how skilled the operator is...don't be fooled. It's not simply erasing the ink, it's burning through layers of  YOUR skin, it's expensive, and usually it takes more than one trip to the dermatologist. It's not  like removing a nose stud and hoping it heals over. My friend Anna had her boyfriend's name emblazoned across her upper arm in a wild array of flowers, stars and  ribbons, and after three treatments to the tune of $5000 the shadow of the heavy ink still showed and her arm was a texture of patchwork scar tissue that was going to require shaving  and more laser treatment to totally remove her ex's name and repair the damaged skin. Not. Much. Fun. The other thing you seriously need to consider is location. Just like real estate- because it is real estate in a way- location is everything. Getting that apple tat low off to the side of your left breast might seem like a great idea until gravity turns it into a Picaso version of an apple that is stretched out of proportion and your lover says something innocent like, " I like your pear. Why did you color it red?"

The other day a friend and fellow Rick Springfield fan was pee-her-pants excited over the fact that she'd gotten to meet Rick at a sound check and asked him to sign her arm so she could have the signature inked over into a tattoo. Good guy that he is, Rick will happily autograph any body part of your choice in BIG letters so you get your money's worth. ( Rick has his own tats, and has developed the philosophy of " Why get a tattoo nobody will see unless you have sex with them?") She had him stretch the signature all the way up the inside of her forearm, and then she dutifully went off to the local tattoo parlor to have it inked in purple with little pink hearts and all of the Rick faithful Oohed and Ahhed and told her how positively cool it looked as some of them compared their own 'Rick' tattoos.I'm pretty certain that angels sang at the sight of Girlfriend's very cool and totally unique Rick tat. A week later Girlfriend and life-long Rick fan was bemoaning the fact that she was turned down by the first employer who nibbled at her resume in two years...because, she is pretty sure, of her 'Rick tat'. The interview went swimmingly until the HR guy notice the purple cruciform on Girlfriend's arm, and when he asked about, she happily rattled off all the giddy details...where upon the temperature of the interview became frosty.  ( Okay, folks, I love him, too, and I considered a 'Rick tat' of my own until reality reared it's ugly head, reminding me that many employers are suspicious of the sanity and maturity of individuals (especially a 50+ year old woman) who would ask a Rock Star to autograph their body so they could   permanently be reminded of their admiration and obsession for said celebrity every time they gazed lovingly upon the sacred memorabilia. Sorry, folks, but the thought also occurred to me that in a not too distant future and in a state of advanced dementia I could be scratching idly at my 'Rick tat' and wondering who the hell Rick Springfield even was when I'm 90, LOL. I'd much rather be pointing at my self and toothlessly mumbling, "Flowers, pretty flowers...") tat or not to's a big question with no easy answers. Your body is your canvas and ink is forever.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Everybody Loves Lucy

Today is the centennial birthday of America's First Lady of Laughter-Lucille Ball. It really is true that everyone loved Lucy. She was a TV staple when I was growing up. I saw a lot of the (now) vintage shows she did with her real-life first husband,  Desi Arnaz .

Lucy made it okay to laugh at adults when I was a kid. Unlike Ozzie Nelson, or Robert Young-both perfectly fine examples of TV fatherhood in the 50's and 60's- Lucy was an adult goofball. She had a never-ending line of get-rich-quick schemes going, and would do anything to get in on her TV husband Ricky Richardo's show, despite her apparent lack of talent. Another thing that stands out to me now was that the show was done in good taste. There were no cheap shots at the expense of others-no ethnic jokes, no jokes about handicapped people. The only concession was Lucy making fun of Ricky's thick Cuban accent- and then it was only Lucy who could do the ribbing, and it was done with lots of affection.

The character of  Lucy was funny and endearing- and to this little red-haired girl, she was gorgeous. I don't remember seeing any other actress with flaming red-hair other than Lucy. To an odd-ball red-haired kid whose entire family was short, stocky, olive-skinned and dark-haired, she made it okay to be different. It's a shame that many people today only remember her for her days as Lucy Richardo, because she was a brilliant actress and a gorgeous woman who had been a model in her earlier years. Lucy's career included a radio show, My Favorite Husband, which was the inspiration for the I Love Lucy TV show.

In her early years she was a contract player for one of the major movie studios and appeared in many movies as both an uncredited actress and as a character actress. At one point she made so many sub-par movies she was known around Hollywood as the Queen of the B's, and allusion to the quality of the films. Lucy went through four incarnations of her own show, with the plots adding and subtracting supporting characters and the plot varying slightly each time to spotlight the veteran actress. Her portrayal of a homeless woman in the made for TV movie Stone Pillow was a marvelous performance, one which I remember over 25 years later.

Thank you, Lucy, for a lifetime of laughter...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

End of an Era

During the terminal year of my grandmother's illness, Borders was one of my 'escape' places. If you have  ever been a caretaker for someone with a long term illness, no matter how much you love them, after awhile your mental facilities will degenerate  and you will find yourself plotting how to carve out precious moments just for you.( I'm talking about the time before caretaker burn-out was readily recognized. Until then, you were just considered a selfish whiner.)

When I knew Mom was safely in bed asleep and would not be moving for a few hours, I would change into something a little bit better looking than jeans and a tee shirt, put on my make-up, and drive to the Borders two miles away to drink coffee, read magazines and remember what it was like having a life. It sounds shallow to read it in print, but those weekly treks to Borders made me feel human. I could be with people who didn't need me to be their nurse. I could just blend in...and breathe. I could be real and not the shadow of who I had been. The coffee was good, the barista's were chatty and funny and just being in the cafe or walking through the isles made me feel like I was still connected to  the world.

After Mom died, I went back to work-out of necessity, because I needed the income as well as the interface with others. It had been years since I'd worked retail, and everything was new and exciting and frightening. The only place I'd been than home was church. I took a job at Macy's because I had worked in a department store as a teenager and it was familiar, but  I hated the cut-throat attitude of my co-workers and the negativity of the management ( our daily company news letter rarely had a happy smiley face in the upper corner reserved as the indicator of sales. It was depressing.) But I loved the customers, I loved being helpful, and I loved the excitement of working again. After a couple of years at Macy's, I reassessed if I wanted to have a few more dollars or be happy, and I opted for I applied to Borders and got a job as a bookseller. I took a $2 an hour pay cut to preserve my sanity.

I am not the most computer-tech savvy human on the earth-far from it, and frankly, I like it that way most of the time. Borders used three databases and an ordering system that booksellers needed to be proficient enough to flip between in seconds. There were hundreds of codes the corporation used to classify books, music and other merchandise. The booksellers had to have a working knowledge of where to find titles without using the computer to look them up, and it was up to us to stock and order titles in our assigned specialty areas, then shelve the books as they came in and call customers about any special orders when they arrived. In addition, we were expected to have actually read new bestsellers as they were released so we could discuss them with the customers, and to be knowledgeable in our 'specialty' areas- mine was animals, ecology,herbs, crafts and collectibles, inspirational, spiritual, religion (including religious texts like Bibles and Korans) and metaphysical /occult. There were three of us assigned there, and I was the only full-time employee for that area, which was a full quarter of the store. To this day I don't know how I learned it all in ten days of training.

The store was huge. The Borders I worked in was a 'flagship store', meaning we carried every title available imaginable, and if it wasn't on he shelves, we had better know how or where to get it...and be perky about it. No frowning at the computer screen at the order desk, and you were expected to stop everything and place a special order from the computerized cash register if necessary. Oh, and don't dare be more than 11 cents off either direction on the til, or your name went up on the Wall of Shame in the employees' lounge, and everyone knew about it. All of this I did gladly for $6.20 an hour when minimum wage was $6.15. To be fair, we had great insurance coverage and a 25% off employee discount on non-sale items, plus a 'book account' of $30 a month where you could choose books, CDs and other merchandise for free. The first year I saved up all my book account credit until Employee Sale Day right before Christmas and walked out with hundreds of dollars of presents which cost me absolutely nothing at all.

Borders made us feel loved. The Borders Brothers were still in charge of the company when I started working for them, and the store had the vibe and feel of an intimate coffeehouse/bookstore. We fueled ourselves with free coffee all day, and dealt happily with the thousands of customers who tramped around the store daily. Friday and Saturday nights were magic: people came in around six p.m. to listen to the free music, join book discussions, listen to free demonstrations and talks given by the booksellers ( which you received a ten dollar gift certificate for presenting!), interact with local authors read from their latest books, drink gallons of coffee with free refills, browse the magazines and lay in the floor in the isles reading books. We used to have to gently chide the customers who got too comfortable, or step carefully over them because they were lost in the pages of the newest release. It was a circus.

Being a bookseller was one of the most satisfying jobs I ever had. Most of my co-workers were younger and many were college age because we were near the university...and gay- Borders was a safe haven for the LBGT community to be open about their sexuality in the workplace. The comradeship was intense and surreal: we used to joke about being on the island of Misfit Toys, because no matter who you were, you found your niche. We were a bunch of tattooed freaks-all of the book and music sellers and the baristas had at least one tattoo, and if you didn't have one, you got one during your tenure. My rose and butterfly tat was a gift for my 44th birthday from my co-workers. I look upon it as a rite of passage, like piercing your ear when you sail across the Equator.

Then the unthinkable happened- one of the Borders Brothers died and the other one decided to retire. The board of directors of Borders,Inc. hired a new CEO who never had anything to do with books or publishing but would be "good for business". The first thing he did was remove the arm chairs and coffee tables and eliminate the reading areas. The cafe had a 20 minute time limit for customers, and you could no longer browse the magazines. Booksellers were not allowed to chat with the customers to allow them to decide on what they wanted to buy, and you were required to pull a book a book off the shelf and place it in their hand, then hard sell it to them. They fired most of the lead booksellers because they felt they would be an impediment to business and trained new assistant managers. I hung on about a month before I quit. My manager, who had been given her notice, baked cookies for us on my last night, and my friends from the staff gave me an espresso maker because I was cross-trained as a barista. It was a tearful evening, but it was for the best because as Thomas Wolfe wrote, " You can't go home again."

The "New and Improved Borders" lasted exactly ten years after I left. They might as well have closed the doors right then and there, because not only did they strip the company of it's friendliness, they branched out into a frenzy of selling 'side-line items'-things that had a vague connection to books in general or the merchandising that went along with things like Star Wars or Harry Potter. Nearly half the store was now other things and not books. The booksellers left and associates were hired in their place. Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble put in reading areas and expanded their cafe and Borders formerly loyal and now betrayed customers flocked to their stores...and I don't blame them one bit because Borders sold-out. Interestingly, the two or three independent bookstores in the area are still in business to this day. They were never threatened by Borders in the beginning, because we worked together and carried different titles. If the independent store didn't have it or couldn't find it, they actually referred their customers to Borders, and I often called the small stores for obscure titles when a customers didn't want to wait for Harvest Booksearch to find it at a premium price.

If you have never worked in a bookstore, you won't understand the sense of connection between booksellers. Booksellers instinctively know one another before they ever meet. It's more of a vocation than a job, because booksellers are ardent readers-and lovers- of books. They are knowledgeable, intelligent, quirky people who are school teachers or students by day, or worked at the local banks, or businesses so they could indulge their book buying habit by night. Books were and are more than just pages, cardboard, cloth and glue. They have life and soul and are the portal to other worlds beyond and spark our imaginations. Books hold more than the author's words, they are the author's mind and hold a part of their soul. Books are living things, and that's why I'm pretty sure I'll never own an e-reader. I love my home library of books, they are old friends I can count on to give me answers or help me to ask questions. I have formed a personal relationship with every author of every book I own because I can hold a piece of that person in my hands, and the volumes have become worn with use, combining our energies. Books are a sacred thing because we have set them apart to honor and admire, because they have inspired us, and because many hold the key to our very souls.

Non-Violence, Non-Action and Responsibility

"Non-violence does not mean non-action. Non-violence means we act with love and compassion. The moment we stop acting, we undermine the principle of non-violence."

~ Thich Nhat Hanh
When I was exploring my personal spiritual path and wanted a more concrete base to work from, I explored many options. I nearly became a Buddhist. I simply love the Dali Lama, but Thich Nhat Hahn clinched it for me. A poor Buddhist monk, he helped to rebuild villages, schools and hospitals in his native Vietnam after the war. Later he moved to the US and taught at Princeton and Cornell Universities. He was a major influence for Martin Luther King, Jr. entering the arena of Social Justice, and later King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He currently lives in exile in France but continues to teach and write: he has written over 100 books, 40-50 in English.

I was thinking about Nhat Hauh this week when several fellow Pagans and I were discussing options of what to do-if anything- about the New Apostolic Reformation and specifically the up coming DC40 campaign. We all agree that there is a reason to be concerned, but we disagree on the fine I would expect. It may just come down to a few of us 'doing a little something' on our own outside the group, but it's good to have others as a sounding board, especially when the reaction in the wider community swings from action to apathy on varied levels.
"Anything that contradicts experience and logic should be abandoned.
The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis."
 ~ The Dali Lama
Over and over during the last few days I've heard both the rattle of swords and the evoking of the Three Fold Law.  What I am advocating first and foremost are the words of the quote I've cited above by Thich Nhat Hauh, broken into three parts:

1.Non-violence does not mean non-action. This is where we get bogged down by endless discussion. By all means discern the situation. Meditate on it, pray about it, do whatever you normally do prior to when you consider something that requires taking action...but make a commitment, formulate a plan and get on with it.Do not become trapped in a circular discussion of the situation, because in-action is not only non-productive, it's a form of  passive-aggressive thought form. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

2.Non-violence means we act with love and compassion. It's a situation where the old adage of  "Hate the sin and not the sinner" may be useful. The truth is we don't know another individual's mind, and I'd like to believe everyone is acting from a place of authenticity. These kinds of groups get big because they feed the fear of a lot of other-wise well meaning folks. They gather moss like a rolling stone because their leadership is articulate and slickly packaged  . They impress the hell out of  common folk like Betty and  Joe Bag O'Donuts, because the Cindy Jacobs of the world appears knowledgeable, informed and educated. She is well dressed and has the evangelical presence/ blessing of God which Betty and Joe lack. She speaks in the sacred tongues, which, truth be told not only impresses Betty and Joe with her Biblical prowlness, but likely scares the crap out of them, too. She is everything they are not- but aspire to be because they want to fit the image of good, upright Christian people. To some of us, that picture may be ridiculous and funny, but to just as many people in small town Bible Belt America that is the ultimate picture of an evangelical Christian elder, and you can't really fault them for wanting that if that's who they are. They want the approval of the flock and need it to feel they have arrived socially within the group and are pleasing to God.Understanding that mindset goes a long way in correctly demonizing the actions and not the people involved...and it's the action taking place that is evil. It's the message, not necessarily the messenger, that is skewed and negative. 

3.The moment we stop acting, we undermine the principle of non-violence. Quite a few Pagans have voiced concern about violating the Three Fold Law if they take action to counter the actions of those engaging in prayer for the success of the DC40 movement. While I can appreciate those who wish to act with caution, I can honestly say that I believe that someone praying for  the over throw of common sense and the Constitution  is performing a malefic action. What the participants of DC40 are proposing is an attack on the  free will of the American People. They have chosen to throw down the gauntlet first, and in order to preserve our First Amendment rights, someone must have the guts to  pick it up. This is not a joke and they are very serious. They have already infiltrated the lawmakers in Georgia, where a woman can be sent to prison if she has an unexplained miscarriage. Medically speaking, that's about 75% of all miscarriages, the cause which is nature taking it's course- an unacceptable answer to Dominionists who see baby killers behind every bush and have attempted to strip women's health initiatives such as  Planned Parenthood of its funding. So a well-placed bit of shielding or a return to sender whammy is certainly in order, in my opinion. It will not harm the individual, but it will certainly disrupt their intention. You may have other ideas of your own on how to handle it.

Which leads me to the subject of political awareness. Personally, I hate politics. I hate everything about it- but I believe it's a necessary part of our society. We need to find out what our local politicians know about the Dominioinists and their opinion of them...and if we find a local politician who sympathizes with them, we need to work through mundane channels to let that individual know we are watching them and intend to get them out of office as soon as possible because of their views. We need to let our legislators know we are willing to hold them accountable for their actions..and do it. Do not underestimate the power of the constituency  (you), because it is the single thing that will make a politician cower in fear; none of them want to be former legislators, and they know that those who wield the vote have that ability. Likewise make sure where our local merchants stand...especially the large corporations. If necessary, place a phone call to their corporate headquarters or write a letter to the CEO. You don;t want them contributing funding to the NAR or their counterparts.
Not every Christian is supportive of the craziness of the NAR. In fact, I'll wager than not many of them are, but the NAR has their own form of spell casting, and believe me, they are very good at casting a glamoury or two out there when necessary. "Harm None" are wonderful words to live by- but they are a suggestion, a guideline, an ethical expression....but I cannot and will not sit idle and watch our country, our civil rights be stripped away. We have freedom of religion in this country which right now allows us to assemble peacefully  and perform a public ritual. If the NAR gets it's way, that freedom will be gone, and it will be illegal to so much as cast a circle in the privacy of your own home with the curtains drawn. Think about that for a moment. It's a long shot....but it's a possibility. And it will not only affect Pagans, it will effect the LBGT community, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and other Christians as well as agnostics, atheists and others. Imagine being forced to pray and pay homage  to a 'god' who is created in the likeness of the DC40, a god who upholds hatred and elitist ideology for a self chosen that any life at all?

The way to stop them is very simple: it would only take one single act of non-violence.
 That would be to look them in the eye and firmly say:"No."