Monday, May 30, 2011

Gender and Children

The Internet, TV and radio are all abuzz with the story of parents who are not disclosing the gender of their child to the world.

I am not surprised that mainsteam America and Canada are having the reaction that they are (Which range from "Eew!" to "Child Abuse!") But I was even saddened to see that on the Mothering Magazine boards people did not agree with the parents' actions. After all, these are attachment parents (like me!) all over the world, but many of them still hold on the fragile ideals of stereotypical, Western, hyper-emphasized masculinity and femininity.

I have written about this before. It bears repeating: I believe that raising my son with a gender-free agenda for as long as possible is key to him becoming fully human. The only difference between me and that couple in Canada is that I sometimes tell people that Rowan is a boy after they "girl" him, just to mess with their heads. Sometimes I let their mistake slide- after all, it is their gender baggage not mine. We do not have to carry their luggage, if you know what I mean.

I also wrote a bit about gender and raising my son for the Blog Carnival of Natural Parenting this year. I also reviewed a book about raising a transgender kid- a great book for EVERYONE, regardless of how you or your kids identify.

As parents, we have so much influence in our kid's lives. I think we owe it to them to educate ourselves and think before we try and mold them into something that may not suit them. My kid may be transsexual or cissexual (and I will not know for years) or he could be heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual (and again I will not know right away). He may also like "masculine" or "feminine" pursuits. If I started sending him the message regulating his behavior, gender conformity, and sexuality and he turns out to be something other than what I was socializing him to be- well, that alienates my son from me, hurts his well-being, and makes his life unhappy and harder. As his mom, I love him- no matter what. So we are keeping our options open.

A while back I posted this video of a lullaby that we sing to Rowan almost every night. It bears repeating at this time as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: In the Beginning Creation Myths from Around the World

So in my stint as a new religious education teacher at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, I got to meet the author of the book being reviewed today. She was reading from this book as part of the service on origin stories. Needless to say, I was excited to see such a book- I gleefully pick up books for Rowan's library that I think will expand his horizons.

The book's author does re-tellings of 15 different creation myths: only two of which I know to be written down: the Genesis story from the Bible and the creation story in the Rig Veda. The others are stories from Iroquois, African Bushman, Wabenaki, Greek, Japanese, Maya, Chinese, Egyptian, Seri, Aborigine, Indonesian, Mali and "Wicca/Faery". Note the quotation marks- I had issues with that last one, given that it is a story from my personal religion. Which made me wonder: would everyone reading the retelling of their creation myth from their religion or culture experience the same dissonance as I did? Or did she only bungle mine?

Perhaps I should say what my issues are, perhaps that would clarify some things. First off- Wicca and Faery are NOT the same thing. They aren't even close. While we share a wheel of the year, we do not share the same creation story, nor do we share the same theological tenants- on most things. So to be lumped together was a little off-putting. It's like assuming all Asian people are Chinese. Bah!

But my really huge issue with this story is that its power has been stripped away. My religion's creation story is a sexual story- because all life comes from sex, period (and yes, hermaphroditic sex, mitosis, and parthenogenesis are all still sex). And the sex from the story (which is beautiful and profound) has been removed and sanitized in such a way that the things you are supposed to learn from the story are no longer present.

I can understand wanting to make the book suitable for children- but if you do not believe that healthy sexuality is a subject for children, then either skip that story or do not include it at all. Do not alter it. That is just wrong.

So I wonder- are all the creation stories in the book stripped of something essential? I know that the author significantly changed how the Genesis story is told- removing the gender from God, making all of creation equals sharing in the bounty of creation. But see, I like that change. Perhaps people who use the Bible would take offense to her retelling. I would welcome some of my Christian readers to pick up the book and tell me what they think.

Despite my dismay about the story closest to me theologically, I do like this book. It is a great "diving off place" to talk about many topics with children: creativity, the nature of the divine, sex, different cultures (and the fact that we think differently or the same on topics), animals, trees, and so much more. I will use this book with Rowan as he grows and think it will be a good addition to his library.

Formal Rating:

Title: In the Beginning: Creation Myths from Around the World
Author: Carolyn North and Adrienne Robinson
Publisher: ICRL Press
Price: $24.95 USD 
ISBN: 978-1-936033-02-7

Topics Covered: creation myths, cultures, multi-cultural stories and art, gods, polytheism

Target Audience: children ages 2-18
Witch Mom Rating: Two and a Half Hats
Like this book, but since I have reservations of the retelling of my creation myth, I wonder about the accuracy of other stories. Beautiful re-tellings and artwork. A great starting place to bring up myriad subjects.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


When I was in herb school, I learned that many of the substances people use to purify and cleanse with smoke actually have anti-microbial properties. Sage and myrrh, well known for their use when groups gather for spiritual purposes, are but two examples of incense that not only cleanse energetically, but physically as well.

Wise ancients chose well: They somehow knew that these herbs, resins, and substances would ensure the health of everyone there. Given that these rituals attracted dozens or possibly hundreds of people, large quantities of smoke that kills the nasty bacteria everyone was bringing with them (and possibly passing onto others) was a very good idea.

Since my herb class, I have also discovered that many of the selections Witches and subsequent others choose for ritual incense have other properties. Frankincense is an anti-depressive, for example. Some other substances commonly used in incense are euphorics, still others are used for bringing on specific visions.

I admit to being a "gearhead" when it comes to magical wares. I have an entire 3 shelf cabinet of candles for any purpose (all colors, sizes, shapes). I also collect incenses like crazy. You should see my incense shelf in the temple! In addition to single resins and herbs, I have 23 blends- all for a specific god or goddess. I also have blends that I use for specific work: divination, oracular work, or devotional offerings to specific beings.

Some of my favorite incense (whether made by me or other Witches or Shamans) are blends that are for specific purposes or beings. It makes your ritual or magical offering that much more potent when everything you do/use is in concert with your purposes. When giving devotion to Hekate, why not use a blend crafted to Her- with herbs, flowers, and other substances that are associated and sacred to Her?

I will often spend time crafting a specific blend if I am doing a big working, but often I rely on the work of others that I know and respect. I know of several Witches that make incense that is far superior to anything I have made- and I gladly pay for their wares because of it.

So what are some of my faves, not made by me? The Witch of Forest Grove makes a fantastic Bee Oracle incense (which is not always available, as it is crafted in small batches). Sword and the Rose (a local place that does do phone/mail order, but does not have a webstore), makes so many blends that I possess: Isis, Elf Queen, Udjat (and at least a dozen more). All use amazing ingredients that are sourced mainly in Egypt. The recipes come to the maker in trance with specific beings, and he crafts them at the appropriate times, astrologically. They are AMAZING. If you ever are in San Francisco, do not miss a chance to visit.

What are your favorites? Where do you get them? Do you ever make your own?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's an honor to be nominated!

So I just found out that this blog has been nominated for the "Top 25 blogs of Faith (written by moms)" in a search being done by Circle of Moms.

When I went to see the candidates, there was the usual spate of Christian mommy blogs (nothing again them- there are just LOTS)- but also a few Jewish ones, a few Muslim ones and I am not the only pagan/Witch one (Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom and The Pagan Mom Blog are also there)! I would love to see minority religions represented in the final 25. So if you like this blog, take a second and vote for me over there. Evidentally, you can vote from the same computer once a day! So vote early and often as they say.

And while you are at it, check out some of the other nominated blogs and vote for them!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Esbats: Full and New Moons

So in the Witchcraft tradition that I am a part of, there are 8 sabbats- major holidays in "the wheel of the year" (Imbolc, Ostara, Beltaine, Midsummer, Lughnasadh, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule). They are shared with other traditions such as British Traditional Witchcraft (Gardnerian), Alexandrian, and other neo-Wicca traditions- so you are probably familiar with them.

Additionally, there are minor holidays every month- the esbats- which are the new and full moons. These have myriad purposes: to tie us to the cycles of the planet and solar system, to help us to embody our Witchraft (we are all affected by the moon and her cycles, with most women it is just really obvious), and to do workings.

Recently, a few women and I started a small group to work on one esbat a month. Timing for April and May dictated that we meet on the full moon. However, next month, we will start meeting on the new moon, which is something that I prefer- being a devotee of Lilith and all.

What we are doing- women meeting on the esbats- is as old as the measurement of time itself. In fact, it is speculated that the moon and women's regular bleeding is what gave rise to measured time as a concept itself.

In the Jewish tradition, the new moon is a holiday called Rosh Chodesh. The new moon starts their month- the Jewish calendar, coming from the pagan Babylonian one, is very old and very pagan. It is also a women's holiday, and on this day, women do no work. It harkens back to the days of the red tent- a menstrual seclusion hut for women.

Contrary to how it is treated today, menstrual seclusion was never meant to ostracize women or deem them "impure". That is just the latest patriarchal spin from religions who overthrew or assimilated older, Goddess-based ones. No, women voluntarily secluded themselves back in the day. I know I would welcome a period of days each month where I did no work, was able to journal, dream, and create powerful Craft. Who wouldn't? For more amazing reading on menstrual ritual and how it created human culture all over the world, I would read Judy Grahn's epic, Blood, Bread, and Roses.

On the new moon, we can do workings for new beginnings, pay homage to darker Goddesses, and see clearly in divinations. I am looking forward to June!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Building a New World in the Shell of the Old

So many signals are telling me that the world is in turmoil. That the culture that many of us live in, the environment, and its inhabitants are suffering and decaying. Whether it's everyone I know (regardless of geographic location) talking about how crazy or extreme the weather has been, the political strife and factionalism, scapegoating of the poor/disabled/minority religions/ or other disenfranchised people, or natural disasters striking the U.S., Haiti, Japan, and elsewhere- people are getting antsy and uncomfortable with how things seem to be going.

Is it any wonder the fundamentalist Christians assume it is the end of days? I can't say I blame them. Many people are talking about these issues and what can be done, as they seem omnipresent in so many of the communities I travel in.
This is why I am personally so attached to the idea of having a home with a little bit of land and raising my own food, chickens and bees. One of the reasons why I am so passionate about DIY: permaculture, sustainability, crafting, and learning the survival skills of our ancestors. And why I intend on group schooling my son myself- ensuring he actually gets a decent education, despite us not being wealthy. And so many people I know are automatically doing the same thing. It feels like we are tapping into a collective unconscious that is telling us to start doing the work of building the new world- right here, right now while the old one crumbles at our feet.

I met with another Witch friend the other day for tea, and she said that she feels that the recent baby boom that she is seeing is likely a part of that clinging to survival. So many "alternative" type people (be they artists, pagans, queers, or otherwise) are starting to have kids. And she feels that this is tied to the state of the world right now. She talked about how other disasters, be they natural or human-made had a corresponding baby boom- a human survival mechanism is clicking into place and influencing so many to want to start a family. I find that idea interesting, frankly. And I can't say that I disagree.

What do you think? And what are you doing, if anything, on this issue?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beltaine Recap

Beltaine sparkle outfit
So as you may know, The Kunnings headed up to Wolf Creek, Oregon to a Radical Faerie sanctuary for Beltaine- as we have done for the last three or so years. The Beltaine celebration there is traditional, from a Witchcraft perspective, and the land is beautiful, sacred, and where our son Rowan was conceived. So we look forward to going each year.

This year, we were up for a little over three days- We arrived Friday morning and left Monday afternoon. It was a whirlwind weekend, as Friday there was a wedding, Saturday was Walpurgisnacht, and Sunday was Beltaine- each event with its own special preparation and celebration.

Wedding cakes!
While I was not part of the official prep for the wedding, I was honored to attend. The love the two involved share is obvious and they are a couple that is tied to this land and community, which made this wedding an amazing blessing to witness and be a part of. The feast afterwards was amazing- see the little cupcakes we had in the barn afterwards? Yum.

Walpurgisnacht requires removing last year's maypole, transporting it to the fire pit, preparing it and the firepit for a loooong bonfire (the pole from the previous year must be ashes before the new one is used), and then starting the bonfire shortly after supper. To do it properly and with the right kind of reverence takes time.

This year's maypole.
Beltaine means going out and finding the right tree, felling it, stripping it and preparing the ribbons. Then when the festivities start, it is carried in a loud, joyous procession to Maypole Meadow and placed in a newly dug hole. Then a new May Queen is found, the old one passes the torch, and we begin the festivities in earnest.

Monday was a time for sad good byes and trying to find everyone before we left- there are some folks we only see at the sabbat! How did you celebrate Beltaine?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Watching My Son Grow: Language and Abstract Concepts

Cinco de Mayo Sparkle Pony.
Lately, Rowan has been growing and changing by leaps and bounds. While he has stayed at relatively the same size, his brain development and advancing coordination has been astounding to watch.

We started talking to him and signing to him as soon as he was born, hoping that he would pick it up early and often. We often wondered if anything that we were doing was having any effect, since he used the same syllable ("ba") to mean a statement, a question, and pretty much everything in his universe. We need not worry about that any longer.

About a month ago, he started making all the signs t get his basic needs met. He had made them intermittently before, sometimes keeping a sign, sometimes losing it for a month or so- but all of the sudden- BAM!  He now makes signs every day to help us care for him: "milk", "water", "juice", "food", "sleep", and "diaper". Given that he is a generally cheerful guy unless he is hungry, thirtsy, or sleepy- this has been awesome. We have been able to eliminate 80% of his frustration because he can tell us what he needs now.

Here's Rowan, making a personally adapted sign for "more", over and over:

While his go-to syllable is still "ba", he is actively trying to say the words we give to him now. Yesterday, he asked for a slice of bell pepper, and we gave him one- and as usual said "Pepper. Peh-Purrrr." Then he let loose with "beh buh". "Great! Puh Puh Puh- Pep-Purr!" and he enthusiastically went through and tried to make the P sound (which he did) and the end sounds (which appear harder for him to do).

He knows the names of his body parts (most of them, anyway)- and when we ask, "Where's your hair? Your belly button? Your penis? Your elbow?" he can tell us proudly. (And let me tell you- he IS proud. He claps for himself and stomps his feet and does this funny rooster dance that he made up when he's excited about his accomplishments.)

On the go baby, complete with snack jar.
He has also started trying to telling me stories. Short ones, yes. About what just happened. If he falls and hits his head on the chair, he gets my attention, points to his head, the chair, and the ground emphatically saying "ba! ba! ba!". That's my cue to say, "Yes, Rowan. I saw you fall and hit your head on that chair." He seems satisfied after that. I'm delighted he wants to share these things with me. Once, he even fell but did not hit the table, but I saw him move mid-fall so that he would not- preventing himself from getting hurt on the table. He went through the same routine- pointing to the floor, his head, the table. I said, "Good job, Booper- you didn't hit your head!" Then he did the clap and rooster dance for himself.

With him picking up new words every day now, I am so looking forward to having actual conversations with my son.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tangible Witchcraft: DIY Toiletries

At the turn of the secular year, I made a decision to try an all-natural solution for my hair: DIY shampoo and conditioner.

Not only do most shampoos and conditioners have all sorts of toxic crap in them (some quite dangerous), but they come in those plastic bottles that ruin the environment too. Did you know that for every pound of plastic produced there is a pound of toxic waste? And plastic recycling is a feel-good sham, frankly. I wanted to rid myself of that toxic burden (personally and for the planet), see if I could do something for myself, and save some money in the process.

I searched and searched and the easiest place to start was a simple solution for each:

Not Shampoo:
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda to 1 cup water

Baking soda is a natural alkaline that cleanses gently. While the "Nopoo" recipe above is more liquid-y than what most folks are used to when cleaning their hair, I find that using a squirt bottle directly aimed at the scalp and then rubbing the scalp (I have a round brush to massage my scalp in the shower- it feels awesome and cleans wonderfully!) does the same job, without overly stripping the hair. My hair runs dry if overwashed, so I stick with this basic recipe. If you try this recipe and find it does not get enough oil out, up the ratio of baking soda to water until it works for you.

Not Conditioner:
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar to 1 cup water

Apple Cider Vinegar literally smooths the scales on hair to make it easy to comb through- it de-tangles even my snarly long hair! I apply it liberally all over my scalp and hair and let it sit for a moment before combing out my hair under running water. Tada- tangle free hair! Bonus- it leaves your hair smelling clean, but not scented. I find my hair kind of smells like strawberries.

The deodorant container I saved,
washed and ready to be filled.
So how did it work out? I was skeptical that these recipes could work for me, but you know what? They did. I bought the toiletry industry's line abouthow their products were irreplacable. I was duped!

Before, I was spending almost $10 a bottle on an all natural, SLS free, cruelty free shampoo and conditioner for my hair (that I had to go to a specialty store to get). Now, I spend pennies a month. I now no longer use any of those bought products, but simply use ingredients that are already in my kitchen (and temple) anyway.

Today, I decided to up the ante and create a deodorant for myself. Now, I am not the stinkiest girl, but I don't want to be either! Simply making others deal with my funk is not a good solution for me. So I found a new recipe, also simple:

Not Deodorant:
Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, and essential oils (optional).

Notice how I did not give ratios or measurements? It's because it widely varies on the coconut oil you are using and the temperature of the room that you are making it in. Don't panic- it is really an easy recipe.

1. Simply spoon out as much coconut oil as you think you will need (I make enough to fill a plastic deodorant dispenser that I kept from the last one I ever bought.)

My box of essential oils.
2. Add baking soda until it is a thick, stiff paste that will not fall off your fork (it defies gravity). You will be surprised at how much soda the oil will absorb to get to this point.

3. Then you can add essential oils if you wish.

Note: Just because you like the smell of a particular oil doesn't mean that you can use it in a deodorant. This is a sensitive place on the body- you should test to be sure your underarms can handle exposure to that ingredient before making a batch. (Use a carrier oil with a drop or two of the essential oil before applying to your underarms as a test.)

Note: You may need to keep the deodorant in the fridge in warmer weather, as coconut oil becomes liquid at very low temperatures.

All filled and ready for the fridge!
DIY is witchy, but you can get really witchy with this project, infusing the products with intention and ingredients to help manifest certain outcomes. Herbs, minerals, all kinds of ingredients can be added to the water, vinegar, or oil before making a product.

This, of course, adds a step and some time needs to elapse before assembling your toiletries (allowing the herb, mineral or what-have-you to steep and impart its properties to your medium). But it is worth it! Make yourself some money drawing, love-inducing, psychic-vision-enhancing toiletries!

My first batch of "Nopoo" was plain. Now I add herb vinegars to the water instead. My first batch of deodorant had a blend of vetivert, musk, and acacia oils. Can you guess my intent with those (besides smelling yummy)?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Interesting News of Faith and Spirit!

I have been collecting links and videos on other religions, interfaith activities, and the like and want to share them with you. Fantastic articles!

Muslims and Christians, working together:

Atheists asking for a chaplain of their own in the military. I personally support this idea and believe that everyone has the right to ask for help that is of comfort to them and not settle for help that makes them uncomfortable or feel marginalized.

Evangelical Christians attacking Native American faith. Sometimes I wish it was not so easy to point out messed up stuff that specific factions in Christianity do, but they make it so easy.

A new kind of Rabbi. Judaism is evolving and with it, embracing so many that were not before. (As a side note, I find it so interesting that with the Jewish Renewal movement, you see so many Jews returning to celebrations and traditions that only Orthodox folks or mystics were marking for so long).

Queer Voodooisants on the east coast. Voudou, like many faiths, has a place for queerness.

How a sitting practice actually changes the structure of your brain (for the better). Buddhists and other meditation aficionados, take note!

More on the reign of terror in South Africa. Witch hunts are killing people- today, in this day and age. Mostly, American evangelicals are to blame.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Rowan (and buddy Gavin)
at the Pumpkin Patch

My son Rowan, although only 15 months at the time of this writing, is learning daily about our planet and its cycles and wonders. Not only do I think it is a responsible thing to do for any child (this IS home after all- and we only get one planet!), but for our family it is a matter of theology.

In our religion, humans are but one part of a vast creation of equals. Every piece of creation is imbued not only with "a spark" of God Herself, but a consciousness and energy that adds to a larger whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Every rock, every tree, every animal (human or not) is but a piece of God Herself as well as its own being.

Hello, grass. My name is Rowan.
Thoelogically, we are teaching him how to affect not only the here and now, but across all realms of creation. This takes a different sort of worldview. It requires careful cultivation.

Petting a goat- squeeee!

Deep theological stuff. How does one transmit that to a toddler? For now, when we are out and about and Rowan sees a flower or plant he likes, we teach him to be gentle- to ask before taking (and to learn to listen whether the answer is yes or no). He collects items that draw his attention and he places them on a seasonal altar. (He loves rocks and seed pods especially.) I am happy to say that he absolutely loves animals, and we are teaching him to to love, be gentle with, and respect all creatures. It is a delight when he meets a new creature and his first impulse (other than to squeal excitedly and hope to move in closer) is to kiss that animal.

Stinson Beach.
We teach him about the elements and how they add to all of creation. As he is becoming more aware of the world around him, we have been introducing him to the elements. The first two, earth and water, were the easiest with a baby. Now that he is an exploratory toddler, I will be working on ideas with air and fire. Just the other day, he giggled and squealed at the wind blowing his hair around and sucking his breath. We told him that was the wind- and it seems like it is time for more learning about that. It is time for a formal introduction to the next two elements, I think, as he will understand the concept. Appropriate timing- as we head to a gathering with a central fire pit!

Lake Temescal.
We are blessed to live in such a gorgeous part of the world. We take Rowan to the ocean, to the forest, to the lake. When it is time for us to head to Wolf Creek for Beltaine- he comes too. That land has been set apart as sacred for decades and is special. He has already bonded there with Grandmother Maple and been shown the place where he was conceived. We will continue to go there and strengthen his connection to that special place.

Grandma Maple, Wolf Creek, OR
We try and integrate these lessons into his every day- so that they are reinforced as a way of life, rather than a special lesson, set apart. I look forward to moving in the fall into a place with a place for gardening- as this will help us teach Rowan about the cycle of plants. Having a garden, particularly one with chickens and bees, can also make a daily reminder of how the natural world works and how we can care for it or destroy it. How do you teach your kid(s) about the natural world?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn't think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family's simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don't like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer's Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer's Market has become her son's classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment's hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature's Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter's blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it's a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children's generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family's food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don't have a garden? "You can still grow food!" says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she's doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer's MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it's important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn't Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it's never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse "bean teepee" and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin' (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Yantra of Green Tara.
So I had tea two weeks ago with my long-time friend Ekabhumi and caught up with him since he got back from India. He was there on a spiritual and artistic retreat (he is beginning to study Newari art, among other things). He is a student of tantra, a yoga teacher, and a fine artist and was able to combine these myriad loves into an awesome way of right livelihood: he is making sacred art for practitioners in his and related traditions.

These pieces of art, called yantras, are doorways. They are symbols of deities or planets or beings. They evoke their energy pattern- which most tantric practitioners will tell you is a more accurate representation than personified paintings or sculptures.

Each color, shape, quantity of shapes, and positioning of shapes means something specific, and the practitioner meditates on the image to learn more about or open themselves to that being or celestial body. There are yantras for planets and gods.

A blank gessoed yantra form.
Eka started making the yantras out of love and giving them to teachers and friends. People saw them, loved them, and now he is making them for a living! Now, he is swamped with good fortune (he started chanting to Lakshmi and wearing gold earrings last year- I bet that has something to do with it!), has more demand than time, and asked if I could help him. Heck yeah!

I used to make visual art myself, and Eka and I have been friends long enough that he knows this. So I showed up and was treated to some moving meditation, mindfulness, mantras, and craftyness- all in one task! First, he had me sand and gesso 12 or so blank forms. This is to prepare them for the design and custom painting.

While it sounds easy- just throw some white paint at them (!)-  it isn't. Making the yantras is an act of devotion. It is sacred art. And every step in their creation reflects this. When preparing the forms, you must be "clean" energetically and keep your mind still. As I sanded and gessoed several layers onto each form, I stayed present and did not allow my mind to wander to the umpteen million things I have to do, or thinking of my son, or writing my next blog post in my head. It was lovely to have this time to myself, actually. I have been looking for a new way to have a mindfulness practice- and I think that I have found it!

Our combined handiwork!
A work in progress.
In between layers of gesso drying, Eka had me start work on a Moon yantra. (It was Monday, after all- what could be more appropriate?) He has the traditional colors of each yantra tacked up on the wall, along with corresponding mantras for each yantra being made. As I painted gold outlines, I chanted, "Om Shrim Som Somaya Namah" over and over, which is a sanskrit mantra to the Moon.

The effect was interesting. I do not know Sanskrit, but I felt an energetic "latch" when chanting this phrase. Before starting the chant, I thought of the moon and its phases, I pictured the moon, and I tried to feel what it is like standing outside under a full moon. That was fine. but when I chanted the mantra, something "clicked". I cannot fully explain it, as the tradition is not mine. But my hand steadied, and I felt like I was being lightly ridden and guided. Neat!

On my second round of work yesterday, I sanded and gessoed again (ah, the blessed luxury of empty mind), and then worked again on the moon yantra. This time, I added texture with a hammer and small tool that made small round impressions when I hammered it into the wood. I created a pattern, somewhat like a Chinese checker board inside the points of the 6 pointed star. Once he paints over it with metallics, it will look stunning and rich with texture.

Have you ever made sacred art?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Day of Prayer Bru Ha Ha

The first Thursday of May used to be The National Day of Prayer. Started by evangelical Billy Graham in the 50's, the government sanctioned a day of prayer until last year, when a federal judge overturned it as unconstitutional. This video is a rare time when a Fox news anchor actually gave uninterrupted time to an opponent, and the results are awesome. Yay for reasonable discourse!

What do you think about prayer? Do you do it? Is it something that should be in the public arena, like a sanctioned day or in public schools? As a religious minority, I like what this atheist has to say about a secular society. What do you think?

Monday, May 2, 2011

International Pagan Coming Out Day

Line art drawing of a besom broom.Image via Wikipedia
Today is International Pagan Coming Out Day. The idea, much like it exists for queers on their coming out day, is for people to "come out of the broom closet" (stop hiding the fact that they are pagan/a witch, etc.) so that the world can see we are not scary or evil and keep persecuting us. The persecution is real, and this is one way for people in a certain type of situation to remedy it.

That said, I know we are not at a place culturally for everyone to come out. People lose their jobs, their families, and their lives over being a pagan, a polytheist, or a Witch. It's rosy thinking to assume we all can "be brave" and take that step. I respect many that are not "public pagans", even though I am one. Online communities offer a nice middle place for many- they can create an identity and become known to people like them, but still have a degree of anonymity that allows their personal lived to be safe.

Big Queer NationImage by M.V. Jantzen via Flickr
I find it hilarious that I, of all people, am writing a post like this. I used to be a very radical queer and thought that everyone had a duty to come out. Now here I am talking about how the closet is necessary for some. Not that I like it, mind you- I detest that we live in a world where people cannot be themselves openly without fear.

Personally, I have found that it cost me some relationships being completely free. But what does it say about those people that they are disapproving and not around? I think I made the right choices, even though loss hurts.

Are you "out" in all your identities? Has it been positive, negative, a mixed bag? 

Sunday, May 1, 2011


"Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun."- Kahlil Gibran

"'Tis like the birthday of the world,
When earth was born in bloom;
The light is made of many dyes,
The air is all perfume:
There's crimson buds, and white and blue,
The very rainbow showers
Have turned to blossoms where they fell,
And sown the earth with flowers."
-  Thomas Hood

"The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds.  For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May." -  Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur

'But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother,
I'm to be Queen o' the May.'
-  Alfred Lord Tennyson

"The new earth quickens as you rise.
The May Queen is waiting.
Feel the pulsing ground call you to journey,
To know the depths of your desire.
The May Queen is waiting.
Moving through the night, the bright moon's flight.
In green and silver on the plain.
She waits for you to return again.
Do not keep Her waiting.
Her temper stings if you refuse to taste Her honey.
Surrender as enchantment brings
The first light of dawning.
Move with Her in sacred dance, through fear to feeling.
Bringing ecstasy to those who dare.
Living earth is breathing.
Loving through the night in the bright moonlight,
As seedlings open with the rain.
She'll long for you to return again.
Do not keep Her waiting."
-  Ruth Barren, The May Queen is Waiting

"Sap which mounts, and flowers which thrust,
Your childhood is a bower:
Let my fingers wander in the moss
Where glows the rosebud
Let me among the clean grasses
Drink the drops of dew
Which sprinkle the tender flower"
-  Paul Verlaine, Spring

"I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers:
Of April, May, or June, and July flowers.
I sing of Maypoles, Hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
Of bridegrooms, brides, and of the bridal cakes."
-  Robert Herrick, Hesperides, 1648

"Now is the month of Maying,
When merry lads are playing.
Fa la la...
Each with his bonny lass,
upon the greeny grass.
Fa la la...
The Spring clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at winter's sadness.
Fa la la..."
-  Thomas Morley, Now is the Month of Maying

"The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup;
I'll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown'd it."
-  Robert Herrick, The Maypole, 1660

"It's May! It's May!
The lusty month of May!...
Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes,
Ev'ryone breaks.
Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes!
The lusty month of May!"
-   Lerner and Lowe

"For the May Day is the great day,
Sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley
Will heed this song that calls them back...
Pass the cup, and pass the Lady,
And pass the plate to all who hunger,
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom,
Pass the cup of crimson wonder."
-  Jethro Tull, Cup of Wonder