Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Samhain-The Night of Thin Places

      Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the year. I love Halloween night. Not for trick-or-treating. Not for the jack-o-lantern carving, or the noise, or the excitement, or the mess. And I SURELY do not like it for the way it affects my students, today OR tomorrow.  But I love it for the ancient Celtic traditions it is founded on, and the ways I am still able to practice some of those traditions today that make me feel connected to people and times and places of long-ago. Halloween, or Samhain (Sow-in) was originally a very pagan celebration which had much to do with the end of harvest and the time of year it was held. It became Christianized, and then again secularized, and has undergone much change, until what we call Halloween today has very little to do with its ancient beginnings. I don't much care about today's version, now that I no longer have little kids  excited to dress up, go door to door asking for candy, or stay home and hand out candy to the ghosts and witches and vampires of the neighborhood. What I do like, what I can hardly wait for tonight, is that this is the night that I can be connected to all those who have gone before me, generations and generations of wise, ancient and ordered people from the lands of thin places, of doorways between worlds, of traditions and wisdom and spirituality.
     When my children were little, it was a challenge to me, one I took seriously, to never speak their names after dark. Legend has it that to call out your child's name leaves them vulnerable to being taken.  Tonight is one of the nights when the veil between worlds is thinner, thin enough to allow beings from the other side to slip through, unnoticed.  Naming your child out loud is to give those beings who might wish to take one back with them the advantage; they, too, can call your child home with them, call them by name, and just like that, they've slipped away through that doorway between worlds. It's hard to take four small, overly eager, excited children trick-or-treating around town and never say their name out loud, but I worked hard to maintain that every year.
     I also make sure our house is blessed on All Hallow's Eve. I am not sure why it is done in this particular manner, but I do know that I have always circled the exterior of our home thrice, blessing and silently naming all within, all who reside there.  I don't feel that it's pagan to ask a blessing on my home and on my family. I feel it makes sense and it gives me a sense of "tucking in" my home and family on the night that ends the light half of the year.  Usually on the day following, All Saints Day, I bake "soul cakes."  I guess, traditionally, in Ireland especially, those were handed out on the night before, tonight it would be, which is where, it has been said,  the tradition of going door to door began. But for me, time-wise, with costumes and trick-or-treating, and parties, there was just never time to do those ON Halloween, so I've always made them a day later. Perhaps not so typically traditional, but traditional to MY family, in my own way.
     So, tomorrow begins the "Dark half of the Year."  I love it, because it is when I "hunker down" inside my home, and work on projects that can be done by evening's light inside. My goal for those dark half projects are to work on something of value, of worth, to create and be able to leave behind things to show for those hours spent indoors. It is the time of year I get out my crocheting again that I put away in the summertime, and work on a couple of blankets at a time. I focus more on trying to quilt, and sew, and complete projects I've let go over the summer in favor of time spent outdoors. I write more, read more, think more, create more. I intentionally use more colors, work a little harder, try to make our home a little more warm and comfortable. The Dark Half of the year is time spent indoors without guilt, working on leaving something of a legacy behind.
     I really do love this time of year. Every month, every season, has its own gifts, to be sure, but I really do love this evening the best of all, I think.  Happy Samhain, everyone.


Soul Cakes


    1. 1 cup butter, two sticks American
    2. 3 3/4 cups sifted flour
    3. 1 cup fine sugar
    4. 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    6. 1 teaspoon ginger
    7. 1 teaspoon allspice
    8. 2 eggs
    9. 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
    10. 4 -6 tablespoons milk
    11. powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a large fork.
  3. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice; beat eggs, vinegar, and milk together.
  4. Mix with the flour mixture until a stiff dough is formed.
  5. Knead thoroughly and roll out 1/4-inch thick.
  6. Cut into 3-inch rounds and place on greased baking sheets. Prick several times with a fork and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Presentation:.
  8. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2 Cups of Hot Coffee

     It is dark this morning. Not just the time of the morning it is, but the sky has a darkness to it that won't be repelled by sunrise in another hour. It is grey, and chilly this morning, but not yet cold. October, right now, seems hung by a fine thread, a balancing act, between leaving summer and committing to winter. It's indecisiveness, it's inability to decide where to put its mark most, is something I can identify with right now. So, fight it or embrace it, it is a dark morning. Accept it might be the best middle ground.For October. For me.
     I am up, dressed and ready for work an hour early this morning. I'm not sure why. What to do with it. I could go to school. There's plenty to do there, always an extra hour, or twenty, needed. But that would mean leaving the dogs an hour early, and I hate to do that. They're such good company, and I believe they need mine too. I stand at the front shutterless, curtainless, windows,  still bare of any coverings since I haven't finished painting the trim yet, and look out at the dark world in front of my house. The house across the street, where there are two good parents with two good kids, is lit enough so that I know they are up and getting the boys ready for school, and themselves ready for work. I know both boys will be fed breakfast before mom takes them up to school, and I know their lunches are packed, and their clothes will match, and their hair will be combed. And I know mom will kiss them goodbye in the car, at least the little one, and wish them a good day. She'll probably tell them to be good, too.
     The house next to theirs is dark. No one is up and around there. It is a different house, a different world, right next door. Those kids have it rough. No one will feed them breakfast, check their clothes, muss their hair, or tell them to have a good day. When all six kids from both houses are out on the sidewalk after school, on weekends, the playing field is level. They are all kids. When they return indoors to their respective houses, long after dark for the kids in the house on the right, they return to different countries, one at peace, the other at war, and the four kids in that house have been the casualties since their births.
     A school bus decelerates down the street to the left, and leans into the corner turn, off to pick up children from good and bad houses, and bring them to us within the hour. Another car makes the turn, its headlights piercing the gloomy dark morning, and I wonder, idly, where it is going, and whether I would like to be going there, too. Where would I like to go this morning? I don't even know.
     My second cup of coffee is poured, and I'm grateful that this extra time this morning means that I will get to drink it here, at home, with my dogs for company, and while it's hot. Most mornings I take the second cup to school with me, and by the time I'm able to drink, it's already lukewarm. I'm used to cold coffee, but it doesn't mean I like it. The sky is lightening a bit, enough to see that I was right, and heavy grey clouds are hanging grumpily above the almost bare trees across the street. There is now a light behind the two upstairs bedroom windows in the other house across the street, which means someone is awake over there, at least. Most likely the kids have their own alarms, and have gotten themselves up. I hope they have a good day. I hope they get enough to eat at school and it fills them up for awhile. I hope that someone loves them, just a little bit, today.
     Sparticus, the rooster, the king-of-my-coop rooster, for there are three, has just begun to crow. I guess the darkness of the morning has led him to a late start this day. Soon, he and his harem of hens will be out scratching in the dirt, looking for cold worms.  I hope they find some this morning. One of the cats has given herself a bath, and curled up in a tight little ball, wedged in to the back of the couch, where I would bet she will be most of the day. It is that kind of a day today. The dogs are busy chewing bones I gave them when I sat down with my coffee, and that will keep them all busy for at least another few moments. Then, as I begin my day again in public, with all the noise and chaos that I hate, they, too, will curl up and snooze the rest of the day away. Oh, they'll guard the house occasionally with their frantic and ferocious sounding barking, but when the squirrell on the Birch scampers off, or the errant stray wandering through our front yard has gone on about his business down the street, they, too, will curl up and go back to dozing until I return home eight hours from now.
     It's only been an extra hour this morning, but what a gift for my thoughts, and my heart, it's been. An hour spent with hot coffee, dogs, and my own musings, makes me realize there really was no other way to have spent this hour. Silly that I stood at the window in the dark so long looking for one, looking for some other way to have filled it. Some way that mattered more. I don't think there could have been one. At least not today.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Castle Building

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau
US Transcendentalist author (1817 - 1862)
     I went to bed last night angry, irritated and depressed. I have been chasing a dream the past few months, nearly a year now since it began to take shape. It's a big dream. A HUGE life-changing dream. It is big, and terrifying, and exciting. It makes me happy, and scared, and feel alive, finally. And yet it seems, sometimes, the closer I get to it, the more elusive it becomes. One day, it all seems possible and doable and I feel close. Yesterday, I even added another piece to it which only seemed to complement and complete it. I was "up" and excited. So excited. I've never been THIS CLOSE to something that means so much to me. JUST me. And then, piece by piece, reality starts to take it apart, and I look at the obstacles that people point out. It's ok that they do this. It is. It's reality. And you can't REALLY go off chasing dreams without some dose of reality too, or those dreams will not have any foundation to them. They'll crash and burn. I know this. I do. That part, at least, comes with age and maturity.  I've never been a big fan of reality. I PREFER dreams that seem easy!  Don't we all. Last night when I went to bed, I was ready to just say "forget it. It's impossible. It isn't going to work, and there's just no way I can make it work." That's depressing. But this morning, when I awoke, I realized that that is exactly what people WANT me to do. Even the people, some of them, who say they think it's cool, and oh yeah, you should do that... but then point out the things they see that are so impractical... in a way, I think they WANT me to say, "Yeah, you're right, it won't work," and settle back in to my singular existence here and now. I don't think they MEAN to be dream killers. I think they just PREFER reality, without the complications of trying to reach a dream. I honestly don't think a lot of people even really have dreams; at least not ones that are really important to them that they reach. I think too many people just live, day to day, in the reality they've built, or that has been built for them along the way. That's ok. I'm not criticizing that at all. It just makes me understand that because of that, people like me who DO have some sort of "out there," crazy idea of what we need to do or accomplish for our own well being are not well understood creatures. I am the oddity to most people. I get that. Sort of. I don't really understand how life can just be so boringly normal and so many people are ok with that, but I accept it. I wish there was a little more acceptance for people who DON"T fit that mold as well.
     I realized, though,  this morning that I'm NOT ready to give up. The Thoreau quote popped into my head and as I lay there in the chilly light of morning, as the day tried to begin, I realized that dreams - in order to make them work - might take hard work, might take planning, and maybe even some creativity to figure out how to put them all together, and to pull them off. I was actually kind of offended by myself this morning. "Really, Laurie? This means so little to you that you're going to let someone throw up roadblocks and you're going to back down from them that quickly? Wow. Grow up. Figure out another way. Do some more  thinking, and planning. If it's that important to you, you WILL make it work."  It would be easier with a cheerleading section, with a team to support me, to help me, to dream WITH me, without all the negatives. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't love to have that,  but that, apparently, is not how my life works.
     So, I have the dreams. I have brought them into VERY clear focus lately, way up there in the air. Now I need to get busy laying the groundwork under them to make sure I can reach them. I have lots of practical work to accomplish today - cleaning out the chicken coop and closing it up for winter, cleaning the rabbit hutch, taking a trip to the dump, sweeping, vacuuming, folding laundry, doing the dishes, hanging up clothes, etc. Those are the things that keep me grounded, today.   I'm grateful for the busy work for my hands today, so my brain can keep spinning in and out of those castles. I WILL make all this work SOMEHOW. Maybe, by the time I finish the last chore today, I'll have some new ideas. THAT'S more like it, more like the me I like, the me I believe in. I'm not opposed to practical, "get your hands dirty" work while my brain spins on, trying to add the reality element that is so needed to those awesome dreams I have. Watch me make this work!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'm Still Here

     I'm fine. Sorry to make anyone think otherwise. I sometimes forget that although I keep a blog just for my own sake, for my own outlet, that occasionally others do read it too.
     Cardiac issues are non-existent. Had an EKG, and a stress test, and all is well. Most likely related more to pulmonary/breathing/lung function issues, which, of course, is now the next avenue to pursue. When I get around to it. I do have pretty bad asthma, and I do end up with lung issues with every time I get a cold - if not full blown pneumonia, then crackly lobes and bronchitis.  I'll get it looked into as I have time to put that at the top of my list.
     I just haven't felt like writing. Plain and simple. No time, and no motivation.  At times I think I will just STOP writing, but then, eventually, the need comes back. As it is now. So, hopefully, if I can make some time soon (ha ha ha ha ha ha.... I crack myself up!), I have a couple of posts to write up and "get back on my game."