The Fullness of Friendships

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During this month of August, on a road trip back home to Wisconsin, I am focused on appreciating and celebrating my longtime friends. My ‘work’ on this trip is connection, and the calendar page I tore from the wall before I left North Carolina is filled with names of people I love. What we do together doesn’t matter much to me, so I leave it up to them. I drive hither and yon just to be, together.

It’s been well over three years since I moved away from here and left the friends I am visiting. As I find myself again in places that have meaning for me, I see layers upon layers of experiences and memories and turning points. In the layers I see my life slowly unfolding toward who I am in the present. And I am keenly aware that it is because of the friends I found myself with, at those places, that my life quilt has unfolded into the pattern it has.

Tonight’s full moon, the closest to the earth of all the full moons of 2014, is in Aquarius, which is said to rule friendships. So tonight, especially, at the peak of the super Moon’s cycle, I focus on the spiritual harvest of friendships throughout my life. With profound gratitude, I bow to the divinity within each of the beautiful beings who has befriended me on my path.

The Deepest Dance There Is

Today is Lammas, the sacred midpoint in the Wheel of the Year between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. I love celebrating the changing of the seasons at equinoxes and solstices, and I also love to celebrate the four cross-quarter days in between. At this festival for the first harvest of summer, we praise the corn mothers Demeter and Ceres, and the Celtic goddess Habondia who brings abundance and prosperity, as does Laksmi in the Hindu pantheon. Perhaps more importantly, we also look at what we are harvesting in our own lives.

To honor the harvest of summer, I share a poem by Marge Piercy. She not only reminds us of Habondia’s gifts, but she highlights the right of choice, which women are again seeing violated. Can we celebrate Lammas, can we dance while the gasps of the dying patriarchy torch our choices? How do we stand as witness to suffering while claiming our sacrament of joy? Piercy shows us a way. Today we can dance as a way to enliven and empower ourselves in the face of suffering. Today we can move towards life even as the toppling structures around us move toward death. Dance and joy and celebration must be enacted as ways to address oppression. It is not a superficial pleasure, this Sabbath of Mutual Respect. It is the deepest dance there is.

The Sabbath of Mutual Respect

                   by Marge Piercy

In the natural year come two thanksgivings,
the harvest of summer and the harvest of fall,
two times when we eat and drink and remember our dead
under the golden basin of the moon of plenty.

Abundance, Habondia, food for the winter,
too much now and survival later. After
the plant bears, it dies into seed.
The blowing grasses nourish us, wheat
and corn and rye, millet and rice, oat
and barley and buckwheat, all the servicable
grasses of the pasture that the cow grazes,
the lamb, the horse, the goat; the grasses
that quicken into meat and cheese and milk,
the humble necessary mute vegetable bees,
the armies of the grasses waving their
golden banners of ripe seed.
The sensual round fruit that gleams with the sun
stored in its sweetness. The succulent
ephemera of the summer garden, bloodwarm
tomatoes, tender small squash, crisp
beans, the milky corn, the red peppers
exploding like cherry bombs in the mouth.

We praise abundance by eating of it,
reveling in choice on a table set with roses
and lilies and phlox, zucchini and lettuce
and eggplant before the long winter
of root crops.
Fertility and choice:
every row dug in spring means weeks
of labor. Plant too much and the seedlings
choke in weeds as the warm rain soaks them.
The goddess of abundance Habondia is also
the spirit of labor and choice.
In another life, dear sister, I too would bear six fat children.

In another life, my sister, I too
would love another woman and raise one child
together as if that pushed from both our wombs.
In another life, sister, I too would dwell
solitary and splendid as a lighthouse on the rocks
or be born to mate for life like the faithful goose.
Praise all our choices. Praise any woman
who chooses, and make safe her choice.

Habondia, Artemis, Cybele, Demeter, Ishtar,
Aphrodite, Au Set, Hecate, Themis, Lilith,
Thea, Gaia, Bridgit, The Great Grandmother of Us
All, Yemanja, Cerridwen, Freya, Corn Maiden,
Mawu, Amaterasu, Maires, Nut, Spider-Woman,
Neith, Au Zit, Hathor, Inanna, Shin Moo,
Diti, Arinna, Anath, Tiamat, Astoreth:
the names flesh out our histories, our choices,
our passions and what we will never embody
but pass by with respect. When I consecrate
my body in the temple of our history,
when I pledge myself to remain empty
and clear for the voices coming through
I do not choose for you or lessen your choice.

Habondia, the real abundance, is the power
to say yes and to say no, to open
and to close, to take or to leave
and not to be taken by force or law
or fear or poverty or hunger.
To bear children or not to bear by choice
is holy. To bear children unwanted
is to be used like a public sewer.
To be sterilized unchosen is to have
your heart cut out. To love women
is holy and holy is the free love of men
and precious to live taking whichever comes
and precious to live unmated as a peachtree.

Praise the lives you did not choose.
They will heal you, tell your story, fight
for you. You eat the bread of their labor.
You drink the wine of their joy. I tell you
after I went under the surgeon’s knife
for the laparoscopy I felt like a trumpet
an Amazon was blowing sonorous charges on.
Then my womb learned to open on the full
moon without pain and my pleasure deepened
till my body shuddered like troubled water.
When my friend gave birth I held her in joy
as the child’s head thrust from her vagina
like the sun rising at dawn wet and red.

Praise our choices, sisters, for each doorway
open to us was taken by squads of fighting
women who paid years of trouble and struggle,
who paid their wombs, their sleep, their lives
that we might walk through these gates upright.
Doorways are sacred to women for we
are the doorways of life and we must choose
what comes in and what goes out. Freedom
is our real abundance.

Touching on the Wonders

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What a Solstice weekend of bounty! I hiked with the Carolina Mountain Club to Twin Falls in the Pisgah National Forest, a beautiful half-day hike of 6 miles and about a thousand feet ascent.

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The hike was the icing on the cake, after camping with my honey near Grandfather Mountain and lazing away a whole afternoon tubing down the New River with River Girl.

Here’s a poem that touches on the wonders:

Camping on Summer Solstice

In the morning,

sun glints gold on the lake bowl.

A great blue stretches her sinuous neck

from a black branch against white sky,

A beaver bends her head

to succulent grass

like a Zen nun.

 

In the afternoon,

the river

floats our bones and

rides us into timelessness.

A veery in the woods

spills its ethereal song

of wheeling descent.

 

In the evening,

where the soil at the shoreline

springs spongy,

sacred reishi mushrooms

offer their burnished plates

from the trunk of a dead hemlock.

And the frolicking campfire,

now satisfied embers,

settles

into sleep.

 

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Bday Present Burial Plot

Today I gave myself a birthday present burial plot. I bought a little piece of earth to be buried in. In a blogpost last October http://susasilvermarie.com/giving-the-body-back, I spoke of Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina, first green burial site in the United States, and of the thinking behind green burial. A few months later, I was later delighted to learn of a green burial site much more accessible to me. Green Hills Cemetery on the edge of Asheville http://www.greenhillscemeteryasheville.com/ includes a beautiful woods for natural burials.

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I turn 67 this week, big deal. I’m healthier and stronger and all around more fit than I was in my 40’s and 50’s for sure, so I likely don’t have any rush on arrangements. I’m running a 5K this month, I hike 5 or 6 miles in the mountains and I do weight training at The Fire http://www.thefirepersonaltraining.com. Image 7Thing is, it came to me to give myself a really big present this year, and when something flits through me in a repeating thought wave, I listen. It came to me to do it now, to give myself a place to rest my bones; a place of alchemy where I can, presto! turn back into the elements.

Today was the day to do it, a perfect western North Caroline June day. I thought I was doing it so my son wouldn’t have to wonder what I wanted, and wouldn’t have to shell out so much, and so he and others could come to a pretty place for comfort in grief. And it is for him and others, of course, but the experience today certainly feels like a real birthday gift to myself. I have given my body a spot sheltered by an oak and a birch and two kinds of pine. The neighbor plot will hold the bones of my friend, Antiga. Image 1Friends can come here for nurture and reflection. I imagine sacred picnicking and plenty of singing, maybe even dancing, among the trees.

Next birthday, I’ll buy myself a flat granite marker, complete with engraving except for date of death. While the marker awaits me at the foot of my future grave, I’ll go visit and have psychic chats with my future form. About today’s present, I feel tranquil. It’s good to remember that this life is only one chapter in a grand book my greater self is unfolding.