Thursday, August 18, 2016

Getting Unlost - Foundations

So the mission of the day is to do I build something of beauty and reverence without becoming an arrogant asshole... Fuck. How do I do that?

Having never built a spiritual system for myself, or for anyone else for that matter, had me feeling lost all over again.  I mean I certainly did not want to create a meaningless piece of fluff that will linger for a millennia as a stinking piece of shit in the collective garble that is the internet (or the pile of notebooks around the house).  I also have no interest in creating something that is going to amass a pile of brainless sheep… I mean followers. I want to create something that is intensely personal, something I can connect to that will help my soul sing. But again where do I start!?! Not to mention the fact that it is an utterly terrifying endeavor. It would be baring my soul in a way I have never done and taking full responsibility for everything I believed in, and in a manner I have never done before. It seems like such a crushing task that had me wanting to run away and forget the whole damn thing.

Enter a wonderful Druid who’s writing I admire: John Beckett. I was browsing through his excellent blog on Patheos when I stumbled across this post he wrote: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2015/07/5-reasons-you-cant-find-the-right-spiritual-path.html

I devoured this marvelous gem of wisdom. I even printed it off and numbered each of the questions he had listed and began to examine each one carefully before thoughtfully answering each one for myself in my journal.  I’m not going to lie; some of those questions were damn hard to answer.

Some of the questions I could answer right away where as others I had to sit down and really throw the idea around in my mind a couple hundred times to bore down to what my heart was telling me. There were other questions that forced me to face a few things about myself that I had conveniently been ignoring for a bit too long. For example I know a huge part of the reason I first came to paganism was running away from some hurts caused by organized religion in the past. I’m also rather guilty of #3 at times, being a bit of an A type personality and at times it has caused unnecessary heartaches, headaches and attacks of uncalled for bitchiness.

Granted there were some things that I wasn’t totally in agreement with. I have tried more than once to throw myself into a religious practice and for more than a year for them. I find the structure to be stifling to my spirit, however I do appreciate the lessons that these structures have offered. I also recognize that when I first started out I needed the structure to orient myself and begin the process of learning about what different religions have to offer. However, at the end of the day I believe that the conversation between your soul and the divine is an intensely private one and while religion helps build community, the communion of the soul is nobody’s fucking business.

So as I sat down and pondered the list, responding to the questions, re-thinking them and re-responding to them I came to some important realizations about the core of what I value. LIFE. I value life, in all its shapes and forms, in all its glory and all its horrors. I believe that every life matters and is something that is worthy of respect. I believe that every life matters, from myself, to a dog, to a tree to a deer to an insect (although I very begrudgingly accept wasps and mosquitos… from a distance). I believe every life is a unique piece of the universe.

At the same time, I also understand that in order to exist, life must feed on life. The cow eats the grass, I eat the cow, upon my death bacteria and insects will eat me, which will feed the grass to feed the cow again. The taking of any life, plant or animal, should be done with an understanding and reverence and not needlessly. And we as an animal species are not exempt from this. My family serves in the military, and I know I have family members who have taken a human life to preserve the lives of others. So I understand at times the ending of a life is needed, but not something that should be handled lightly (in the case of my family the bear the scars of their service in their hearts to this day).

I’m nowhere close to figuring it all out, I have miles to go as I sort out where the jumble in my mind fits on this windy path I am weaving. But at least I feel as if I have good boots on my feet and a lamp to light the way. I’m still a little afraid of the road ahead as I blaze this new trail but to quote John Wayne: “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” Time to saddle up.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Exploring Lost - Now to get Unlost

Ok first of all is unlost even a word... spell check says no. Fuck it, it's a word now, at least for the duration of this post.. Anywho...I have decided after taking the time to explore being lost, letting myself feel these feelings and exploring my options that I think I am rather done with being lost and am ready to get unlost. In reviewing all my options I believe the best one for me personally is the last one... the other! What an exciting and terrifying path I am embarking on!

To be honest the other one that had warranted some very serious consideration on my part was to pick another religion and go with it. It was the less terrifying of the options and to be honest it got me this far. I wondered if perhaps I just wasn’t doing it right, maybe I hadn’t tried hard enough or missed an essential aspect. I reviewed a lot of my notes and101 books while I considered this option but felt restless in my spirit. My heart felt heavy. It was like trying on beautiful dress, one that left you gasping at how perfect it was, and then putting it on and realizing you look like a fat Basset Hound in a sparkly sausage casing.

Now I know that there is no such thing as a perfect religion, everything is flawed. Mainly because everyone is flawed, and they take all their flaws with them into everything they do, including religion. Religion can never be perfect because we are never perfect. Religion is a formula; follow steps ABC to get result 123. For some people this formula works beautifully, others not so much. The formulas themselves follow the norms and morals of the religion, which in turn is a reflection of the culture that the religion is in. The religion influences the culture, the culture influences the religion.

At the end of the day, however, religion is a creation of people. Somebody (or a group of somebodies) had to invent the religion. The idea for the religion came from either a study of the human condition, study of the natural world or interpretation of dreams or visions. Eventually these ideas become codified, the rituals are repeated until voila: a religion is born. This religion will be shaped by the people, the geography and contact with other cultures. It may evolve and carry forward or it may slowly linger and eventually die off. It is ever changing and evolving. Don’t believe me, look at the progression of Christianity: from Catholic to Progressive, or in the Abrahamic Faiths: from Judaism to Islam.

While many of these faiths have the same roots they differ vastly in what they believe and how they practice it. Even within the larger faith groups there are disagreements and new factions rising daily; look at all the different Pagan groups, or Christian Groups or Jewish groups. I mean if they can’t get their shit together and agree then what hope does a pain in the ass unruly Celtic Redneck have?!?

So I am beginning to believe that the way out of being lost for me is to not move into a prefabricated religion and instead focus on building a spiritual home for myself. Maybe I need to build my relationship with the divine again from the ground up. The thought that is hounding me now is not that I am lost, but that I have no idea how or even where to start. I have always had a structure and experts to guide me. I have had priests, nuns, pastors, priestesses and highly regarded authors to help me on the way. I have had bibles, holy texts and books of shadows to light the way. How do I become my own light? How do I become my own guide? How do I build something of beauty and reverence without becoming an arrogant asshole?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bethany




In reviewing my recent posts I have come to the conclusion that I am one hell of a downer these days which, surprisingly enough, is not my natural state of being. Now I know what I am currently working on is important to me and I think in the long run will be a very valuable exercise but for today I think it is time for me to set that aside and talk about something far more entertaining (if for no other reason than to keep me from getting too serious). So today I am going to talk about one of our kitties: Introducing Bethany!

We got Bethany as a rescue we adopted through Alberta Animal Services in December of 2014. She is technically my husband’s cat although she loves everyone! My husband is not normally a cat person but one day while hanging out with his daughter they stopped in a local pet store to play with the adoptable cats. Bethany was there, in her cone of shame, with a little stub of a tail. As soon as my husband walked in the door she sauntered her way over to him and began nuzzling and licking his hand. He claims it was his daughter that was smitten with the cat but I think we can all guess the truth.

He asked about what kind of cat she was, why she was in the cone and why such a short tail. While they didn’t know exactly what kind of cat she is, she was in the cone to stop her from licking her stubby tail. Turns out the poor kitty was cold (winter in Alberta, trust me it gets cold) and so she crawled under the hood of a truck to get warm. When the truck was turned on the poor kitty’s tail got caught in the fan belt. The man who owned the truck heard her yowl and freed her from the fan belt and took her to the vet’s office right away. They had to amputate the tail and were unable to find who she belonged to so put her up for adoption.

That night my husband took me to see Bethany. I watched as she pulled his hand into the bars of her little kennel and held on for dear life. She proceeded to nuzzle and lick his hand and looked at me with her big sweet eyes. The next morning after setting up a second litter box and blankets in our spare bedroom we brought her home. Our other cat Eve was initially rather un-amused with her new housemate, where our four dogs (Max, Belle, Rosie and White Paw) wanted nothing more than to cuddle her. It took a few days for the chaos that a new family member brings to settle down. Then we got to see what kind of personality Bethany had…

First let me start by saying she is the most people oriented and loving cat I have ever seen. She loves to spend hours curled up on a lap snoozing away. If we are too active to snuggle her she goes over and will cuddle with any of the dogs. When one of our dogs, White Paw, passed away at 16 years old she would sit and snuggle as I cried and made sure every one of the other fur babies got lots of snuggle time. She insists that every single house guest greets her with scratches and as soon as their laps are open she will commandeer them.

She is also very playful! I think she thinks she is part dog as she will play fetch with you. One of our dogs, Max, is very addicted to tennis balls. So much so that there must always be a few in the house and the yard or he will drive you insane barking for one. I have caught Bethany playing with them, rolling them up and down the hallway, and always at supersonic speeds. Being a solid cat it hurts when she rams into your leg! She and Eve are often shadow boxing and pouncing on each other. Incidentally Bethany is a larger cat than Eve and I often watch as Eve prances around Bethany, until Bethany just runs her over. That cat is a tank. They will chase each other across the house until they collapse on their cat tree and have a good power nap.

Bethany, unlike Eve, seems to have absolutely no interest in anything magical in nature. She does however have a fascination with toes; yep that’s right toes, a creepy and almost unnatural obsession with toes. For months I watched as she played with the pads on the pooches’ paws, giggling at her strange obsession. I would go to bed at night, with the illusion of safe toes until one dark night she came for them. I was settling down for a much needed night sleep and it was rather warm outside and even warmer in the house. The blankets had been carelessly tossed to the foot of the bed and I laid there as the soothing sensation of drifting to sleep washed over me. Abruptly this sensation was shattered as the feeling of wet sandpaper raked itself across my big toe. I shot my foot to the side, accidentally kicking my husband, when the sandpaper came back for the other toe. I flung the light on as I threw myself out of bed to see what evil creature lay lurking at my feet and was greeted by a pleasant ‘meow” of the innocent looking Bethany. Since that night we keep a blanket over our feet and have to be careful about what we wear, at the hint of a naked toe she is there, ready to scrap her tongue all over them.

As with all our rescue pets over the years I cannot help but wonder what their lives were like before they came to us. I often find myself reading a book or magazine in bed, with Eve purring in my ear and Bethany at my side, staring at where my toes will be under the covers. As she looks up at me when I scratch behind her ears I ask “where did you come from before kitty”. We have so little information. We think Bethany was abandoned. A few weeks ago we had to take her collar off since she had bent the ring holding the bell on her collar and it could have cut her. As we took the collar off she got very nervous, making little mewing noises and trying to pull her collar towards her again.

Now this is a cat that can, and often does, take her collar off on a whim. She leaves it somewhere we can find it and as soon as we find it we hunt her down. She runs to the nearest table and sits there for us to put it back on her, this is one of her favorite games. But when we took it off of her I could see panic in her big eyes. She mewed until we got it back on her and then she spent the rest of the day following us around and snuggling into us. It makes me wonder if once somebody she loved took a collar off her and left her in the countryside where she was eventually found. That idea breaks my heart and haunts my nightmares. But then a tongue rasps against the exposed toe, and a mischievous feline mews and I pull her close for a good snuggle and whisper to her “this is your home, forever”.