Monday, December 20, 2010

studying overmuch

Some hallmarks of the wise one are books--and yet, if not literate, the gift of speech with strangers and animals. One can readily imagine an old man, long of beard and grey, with a lifetime's knowledge in that grizzled head, hunched over a book by candlelight, worn fingers slowly turning the fragile pages as he sips at a mug of hot tea, wisdom and words from days long past ready to be deciphered and renewed in thought.

Knowing. A combination of experience and intuition and slow, deliberate reasoning which can shed light on even a strange problem or idea, where it may have come from and how it came to be and what to do for any desired outcome.
Yet wisdom is not only for the old, for books on dusty shelves. There is the knowing that comes with doing, when your muscle memory takes over and your body uses its own wisdom to act when thought itself is too slow. There is that subtle communication that arises from seeing one's head turn just so (for were this not so, dance would have very little meaning indeed), or a creature move slowly or quickly, that little hitch in liquid birdsong that means danger approaches, flee! woods-wisdom, wild-knowing, that knowing without knowing. This too is wisdom.

Just as hours of deliberate thought and debate mark a man as learned, so an animal or man that can feel the change in weather knows what is to come, and survives.

Instinct is its own subtle voice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I'm just glad I was able to put my car in the garage at my boyfriend's place before the big storm hit. We stayed inside all through the day, and took turns digging out the long driveway and some sidewalk.

What really touched me is the roving band armed with shovels who wandered up and down the street, helping their neighbors dig out cars and enough room in blocked driveways to get said cars off the street. People may joke about Minnesota Nice, but you don't survive long up here as a grouch. It's far nicer and easier to be polite and friendly when others need a hand and it's obvious you can help.
The next day, boy and I were walking to the bus stop and a couple with a baby in back were trying to get their little VW car out of a driveway. With the back wheels spinning in the snow, I called over to S., "Hey, we can help. Come back here!" Didn't take long to get them out and going. One, two, three, and push! I counted with my fingers as the lady looked out the back to see what we were up to--a push, car rocked back with enough momentum, and another push and gone! waving happily and on their way.

Snow aside, there are things more predictable than winter weather to worry for; a student in her last days of undergraduate education will soon be living in the library. Oh yes, ladies and germs--finals are here.

The good news is, I have one short paper to hand in for my career planning class tomorrow and that will be done. The rest is far less simple: a make-up exam *and* the final for Hydrology this week and then all my Biometeorology (dreaded stuff) is due next week. Cram cram cram.
(Say what you will, but there's nothing like a few days' frenzied studying to prepare for a big test. I will soon be spending all my remaining cash on coffee.)

Added to this is, of course, the job search. My time at the bee lab turned out to be shorter than I'd anticipated and now what little plans I had are all fumbly and trying to stay upright on an icy sidewalk. Hopefully I won't have to move back into my parent's house. They mean well, but I have too much up here to want to leave for an untold amount of time. All my job prospects so far are up here anyway...

I've learned that two feet of snow falling in one day can even take out the Metrodome.
I've learned that I cannot work well with someone who is so very, very type A and controlling that I feel like I can't so much as sneeze without reporting back about it.
I've learned that going down South for two holiday vacations in a row has messed with my expectations... next year we go again.
I've learned that maybe I can look forward to spring; mud and melting and messy changes aren't just a hassle, but signs of better times to come.
I've learned that for some reason, I really don't like writing cover letters.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cleaning up

Well, I've revisited the blog template, and I hope this is easier on the eyes. Much as I liked the dark transparent background, it was a little hard to see things sometimes. Also, new banner! ^^ I just hopped over to WikiCommons and found a nice photo to tweak a bit and share with you all. Let me know what you think of the new look.

Speaking of new things, there's nothing quite like sleeping on fresh bedsheets in a nicely made bed. I may be very casual about where things go around here, but I do like the blankets to be straight and the pillows fluffed and nice clean everything when I sleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New mythology

Well, I'm not making much progress at the moment on the book I originally thought would be good material for a book review. For one, it's not particularly well-written, which makes reading a bit of a chore, and for another, it's the end of the semester. My biometeorology class is especially taxing; if I hadn't skipped so many hydrology classes to work on the labs for biomet., I'd be doing much better. As it is, I'm stuck playing catch-up for all my courses, which although doable is *not* my idea of a good time.


Despite all this, I'm still reading and looking to expand my knowledge about everything Pagan. Somehow I got introduced (very briefly, in passing almost) to Finnish Paganism--now I am reading the Kalevala. Huzzah for Wikisources having the first translation to English available to the public! If I'm really ambitious, I hope to read some more English translations after I read through the whole thing so I can get a better sense of what the Finnish really means, seeing as I don't know Finnish and any translation is bound to miss some aspect of meaning, no matter how slight.

Another path that I've read but little about is the Dianic approach to Wicca. There is an inner voice that says, "yeah, but... focusing on a matriarchy isn't going to fix whatever problems arose from this 'patriarchy' you vilify so much. We have to work *together* on this." On the other hand, I can see how it's perfectly right to point out the many hypocrisies that exist in out society and do everything you can to fight for equality. And if your personal path calls for some girl-only (or even, gasp, guy-only!) spirit-work, then by all means do it. But I digress--a discourse on modern feminism can be saved for another post.

So far the book is definitely written with an agenda in mind, and it's funny how it made it through so many printings with the same spell repeated three times...

well, writing a critique should definitely be interesting. If I can manage to write one for each book, that should cover some requirements for the DP, which I really want to get working on once I'm done with college. Finally, free time to write papers on things I'm actually interested in! :D

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I never could get the hang of Tuesdays.

It's almost Thanksgiving, so I have a short week of classes and work, meaning that this time I would *not* skip out on Hydrology in favor of trying to get other things done, as has been the case so often this semester. (I'm looking at you, Biometeorology labs!)
For some reason, my boy and I woke up stupidly early and couldn't get back to sleep. There was also a radio playing somewhere in the house at that exact level where I could hear the song just enough to pay attention to it and stay awake. Unwillingly. So I woke up boy, we did something else for a while and then fell back into blessed slumber.
I was sure that catching the bus wouldn't be a problem. It generally isn't when the highway is so close and there are loads of buses going downtown.

Someone had something else in mind for me today.

Between two missed express buses (with much cursing) and a mechanical failure of the bus I did catch, I ended up walking towards the final bus stop on the way home with a blond lady who wore a light blue coat and a fluffy knitted pink hat. We ended up at the same bus stop, checked the time, and headed in to the local cafe for coffee to wait for the next one since this particular route runs every half-hour.

I tried a latte with flavored with white chocolate and almond today--I usually go for dark chocolate and roasty, caramely flavors. I think it suited today well.

R. and I ended up chatting once the bus finally came--she's a grad student at the U, working with bacteria that make oils and ester waxes, with a potential for biodiesel too. It sounds really interesting and seems to suit her biology and genetics background well.

What really got me was the rest of her story and how willing she seemed to help me out. I suppose we both go to the U, and are interested in somewhat similar things. She's even familiar with the professor who taught the Bioremediation class I took a year ago. The best part is the advice she gave: that even though my parents are pushing that I go to grad school, it's best now to figure out what I really want to do and do it. If going to grad school will make me happy and I have a burning desire to learn more about a certain field, that's the time to apply and get in. R. spent a few years working after getting her master's, and even then she waited tables after graduation. Once she figured out what she wanted to do, it was back to grad school and now she's happy to be back on campus.

It was really great to hear things from a new perspective. I admit I'm not entirely sure what to do after my current job runs out (ideas about teaching English in Japan become more and more enticing) and I know that I've been burning out as far as academics for the last year, easy.

R. also mentioned that she wished she had had someone to be a mentor when she was fresh out of her undergrad experience. I'm glad she feels the need to give back to someone who needs it. I must be sure to do the same for someone else down the road. Gifts like this don't come lightly.

So that's how I met a new friend today.

I walked home grinning. I thanked Whoever was/is watching out for me today, thought back to my earlier frustration at the first bus stop on the highway and said, "Fine, I'll shut up now!"

Monday, November 8, 2010

May I never lose my sense of wonder.

I think this is why I am Pagan.
If there's a way to blend Peter Pan
and Redwall
and wandering in that little stretch of pine woods out by the elementary school
and pretending I'm really a Native American with a real bow
and learning how to pet a cat nicely and feel her purr
and see the colors of sunset making everything glow and look new

seeing the Milky Way stretch out above you and feel that awe-full sense of perspective

curling up on a cold night, grateful for a hot dinner and plenty of blankets to keep the warmth in

seeing a flat expanse of snow under gray skies and trying so hard to remember midsummer's heat sinking into your bones and how fiercely green the world is then

knowing that someday, your matter--molecules and atoms--will be lost and recombined into something else. Some part of me was once a velociraptor.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eggs: dinner of champions

Well, I couldn't find my muffin tin, so there went my grand idea (borrowed from a blog post by Just Bento) of turning my delicious yet overflowing bowl of thick chicken soup into mini-pot-pies for packed lunches...

so I did this instead.

Huevos Rancheros

1 baked potato, cooled and chopped
half a green pepper, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

An egg or two
Lemon juice
Grated cheddar
Fresh parsley
Hot sauce if desired

If you have a cast-iron pan, now is the time to use it. Nothing works better for browning potatoes--and using a nice, dry, baked potato really makes this the easy part.
Heat up a bit of oil in the pan and throw in the garlic. Let it sizzle for 30 seconds, and throw in the pepper and onion. Cook over high heat until things start to wilt, then remove and set aside. In your hot pan, add a little more oil and bring it back up to temperature. Add the potatoes and *don't touch them*. Like searing a steak, you want them to get nice and brown and they'll release from the pan on their own. Once they do, stir them around some and let their other sides brown too.
Add the pepper-onion mix back to the pan with the potatoes once your spuds are almost done. Lower the heat a bit and let things cook together while you do the eggs. Don't forget to stir.

In your little bitty saucepan, throw in some salsa. For this part, it's totally OK to cheat and use the cheap stuff since it'll get watered down anyway. Save your expensive locally-made organic kind (or even--gasp--homemade!) for topping the eggs just before serving.
Water down the salsa until it's about half as thick as it normally is and add a little lemon juice. Tomatoes are naturally acidic, but adding a little extra is good insurance when you're poaching eggs. There should be enough liquid in the pan to barely cover the egg(s).
Once this mix has begun to bubble fiercely, gently add your egg(s) and let them cook. Turn down the heat and let the sauce reduce when the eggs are just shy of done: poke the yolk with a spoon and see how much it gives. If the edges are starting to get firm, that's a good time to turn it down. Adding a lid while they simmer is optional.

Now comes the fun part. :)
Slide your beautifully browned potatoes onto your plate, platter, or bowl. Using a slotted spoon, fish out the egg(s) and place them on top. Scoop the big chunks out of your simmering liquid and throw that on the plate too; you can dump the water in the bottom, it'll just make for soggy spuds. Spoon some fresh salsa on top, hot sauce as you like, and sprinkle cheese and parsley with abandon. If you're patient enough to wait for the cheese to melt, you're a stronger soul than I.

Dig in.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

different changes this time

Normally it takes me forever to get used to the bright long days and painfully slow warming that comes with Spring--this year, I was hoping August would never end. though with the warm, sunny weather lately, you'd think we were stuck in mid-September for weeks despite the leaves changing...

In any case, I think I've finally gotten over the fact that it's fall now. I'm an autumn baby, so normally the changing leaves and cooling weather feel like coming home to me. Not this year. I had a little hint of what the Wild Hunt feels like some days back, but it was brief. I guess it's just been too damn *nice* out to get into the whole doom-and-gloom mien that goes with Halloween and Samhain.

Part of me suspects this has something to do with how I really don't respect Odin all that much, though it may well be a grudge held over from my Christian upbringing; there I go overanalyzing things again. (But I don't, really. I mean, he figures very prominently in the Eddas, he's supposed to be all-wise but he's still a warmonger... I guess I should bite the bullet and just get to know Him, huh? Then at least my little bitch-list will have some backing with experience and not just book-learning.)


I run around a lot, despite *still* not having a job. My boyfriend and I split the time between each others' places, and Wednesday is kind of my stay-at-home day, which Genki definitely appreciates. I feel really drained when I don't get enough time here, even though I haven't connected here as well as I did at my last apartment. It's still my place after all. It has my pets and my things and my bed and it's where I've set up my altar. (I am starting to feel more comfortable being Pagan in my guy's Jewish house--you can tell if you know how to look for it--but that's another post altogether.) So it's a day like this, where I'm procrastinating as usual on the homework due tomorrow, baking potatoes in the oven and enjoying the weather through open windows as I rearrange my blog layout again and finally feel like there's something worth writing about.

Golden sunlight reflecting back the gold and red of changing leaves, sunlight not sticking around as long as it used to a month ago, along with a feeling of real calm has I think helped it sink in.
Part of me wants to go back two or three months and find somewhere utterly private where I can soak up as much sunshine as my body can take, feel that heat all the way down in my bones soaking in and storing it up for the cold days. You know when the trees are in full leaf, and everything's so strongly green you can smell it? Goldenrod is just starting to bloom; the spring flowers are long gone, and coneflowers haven't yet faded into seedheads and become the local wildbird buffet. It's then that all the green ones are at the very height of their power.

Maybe aligning myself with the Vanir has brought be closer to the green world this way. Subtle changes in power, the waxing and waning of my soul (for lack of a better word) is now tied with leaf-spring and sunshine and rain and that incessant vitality of a plant in summer's full swing. I'll have to see what real cold brings, as there's older patterns that I've laid down earlier in my life that have been around longer and will probably kick in then.

Monday, September 20, 2010

in the meantime...

Monday went rather well. I woke up relatively early (given my recently weird sleeping schedule), called in about a potential job and sent in my references, figured that I might as well do my full moon Esbat for this month early given my schedule.
I like how the ritual went. This time, I had a small hand-made broom to use (made of sticks and string found at my parent's house) as well as my yet unfinished wand.

I also made some tea and had a banana to use for the wine and cakes bit.
It is interesting to have some banana after having called on Frey, though... given that both He and His sister govern fertility. I giggled. ^^

Dressing up for ritual really does add a certain flair to it. Nothing fancy, but it helps to put on my "priestess" hat in a way. Using my own hand-made wand helped reinforce that too. Although it is unfinished in my view, it's still a perfectly serviceable tool. It really does help me channel the energy I visualize to make and undo the circle (and that right there shows how much of an armchair Pagan I've been lately. cough cough).

Looking back though, I'm hard-pressed to find anything that really make this ritual specifically a Full Moon one. From what I can see, it's fairly generic. It's a template, although a nicely written one, and I've already been adapting it to my needs. Evolution in action!

To balance out everything, my cat Genki then proceeded to knock my betta fish Richard to the floor. (I had put him in a little container with medicated water to help with a bit of fin rot.) Cat was tossed in the closet for a time-out, Richard carefully scooped up by hand and returned home, towel turned somewhat blue from the fish meds in the spilled water.
oh well. at least Richard seemed to get over the shock pretty quickly. Genki is *not* getting treated to a can of wet food this week! (I'm told that the occasional meal of wet food helps with a guy kitty's urinary tract, but really he really enjoys it so much I don't feel bad about giving him a can every other week or so.)

* * *

Tonight is Full Moon night, and what began as a fine fall morning turned gray and wet, in a lonesome, longing for soup kind of way.

I met my mom and grandma at the airport this afternoon, before the rain came. They had just returned from a trip to Germany, and other than a couple unfound bags, made it in time to the shuttle home. What really made it meaningful to me is that my family is very heavily German on both sides, so having female relatives on my mother's side going back there seemed like a return home of sorts. I did ask that the Disir already gone look after them, and they did make it back safe and sound. (Suppose I ought to have asked about looking after their belongings too! Ah well, the family luck can only run so far.)
And it wasn't just that they had gone to Germany, though. This really was a kind of family visit: the whole thing was organized by a relative, and Mom and Grandma met cousins! Well, two or three times removed, but still family--Grandma has a chart to show it. I can't wait to get a copy. It's amazing to think that there are people across the vastness of an ocean that I can call family.

Lately I've been thinking about what to do after graduating, and it seems a matter of course that I take the GRE and apply for grad schools. Part of me wants to go somewhere else, get away from what's familiar in another attempt to start fresh. Why is another story for another time; but I do love the family vacations to go down South and see my dad's side of the family. Daydreams recently center on heading to a warmer clime for school, and it's okay to go so far away cuz I have relatives there. If anything goes wrong, there's family I can rely on, and I'll be okay.

Granted, I have no idea how far something like that would extend to cousins a few times removed, but the thought is still intriguing. The world seems smaller, and there's a safety net for you if you look for it. Likewise, you can be someone else's help if they come to where you are. Sometimes things work out that way.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review on the way

Well, I picked up a new book the other day at my local Pagan shop. Although I was entranced as I gave it the cursory flip-through at the store, I now have several thoughts to organize into a proper review.

Boy, does it need one!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My first Esbat

I remember telling a friend that I was going to start doing rituals with the changing phases of the moon, as lately I've been feeling disconnected with natural cycles of things and felt a need to get back on track.

Well, I did it, which in itself surprises me. I could have done one for the August new moon, but I didn't feel prepared for it and had no idea what kind of ritual I would do anyway. I ended up browsing some websites and found one at which offers some basic information on Wicca along with nice ritual formats.

The ritual itself wasn't anything terribly complex, and another reason I felt compelled to do one is that there would be a purpose for the energy raised. A friend of mine is crafting a leather case for my Tarot deck (it's the Robin Wood version, if you were curious), and so in return I'm making an alter paten/pentacle for her, woodburning the desired design into a pine disc. Since I just got all my materials together, and it's something for ritual use, I felt it proper to ask for some blessing so that this turns out well.

Thankfully this ritual had a list of materials needed; as I was at my parents' house at the time, I quietly gathered up what I could: a bit of red wine was easily available, and for cakes I used almonds; tied some dried grass seed-stalks together for a broom, found a small "wand" made of a fallen branch from the silver maple out back. Still not sure what I think about the matches not lighting though... three strike-anywhere kitchen matches that didn't light from anything, so I ended up holding the candles and charging them with energy rather than lighting them. I skipped having one candle per quarter because of that as well.

For north and earth, I had a dish of small stones collected from the playground of my elementary school back in the day. For east and air, a crow feather and a small narrow vase that held a stick of incense (not lit, unfortunately), while for south I just had a plate of candles from the Girl Scout camp my sister and I know and love. (Some were tea candles, some were hand-dipped in different colors.) For west and water, I placed a piece of white coral-stone I had brought back from Hawaii to remind me of the ocean.

When it came time to charge each of these quarters' items, the energies did feel different to me. Water was smooth, yielding, and gentle, Earth was very strong and firm, Fire needed coaxing as nothing was actually burning, and Air seemed neither here nor there, which makes sense I suppose.

When calling on the God and Goddess, I did think of them as Freyr and Freyja, and I think They approved.
or at least they didn't mind.

After casting the circle and calling quarters and raising energy, I then asked the Gods to guide my hand and bless the materials I'm using to craft the paten. It seemed fitting, and went along well with how the ritual format suggested thanking the Gods for something good and asking for guidance with a problem before ending the rite.

It was just as well that I held the ritual at midnight, though I would have liked to have done it outdoors: the night was clear and bright, and the moon's light was strong enough to read by. as it was, my parents were sound asleep and my cat only needed one squirt from my buddy the squirbottle in order to settle down halfway through.

All in all, I'm happy with how it went and how easy it was to put together even in a place where I didn't have access to all my various tools and toys. It was also a lovely way to reconnect with the moon's phases since I feel like I've been getting out of touch with moon-rhythms; the Big Eight are no problem since I celebrate those with my proto-grove, but this seems more personal. It feels like I'm supposed to do this myself, and all the success or lack that happens is entirely from my own effort.

It'll be interesting to see how the next ritual goes. I plan on doing one for the new moon, and banishing laziness will definitely be in order as the fall semester begins soon.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finding a way

I've been reading many of the old posts that the Catskin Sisters have written, and it boggles my mind that what starts as simple meditations can turn into such journeys! I mean, it sounds like a fantasy story that you're living, right now, in your mind and in the Otherlands.

This is really exciting!

For the longest time (like many I'm sure) I have had trouble doing even a weekly meditation. Granted, I did do daily meditation for a while, but then life got in the way and I never established it as a habit. Now, it seems like sitting there for a few minutes thinking of nothing is kind of a waste of time. Yet as I read of the Sisters' journeys, I find I'm jealous. How do they do it? Why can't I go on Journeys too?

Despite my admittedly childish approach to it all, I believe I've found something that will help me to focus.

This website offers free downloadable guided meditations! Be warned: don't go around looking for some sketchy program that offers to convert your .ram files for you--just get RealPlayer if you don't already have it.

I started out with a short one, focusing on relaxation and a safe place. Although the image I chose to focus on was one of waterfalls and lush green growth, I ended up visualizing somewhere with a shallow creek with sand and rocks, and some prairie too. Looks like the safe place I need to be is closer to home than I thought.

I really hope I remember to do one of these meditations every week if not daily. I'm pushing myself to exercise on my own as well too, so maybe doing them together will help me to not forget doing one or the other.
Eventually I hope to find my fylgia, my fetch, a companion to Journey with in strange and wonderful places. Even that, I feel, would be a huge step in the right direction.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I've finally starting writing things down for the DP. Starting simple, with the holidays. I suppose I can do the altar planning one too, as I just rearranged it recently. Things around me tend to accumulate junk or random bits of stuff, and the altar is no exception. Bits of wax, pine needles, lots of acorns... now it boasts a pretty pottery candle-holder I found at Savers of all places.

On a more personal note;
it's strange how you can miss someone when two weeks ago you felt like you couldn't take much more of them.
My boyfriend is studying abroad for a month-long language intensive so he can be done with one major's requirements (he has two, which is a story in and of itself) and graduate a little sooner.

What happened now seems fairly obvious--nothing like some distance and time apart to put things in perspective, right?--that we spend the majority of our time with each other, and it was that which was slowly driving us nuts. All those little things that sneak their way under your skin were getting unbearable lately. We just couldn't leave each other alone. I ended up feeling criticized more than I felt was fair, we were both worn out from the long bus rides between our respective residences, and his jokes were just getting so old!

I was happy to see him to the airport, and the first week felt like a real vacation even though I was the one staying home.
well, his internet is rather limited, and half the time I don't know what to do with all my spare time (I've never been one to schedule my every minute as it is) so we end up thinking "shit. now what?"

or at least I do.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You look for one thing, and find another

Just read this post on The Ditzy Druid, and finally got around to giving Thor the stout I promised him for helping me out a few weeks ago.
Also having recently discovered this amazing blog written by some seidh-sisters here in the Midwest, I decided to get a little more of my spiritual act together and do some gorram meditating.
Lit candles, new stick of incense, offered the stout, and ended up donning the crow mask I had made a couple years ago for a quick Halloween costume to try my hand at spirit-walking.

I think I'm going about beginning the right way--or at least, a way that kind of works--by perching on the edge of my seat and assuming a bird-like pose while holding the sound of cawing crows in my mind. It was hard to picture things clearly, but I think I was able to hop around the branches of a tree a bit (no idea if it was the tree outside my apartment or some otherworldly Tree).

Suddenly a sound came through the open windows, and something in me knew enough to get alert.

Turns out a couple guys were knocking on the door. As my room is situated right above the front door and I happen to be house manager here, I was able to ask them out my window if they needed anything. Turns out they're college students looking for rooms to rent; I offered a house tour.

* * *

Well, I guess in lieu of spirit-work, it was back to convincing folk that our house is a good place to rent a room. 'Twas nice to meet those guys though. They seemed good folk, and it'll be good to have the house full up at last.

I think this means the Gods are happy enough with me for now. If anything, I'd say that was Thor's way of giving a pat on the back and saying, "well, it's all right. Now go do your stuff!"

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why yes, I do have a camera

It's not often that my thoughts turn to Frigga. It seems odd that I wouldn't have much to do with Odin's wife, given that I have some skill in housekeeping--I can bake bread and mop floors and can be fairly crafty with my hands when I feel it. Though I suppose some part of me equates her with simple housewifery, which I have long objected to; my daydreams were always of wild adventure, not sedately setting out the evening meal and then darning socks until bedtime.
I suppose if anyone had a connection to her, it would be my mother. She's a bit quiet, and seems very normal, but you should see her sewing room. Swatches of colored fabric hang on the walls, and totes of cloth (organized by color of course) have taken over half the basement! Even though Dad is the master chef of the household, Mom can still whip up a batch of bars or a cake like there's nothing to it. And of course she does her share (the lion's share in some cases) when it comes to keeping things clean--the cats run before her when she wields the vacuum.

But she's a lawyer too. This quiet little person went to college, studied hard, got mostly A's and B's, and then when right on into law school.
The story goes that when grandpa (my dad's dad) met my mother, he asked what she wanted to do with her life. She told him she was going to go to law school, and he laughed right there. Now, so many years later, she's been working for the state as an administrative law judge and no one thinks anything of it.
You go, Mom.

* * * *

Some years ago, Dad made a drop spindle in his workshop. It's a sweet thing, the weight is solid cherry and the handle a dowel. A simple bent nail is what catches the fibers and induces spin, creating yarn.

I've been sticking with plain, undyed wool roving for spinning, picking up a bag every so often when money or Mom allows. The yarn is rather thick, since this is my first batch and I'd rather keep the thickness relatively uniform. If I made or acquired a smaller spindle (or ever got enough of this to make into something), I know I can spin thinner stuff and that would be my next project.
*If you want to see some nice fine yarn, Grey Catsidhe at The Ditzy Druid posted a little while ago with her first spinning! It's a nice little batch, and I'm thankful I'm not the only person interested in something so odd and old-fashioned as spinning.

Someday, I do want to dye it. I even got a book on natural dyestuffs and how to use them for Yule a couple years ago, so I'm excited to see how the recipes will turn out! If only I knew what color to choose...

Any ideas of what to make homespun yarn into? I can knit and crochet, but I'm afraid I'll never make enough to actually knit anything more than, say, one mitten. I don't spin very often either... perhaps now I'll have more time for it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

never out of style

So help me, I'm old-fashioned.

Borrowed from "Confessions of a Kitchen Witch", with permission.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

No flavor more exemplifies these days of High Summer than a fresh pesto.

I don't mean the green glop you see spooned onto limp pasta and over-cooked salmon, however. Real pesto is nothing more than a big bunch of fresh, fiercely aromatic basil leaves chopped fine with minced raw garlic and then drizzled with enough extra virgin olive oil to pull everything together. Some fresh-grated Parmesan or Romano cheese adds another intense flavor to the mix, making your plain old anything a meal to remember.

Your local farmer's market is probably the best bet for fresh basil, both for price, quantity, and quality--I got a huge bunch for a buck!

And really, you don't need a blender. I find that for many things in the kitchen, good knife skills will make up for a lack of appliances. A mortar and pestle is a good way to go as well, if you like a smoother sauce (mine is far too small for most practical cookery), and you can show off your impressive arm muscles to friends afterwards ;)

The vibrant green of the basil perfectly complements the greenery all around, soaking up these long hours of sunshine and is one way to make summer intimately yours. It's a different way to experience the season: strong flavors not only taste great, but the basil and garlic are invigorating, bringing new strength to body and spirit. I'm no great shakes at herbalism (not yet, anyway), but I've read a little on elemental correspondences and herbs: namely, hot and cold and wet and dry. From what I recall, basil is hot and wet, nourishing with water while energizing at the same time. Combined with the heat of raw garlic, this makes for a potent potion!

It's easy for me to get caught up in something new and different, but I can only stand any food for so long. An easy solution (and great way to save a flavor of summer for colder months) is to freeze the pesto in little portions for later. *Leave out the cheese before you freeze! It doesn't really freeze well and tastes better fresh anyway.* Using an ice-cube tray lined with squares of plastic wrap or tinfoil is a great way to portion it out and keeps it from getting messy.

So bring out the basil and throw some veggies on the grill; open up a bottle of white wine and enjoy these summer days while we can.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

At least I'm doing something right--right?

I have concluded that the secret to getting physics homework done is a careful balance of coffee and just the right amount of background activity; hence, I am following in the path of college students everywhere and studying at my local coffee shop.

Still need to get a job though... but if it means getting this stuff done in a timely fashion (and therefore a better grade), the cost is worth it.

* * *

We've started going to dojo twice a week now--Monday and Tuesday nights, which means I was a tad sore getting up this morning. Couple that with the fact that I can sleep in any day of the week, while my man S. has an internal clock set rather early and once he's up, he's up.

Thank the gods for coffee.

Since I haven't yet heard anything about summer fencing and it's hard to get myself to the gym these days, this is a great way to keep up something of a routine. It also means I get to study a slightly different system under a different teacher; A. was a Marine in either Korea or Vietnam and brought back karate and sword styles from Okinawa. He is the toughest old guy I have ever met.
However, everyone gets old and although he's a good guy and definitely knows how to fight, his training system has gotten a little silly as of late. I'm not sure how spending two hours balancing on bricks is supposed to help you fight more effectively aside from improving your balance... but it's nice to have something else to do. Sure, I had to learn a couple new blocks and stretch myself in weird ways I never would have guessed on my own, but it was fun to do something new.

I am also beginning the DP work--finally, you say! Well, I've only been a member for a year and a half now, so I figured I'd get started on something. :P (Not sure if my previous blog entries on my altar count towards the requirement or not... ah well.) I'm writing down a little bit on each Holy Day, starting with Samhain. I mean, sure, it's a day associated with death and the ancestors and the thinning veil between the worlds... but it's also when the deer go into rut. Is it then some dark antithesis to Beltane?
Ooh, idea: contrast the paired opposite holidays! See what they have in common and how they differ and all that. It would help make this part of the assignment a little less tedious, no? ^^

And of course, I hope everyone had a lovely Midsummer! I'm celebrating with my Protogrove this coming Sunday, and looking forward to it as always. We're getting some new members too! It's very exciting to see our little group work its way to full Grove-hood :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New happenings

So, after weeks of no working laptop and then the generously lent spare not working, we've finally figured out what's happened: I ordered new adapters, one for each laptop, from the same company. The first one worked, and then I thought something was wrong with the computer as it didn't recognize when it was plugged in. Turns out it my new part had died, and here I was ready to spend lots of money for someone to dig around inside my laptop!
Same thing with the second laptop too, only this time the adapter worked for all of two hours. It was far easier to see this time that the adapter was at fault.

BattDepot, I'm sorry, but this is a pretty major fail.
that's what I get for trying to find the best deal online. faulty parts.

* * *

In other news, I've heard that ADF has a new ArchDruid: this article on The Wild Hunt covers the ceremony nicely. Though the fact that as an organization we're now up to our fifth elected leader in 26 years seems to me a bit strange.

I can appreciate that being the elected leader of any group is a big job, and there's lots of responsibility that goes with the position. Maybe it's silly of me to try to compare our group with what ancient Druids may have done, yet I do have an admittedly romantic vision in my head of the wise old leader, long of beard and robe, who has been leading the Druids for more years than memory bears to serve.

Yet what purpose do these artistic visions really serve? As I said, such notions belong better to fantasy, and it would be unfair to expect our ArchDruids to try and fulfill their roles as we imagine. Nowadays, there are all kinds of things we have to deal with that our ancestors did not: different legal issues, advancing technology, and the fact that we're trying to reconstruct a path that's hard to follow closely due to lack of concrete evidence and writings from those whom we wish to emulate.
Some things are the same though, right? I mean, we're serving the Gods as best we can as well as our communities. Maybe we're not the all-purpose wise guys (lawyer, doctor, historian, and priest wrapped into one), but there's still a calling to follow.

Two nights ago a great thunderstorm came through, and our cat leaped up onto the bed with an inquisitive sound and a bit wide-eyed. "It's ok, buddy," I told him, "Thor's out smashing some giants." Genki settled onto my tummy and I pet him all through the thunder. Now that I think back, it was kind of neat that he purred along with the rumbles from the sky.

* * *

I wish our new ArchDruid all the best, and may all our past leaders live long and healthy lives.

Especially you, Isaac. Stick around a while.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Outdoor frame of mind

Preamble: Banner photo found at, a wonderful site for free photographs with Creative Commons licenses.

* * * * *

Our Protogrove celebrated Beltane a bit late this year, though it really worked out well for everyone involved. It was especially good on my end, as I was able to make it to the annual May Day Parade here in the Cities and then celebrate with the group after final exams had ended.

The parade was wonderful, as usual: this is only my second year attending, and I even got swept up by the end of it! A puppet theater runs the main show, and then after the "official" parade is done other groups can have their go at entertaining and informing the crowds. It was a lot of fun to put on a silly mask and march down the way for a while.
Sunshine came and went, large clouds blown with a fair breeze patterned the ground with cool shade as we watched the colorful beings wander along. This being the Chinese year of the Tiger, there were a good many paper-mache tiger helms and claws on eager kids and adults alike. We growled and roared and breathed along with the grain-bearers, sea creatures, and even a polar bear ambling by.

Afterwards, we gathered in the park and wandered past food vendors and group stands. The pagan community is rather well-represented at the parade, with holistic healers, local pagan groups, and other folks all coming in to stand at a booth and rub shoulders with all manner of folk.

The ceremony started a little later. Woods, Plains, Sky, and River all came to greet us, their heads towering over ours and hands spread wide to enfold the people as we watched. This year's theme was breaking free of all those bonds we have in life: debts, worries, doubts, all those things that weigh us down and can break our spirit. The symbolic death and resurrection was followed by the sun's journey across the lake, and our roars of triumph at its return to our lives.

* * *

Just this last Sunday, we got together for Beltane with my Protogrove. Again, we couldn't have asked for a nicer day to hold it outside--sunshine, new folks, and the usual amazing potluck spread made for a very relaxing afternoon.

And it was when I sat out in the sunshine and looked across the farm fields that I realized just how weird I'd been lately. Weird here is defined as getting so caught up in material wants: new purse, new shoes, drooling over things I could never afford and would probably only use or wear a few times in the summer anyway. Now seriously, I've been spending hours browsing for stuff online, and it's been eating away at my sanity well before final exams were over.

Yet once I get outside--in the car on the way even--it all melted away. That self-imposed burden of "I need that stuff or I will not be happy" was replaced with sunshine, a gentle breeze, and a calm and clear mindset I had not known for too long.

What was going on?

I knew that my newfound obsession with fashion was getting unhealthy, yet somehow I wasn't able to turn away. It got in the way of my studies, free time, and sleep... well, I was very stressed about my final exams, and the internet does offer an easy escape from textbooks and practice tests.

An escape, but no cure.

Going to ritual with everyone--going outside, and being out there away from the city--cleared my mind and calmed me like nothing else did. It reminded me why I had been drawn towards the Pagan path in the first place.

* * *

As a young girl, I remember that our old house was a pale butter yellow; small, but large enough for a family. We were lucky enough to have some wonderful trees on our corner lot: a towering spruce to one side, and two large crabapples which bloomed a deep pink every spring. I remember laying beneath one of them on the grass, just looking at the world around me.

One day my parents decided that I was old enough to go to church with them. I got ready to go to wherever this was, and before we left Dad showed me a magazine lying on the couch. The cover had a dark background with big bold words that he wanted me to read. Now, I've always been good at English, but then I was young enough to just pick out simple words (and even now I sometimes get dyslexic). He pointed at a word, and I said "dog". Dad said, "No, try again" and I said "dog", sure that I was right.
Exasperated Dad then told me "no, it says God. Come on, we're going to church."

and no matter how they tried to teach me that the dogma was right and I had to have faith, I always thought it was weird to sing inside that big dark building. How could God hear through the roof?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oishii ne!

More bacony goodness! :D

This time we're making okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese dish made with shredded cabbage and batter. It's often compared to a pancake or pizza, since you can top it with just about anything and the name means "as you like it".

(Image from Wikipedia)

I first learned about this when I took Japanese in high school--we were very lucky to get something that wasn't Spanish, French, or German to learn--and Nagai-Sensei made sure that we learned all about Japanese culture in addition to grammar, vocabulary, and kanji.

Although I have not yet traveled to Japan, I'm lucky enough to have friends who have been there and know what kinds of ingredients to use. For example, my friend J. pointed out the "right" kind of sauce to get at United Noodle. This is about the largest and most well-stocked Asian food store in the Twin Cities area, so if you haven't been there yet, go check it out. (If you know the area, it's right by the Franklin neighborhood.) Even if you don't know what kinds of groceries to stock up on, you can also grab lunch there which is entirely worth it. You can get soups, donburi (rice-bowls topped with various goodies), and a host of other freshly-made and authentic dishes that won't break your wallet like an expensive specialty restaurant would.

And if nothing else, grab a package of frozen pork buns. One or two can be microwaved or steamed for a great quick lunch at home, work, or school and everyone comments on how good they smell! ;)

Okonomiyaki--my version
Please note that I go by feel on this... so feel free to change amounts so that it works for you. These are approximate amounts!

1 egg
1 cup Flour
Water or broth as needed
1 TB corn starch
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
Bit of thinly sliced onion (optional)

Toppings (up to you, but suggested):
Chopped green onion
Sliced mushrooms--button, portobello, or shiitake all work well
1-2 slices raw bacon or meat of choice
Little shrimps, raw or cooked
Okonomiyaki sauce (Otafuku brand if you can find it, recipe below if not)
Nori (sushi seaweed), finely sliced/shredded/chiffonade
Japanese-style mayo (trust me, "recipe" below)

Heat fry pan to medium-low heat.
Break egg into a bowl and whisk a bit with a fork. Dump in some of the flour and stir until egg is incorporated. Add cornstarch and some water or broth, whisk again. Keep adding flour until you have about 1/2 cup batter. Should be about cake-batter consistency.
Add shredded cabbage and stir. If you want a smaller one, use less cabbage and batter. Otherwise, add more flour and water/broth until there's enough batter to cover the cabbage with some left over to hold everything together. Add thinly sliced onion and stir in if desired.
Pour cabbage mixture into heated pan and spread out with a spatula. A thinner 'cake' will cook faster, but it should still be soft in the middle when done--about 3/4 in. is good.
As first side cooks, top 'cake' with sliced toppings: mushrooms, onion, meat, shrimps, or what have you. Flip when bottom is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Cook until meat is done and batter is set, another 3 to 5 minutes. It's ok if the middle is soft--this isn't a crispy dish.

Transfer to plate, and top with sauce, mayo, and nori if desired. Keep extra sauce handy and enjoy.

Okonomiyaki sauce recipe

Japanese style mayo:
you only need a little for one serving, the rest can be refrigerated for later.
2 big tablespoons regular American mayo (not Miracle Whip! It's different!)
White sugar
Rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Add sugar and vinegar to mayo so that it's sweeter and tangier, kind of like coleslaw dressing. It will get thinner, and that's ok.

And if you're vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, feel free to change up the toppings. I don't know how this would work with gluten-free flours, so let me know how that works! ^^

Friday, May 7, 2010

catching up

Obligatory sentence about how finals are stressful and busy and I'm up to my eyeballs in studying for exams... oh and I don't want to ever hear the word "salinization" again for about the next forty years.

Moving on.

I have had a small epiphany today:
Bacon is proof the Vanir love us and want us to be happy.

The original Ben Franklin quote (or attributed to him) reads 'Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy'. I have also seen its corollary 'Chocolate is proof Goddess loves us and wants us to be happy'.

Therefore, as I made a delicious spin on a BLT for lunch today, I thought of how our dear friend the pig is descent of wild boars, which are sacred animals to Frey, Freyja, and probably Nerthus too. If we're eating a sacred animal, why else would it taste so good except that They wanted us to enjoy it?
(and yes, I always say 'thank you' to those creatures that died for my meal!)

BLT Variation with flatbread

2 slices bacon
bit of thinly sliced onion
a couple sliced mushrooms
some spinach
fresh snow peas
one flatbread or pita, sliced in half

If you have a cast-iron pan, now is the time to use it. In any case, set the pan over low heat and cook the bacon strips, pouring out the extra grease as you do. Cook however long you like (I like my bacon still chewy, can't handle the really crispy kind) and set aside on a paper towel.
In the still-warm pan, add the onion and mushrooms and cook slowly until golden and softened.
Assemble sandwich: one half of flatbread, spinach, bacon slices, cooked onions and mushrooms, and some snow peas for crunch. Top with other piece of flatbread.
Transfer sandwich to pan and warm over low heat for a minute or two per side to warm the sandwich through and give the bread a little color. Putting a small lid on the sandwich as you do this helps it stay together.
Enjoy with more snow peas on the side.

And for goodness' sake, please use real bacon. Anything as thin as a piece of paper or made out of turkey is meant to be crumbled over a baked potato and that's it.

Add cheese if you like. I thought that with cooking everything in bacon grease, my lunch would be rich enough. Though having all those snow peas--fresh, green, crunchy, and very flavorful--balanced out the bacon nicely.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On a lighter note, this makes me happy.



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

getting a bigger view of things

there's so much I should be doing.

I should be studying harder for finals. I should be working on my GIS projects and my hydrology paper. I should be meditating, and working on getting that into a daily practice. I should be jogging more often. I should be working harder to find a summer job. I should be spending more time with my pets. I should be spending more time with those few friends I seem to have nowadays. I should be switching into "responsible go-to person" mode.

all the "shoulds" rear their heads, and all I want to do is run away.
All my life, a part of me has felt that I don't need to be locked into human society and all the things I ought to do--I can just pack a few essential things and go live in the woods, wild and content.

Rather than having abstract problems like homework, finances, other people, or what to wear today to worry about, I'd spend all day tracking a deer with a crude bow or simple spear. It wouldn't matter what day it was--today is gathering day, cooking day, resting day, making clothes day. Preparing for winter would be work enough.

and yet.

Is it selfish to wish for such things? Wouldn't I run into other people eventually? Wouldn't I get lonely, need help, go nuts and hear voices in my head?
is it weakness to want escape? I am not brave, though I've dreamed plenty of being the hero, of coming to the rescue and saving the day.
i'm just lazy then. want all the rewards with little to no work.

I kind of feel like scum.
(this is not a revelation; only a reminder that comes to me sometimes and reminds me that all I do is dream.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

growing wings

months ago, one of the blackbelts at the dojo (with whom I get along very well) suggested that it would be a good goal if I could do twenty push-ups by March.

I'm a month late, but I finally did it.
(Of course, S. will tease me over the fact that they're not "real" push-ups--my nose does not touch the floor--but I can't do those yet without falling down anyway.)

Generally at the gym, I start out on a stair or striding machine for 25 minutes, and then sit-ups and push-ups before jogging/walking on the track for 10 minutes. Today was my return after a two-week hiatus; now that a huge bundle of stress is gone for the moment, I'm able to get back to my new routine for the semester.
As expected, I did more walking than running on the track today, but I found that rather than an easy jog I wanted to run. I wanted to feel that power of floating over the earth and feeling like I could do that forever.

My new goal is to build stamina so I can get that feeling. It's a smooth strength, a feeling of power in your limbs and effortless speed.

Next week: fifteen minutes on the track, even if I spend half of it walking.

I will fly.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekend Adventures

Well, if it weren't for that zoology exam on Friday morning, I would have gotten away with a 3 day weekend. Still, I'm not complaining about a 2.5 day one.

I originally thought that our second midterm for the lecture section of the class would be as surprisingly difficult as the first, but two things worked in my favor. Firstly, I found that reading the textbook for a couple hours before the exam is a great way to study, and secondly, that our professor had listened to our request for less fill-in-the-blank and more multiple-choice questions. (Because when your exam covers Phyla Annelida to Amphibia, that's a lot of body plans and body parts and functions to know for one exam!)

After that, I got to spend my day chilling at home with the pets. Genki does seem a bit calmer now that he's been snipped--the poor guy finally lost his guy-bits on Wednesday--except for when he pounced on S.'s feet last night.
I'm rather pleased with how the day went in terms of helping others though, which is a bit unusual for me. My little sister was having some relationship issues and then my friend J. wasn't feeling very good after a rotten week, so I was really happy that I had helped them feel better. Once I got home from the pet food run with J., I lit my main candle and asked the Kindreds to continue helping my friends and loved ones, and to give them strength when they needed it. I sent out some love and joy for them, and it felt really good.

I guess it's a good thing I decided to stay home this weekend. My hydrology field methods class has one required weekend field trip, and I had originally wanted to go on this weekend's trip to the North Shore, which would mean that my guy S. couldn't really make it to the antique show in my neck of the woods today. So after ruminating and getting all worked up--I had been looking forward to this trip all semester--I decided to just stay home this weekend and go on a lesser adventure next weekend.
Yet things seem to be turning out well. Last night I made a pound cake according to the recipe recently posted at "a yankee in a southern kitchen":
Even though our oven is very old and it's hard to tell exactly what temperature it's set to, the cake turned out beautifully. Moist and dense with an aroma of almonds; makes for a lovely weekend breakfast. (I also learned that it's ok to run out of butter, and use 16 T of butter-flavored shortening and 1 stick of butter!)

Today, we're heading out to the antique show and meeting a friend there too, with plans to hit up the local Italian restaurant for lunch. After dropping things off at my place, we'll then proceed to a yarn sale and I'm picking up some skeins for my mom, as she'd requested I do so and is providing a bit of cash for the trip. ^^

Which reminds me--yesterday with J., we saw some garage sales and couldn't resist checking them out. We didn't find much at the first one, but the second yielded some excellent finds: she got a bike for $10! and I found a ready-to-knit blanket kit, with all the yarn and instructions. I think it'll make a nice baby blanket for someone someday, with soft acrylic yarn in pleasant pastels. And we did manage to fit the bike into the backseat of J.'s car, but only after I took off the front wheel. *So very glad* I left the small wrenches in my purse from taking my bike apart and bringing it up here from home! :)

And then it will be Sunday, and I won't have to clean out the gerbil cage 'cause I already did it yesterday! And then I can sit down to a nice ham sandwich for lunch, and thank the Gods for my weird, wonderful life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

way up in the atmosphere

Spring is always a weird time of year for me. This spring isn't too bad so far, but I know the end of the semester is going to be really tough. Two tests this week, two next week, and an 8 page paper and take-home final exam to finish by the time May starts. Then I have three more final exams, each spaced a day apart.
I'm just incredibly grateful for the reward at the end: our Protogrove is holding Beltane a bit late this year, and we're scheduled to celebrate after all my tests are over and done. And we're planning on going to a park for the ritual too! I can't wait, Beltane is one of my favorite holidays ^^ Hail Freyja!

In other news, my atmosphere class is finally getting to the interesting stuff--storms. We had our first spring rain a few days ago, complete with the rumble of thunder. I can feel the weather turn, and it's not hard to see how the wind changes, clouds move in, and you can feel the moisture in the air. Having the scientific "why" behind all these weather changes is nice. I like the more complete understanding, however basic the class may be.
Turns out that warm fronts and cold fronts both bring rain, but they do so differently: a cold front is a mass of colder, drier air moving in with a snub-nosed shape to replace warm, wet air. When they get together, sudden storms and heavy rain can appear. On the other hand, a warm front is warm, wet air in a long sloping wedge coming in to replace cooler air. This creates lower clouds which can take all day to form, and brings the long, soaking rains.
Then my mind turns to the Gods, and how both Thor and Freyr are said to be patrons of good weather, despite Thor's reputation as a storm-god. So of course I've been associating Thor with cold fronts and Freyr with warm fronts! Call me odd, but it makes sense.

I like to think that Freyr has a hand in weather that people like: warm, sunny days, gentle rains that help crops grow, and quiet, starry nights. Thor is said to be a friend to all the common folk, including farmers, so I can see how He can be seen to bring good weather as well. Given His hammer and temper, though, I'd think that His hand isn't quite so gentle when it comes to shaping winds and clouds ;) Though the cool, clear skies after a storm are certainly welcome in the heat of summer.

Just don't ask me about occluded fronts. I still haven't quite gotten those figured out yet.


So as I finish this post, I find that the dark clouds which appeared earlier this morning have dumped rain on us during the course of class. Now, cool air shows puddles and the lightest drizzle falls--spring is getting the jump-start it needs now. Rain to fuel the plants, to bring the awakening of Nerthus and all the world's greening.

Can't wait for summer.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Yup, I jumped right on the new template bandwagon. Props to the folks who developed these and still let us customize the snot out of our blogs. ^^ Cheers!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fun in class

I like science, as a whole. Just thought I'd throw that out there in case it hasn't been figured out yet ;)

Having said that, it's awfully hard to pay attention to folks talking shop in a branch other than what you happen to specialize in or hold a great interest for...

sigh. No wonder it's hard to get specialists from different fields to collaborate on something--it's incredibly easy to stick with your own little slice of something to the exclusion of all else. I guess hydrology isn't my field of choice.

One presentation down, four to go. Good thing I only have this class once a week.

Monday, March 15, 2010

happy spring!

Wow, what a great ritual! ^^

Due to scheduling limitations, we celebrated Ostara a week before equinox this year, and it turned out to be great. There were all kinds of new people, the potluck had many wonderful dishes to share, and the ritual itself went smoothly as could be wished for.

I really hope our first-timers become regulars and good friends--some lovely discussions were had, and I'd like to get to know everyone better as time goes on. We've also had a good input of fresh ideas, which should liven things up a bit! Outdoor rituals are what we're aiming for now that the snow is gone; a park somewhere that's easy for everyone to get to would be ideal. Plus it's always good to add new skills to our small group and learn from each other. I'm definitely trying out P.'s farl recipe when I get a chance! Comment if you'd like to try it too--they were soft and warm and wonderful with a bit of real butter and jam. Very comforting and homey.

Perhaps I'll try them out while I'm back in WI for the last bit of spring break. The weather's taken a chilly turn, though it was sunny and warm for our ritual. Even though we held it indoors, it was nice to have the windows down on the way up and back!

Like last year, I led the Ostara rite; it was simple enough to update the old ritual for easier reading and a bit of polish. I've also found a new prayer (browsing on Wikipedia of course) that fits my Germanic/Norse focus nicely.

Hail to Day!
Hail the sons of Day,
and Night and her daughter now.
Look on us here
with loving eyes
that waiting we victory win.

Hail to the Gods!
Ye Goddesses, hail,
and all the generous Earth.
Give to us wisdom
and goodly speech
and healing hands, life-long.

This prayer hails from the Poetic Edda; it's found in the Codex Regius. Google the first few lines to find the Wiki page, and there's also some good links on that page for more information.
I like it--it's a good all-purpose prayer, and it's nice to say when the sun is shining and I feel its strength flowing to all the light touches. Sowilo! ^^

speaking of which, I should get back to meditating regularly. Might as well start while I'm on vacation and have relatively little on my plate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mushroom madness

Wow. You know you're a nerd when going to the local mycology club meeting creates such excitement that you want to join right off the bat! ^^

I happen to be this manner of nerd; aside from my addictions to fantasy, myth, and pen-and-paper RPGs, my love of discovery leads me to the study of science. As an undergraduate at college, I find that my major--Environmental Science--suits me particularly well. I get to study a wide range of topics, including soil science, the atmosphere, hydrology, arboriculture (tree care), organic farming, and many others, and take them all together to find out what I can do best to help out our Mother Earth.

This spring semester, I was lucky enough to secure a small grant for undergraduate research. The topic? Collecting fungal sporocarps (mushrooms) in an oak savanna from both burned and non-burned areas, extracting DNA from them, replicating a small portion of that DNA, digest it with an enzyme, and then sort the fragments with an agar gel. Here's a picture of some bands on a gel:

The leftmost column is the "ladder", which shows bands of DNA at various sizes. The gel will allow small fragments to travel the furthest, while larger ones are trapped in the gel matrix early on; the ladder runs from biggest at top to smallest at bottom. The columns to the right of the ladder are examples of bands from different DNA samples. One can compare the bands to those in the ladder and infer their size, which means you can identify different DNA sources by their characteristic bands in the gel. This is what I'm doing with those mushrooms.

To supplement the gel method, I'm also learning to identify the mushrooms morphologically (by physical features, such as size, color, shape, etc). Good thing we took so many pictures! I'll load a couple in a later post, as some of them are quite striking.

In any case, I've become very interested in mycology, or the study of mushrooms, to the point where I'm considering incorporating them into my studies at grad school (once I pick some to apply to and actually start applying...). In order to get my foot in the mycological door, I searched around online for professors who focus on mushrooms. With one thing and another Google search, I found that there are other silly folks like me around who actually get together in the name of mushrooms! There's even a North American Mycological Association--who knew.

So after class and my usual Monday night gym time, I went over to where the local group was meeting and--suprise!--the room is loaded with people. Our guest speaker was talking about ethnomycology, or how indigenous peoples incorporate mushrooms into their lives; uses religious, culinary, medical, and even economical were discussed. I even got a free issue of Fungi magazine :)

Now that you're convinced I've gone off the deep end (or have been experimenting with 'magic mushrooms') think about this: almost every plant around has a symbiotic relationship with fungi. These mycorrhizal fungi grow with plant roots, and provide the lion's share of water and nutrients in exchange for sugars made by the plant. So next time you see a mushroom sprouting by a tree, take a second to thank it for helping that tree survive!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Well, the time is soon coming for our Protogrove's Ostara rite, and it looks like I get to lead again. (I wrote the ritual for last year, so I just dusted that off, polished it up, and we're ready to go for this year). As the local Norse-centered member, it's kind of fun to be the local "expert"; not that I actually am, but it is my area of focus and I can at least tell you where to look for more information.

As it is, I've managed to head over to my local Pagan supply shop and pick up some new candles and incense. This has also led to some de-cluttering of my altar... like finally removing all that broken glass. ahem. Safety hazards aside, the melting snow and sunny days are heightening my hopes for a good Spring and growing luck and good things for this coming year. It feels like troubles are melting with the snow... now that would make for an interesting ritual.

Idea: create a snowman or sculpture representing something you wish to be rid of. Make sure to build it out in a sunny area where it will melt faster!
Attach or place within a list of things or symbolic items (like cigarettes, poker chips, etc.) that one wishes to be rid of in the coming months.
While the sculpture melts, record your active progress in a journal. See what you're doing to resolve the issue, and compare it with how fast the melting occurs. It might not be possible for you to stop doing whatever bad habit by the time the snow melts, but it's a good start!

Note to self: need some chocolate eggs for ritual. Can't forget those! :)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Altars over time: Part 2

Despite calling this "Part 2", there were a couple steps between what was previously posted and my altar's current setup. That being said, here's the photo of ye olde altar at my new apartment:

I have added some dried sprays of leaves (oak and rowan) living in my tankard for the tree, a vase of dried flowers from this past autumn, Tarot cards, a drop spindle, an in-progress wand, and a hankie full of shavings from making the wand. It seemed better to save those shavings for a future spell or blessing of some sort than throwing them out.
There's also an oil warmer in the upper left, which currently has some scented wax that melts down and makes my room smell like clean laundry ^^ That scent and the white color remind me of spring.
Alas, I have no candle to place in the vine-carved holder, so for now it's helping to prop up one of the Tarot cards. I'm sure the right candle will come along eventually.
You might notice a bit of broken glass in the upper right corner... that used to be a seven-day candle and was part of my largest/most powerful spell-working to date. The glass is there as a reminder of the true power words can have and that every action has consequences, regardless of intentions. That particular spell may have served its purpose, but I must still learn to wield such power wisely and only in times of great need. (The other reason it's still there is I haven't gotten around to cleaning it up or replacing it with something else. Less noble, but just as true.)

Otherwise, most of the elements found on the altar's previous incarnation are still there, if moved or covered by something else at the moment. I think with the warming days and change of life, my altar will soon change again as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Altars over time: Part 1

I saw this thread on the ADF Ning site for a while now--basically a show-and-tell of personal altars and how they change and develop over time. Having finally dug out my camera, I can now start my own little story ^^

Going clockwise from lower left corner:
The white candle in the small tray is for the Ancestors, lit in remembrance of my family (both blood and spiritual). The two round brown things are buckeyes, which I picked up as a freshman on campus. I liked having them in my pocket just to run my fingers over (and later on noticed the resemblance to guy parts... but that's ok. Somehow I doubt Frey minds ^^).
The oil lamp in the upper left is reserved for the dark half of the year, which I define as when nights are longer than days. Since I got this all set up over a year ago in September or October, it wasn't quite the Fall Equinox by then, hence the oil lamp with (fake) yellow flowers in the lower right for the light half of the year. The oil lamps also serve as a kind of offering to the Alfs and Wights, earthen spirits. Back to the top center is a green candle (scented of kitchen herbs, as I recall) for both the Tree and the Gods. Its carved soapstone holder has a decorative vine motif which I thought fitting as well.
In the center is a green pair of chopsticks crossed with an Irish flute my aunt brought back for me from her trip to the Fair Isle. I can play a little, but I'm better with a recorder... generally, this one stays on the altar.
To the upper right are a mug which once held a vanilla-scented blue candle. It looked quite nice there, was another thing to light on fire (hehehe) and I had a vague hope of burning out all the wax in order to use the mug. Haven't gotten that last bit out of the bottom yet though...
And the tray next to that holds some looseleaf chai tea that I'd rather keep and use as incense than throw away after spilling it.
The very center is the offering bowl, where bits of food, flowers, and small burnables go.

At the time I had this setup, I was living in a different apartment than I am now. Back then I was able to bury my offerings in a corner of the backyard and scrub out the offering bowl with soil. It was also easier to light candles and incense more often, and I was able to smudge with a sage stick when needed.

Whew. If you read this far, congrats! ^^
Next week: new apartment and new setup.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Unexpected, yet welcome change

With all the stress and bs my guy and I have been going through lately, I've noticed that the lack of physical activity is having an effect on my waistline.

Related to this is the fact that due to differing opinions and stress, S. has decided that he's done with everything dojo. Given that it was such a huge part of his life before this, it really saddens me that he's willing to throw it all out the door over a poorly salvaged talk. It doesn't help that he's taking this whole thing extremely seriously and personally, and as such can be very pessimistic sometimes... I just hope things will turn out all right and he will decide that maybe dojo isn't worth just throwing away.

That being said, we've stopped going to dojo on Tuesday and Wednesday nights these past couple of weeks and dangit, I had to do something. Since S. has a class that runs pretty dang late on Mondays, I decided that tonight I would haul my sorry behind up to the local university gymnasium and spend some time working out.
I did have some misgivings about it, especially when I was home looking for suitable clothes to bring along. yet something in me said "You know what? Just go there and do it." I'm not quite sure where that little voice came from, but I'm extremely grateful it came when it did!

I started out on a stair machine for 25 minutes, and then did some reps on a couple different machines for upper body strength interspersed with my almost-regular set of sit-ups. I think I spent about 45 minutes there, and by the end I was feeling energetic and confident (both qualities which have been sadly lacking lately). This is good, and I intend it to continue--along with Tuesday nights at the dojo, hopefully I can stay in better shape and keep on feeling like at least something is working out as it should.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seeing the silver lining

With all the snow we've been having, it's amazing that I see next to nothing as far as snowmen, igloos, etc. around here. You'd think a college campus would have some more creative artwork around here... which is why I bugged out of work early on Friday to make one.
Although I don't have a picture for you at the moment, what I made is an homage to this (click photo to see the whole thing):


(Calvin and Hobbes are copyrighted to Bill Watterson, of course!)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Toadstools and butterflies

So I'm at work right now, and I have recently discovered that the cure for my recent boredom with the daily routine is a healthy dose of Keats. In particular, his Ode to Psyche and the subsequent reading of Psyche and Eros' myth has really lifted my spirits.

Although I've been in a very nice and stable relationship with my current guy for over a year now, these past couple days I've been in an incredible funk. School isn't going as smoothly as I'd like (I have to take two physics courses and a "career planning course" before they let me graduate--meaning I'm taking an introductory physics course this summer. Have I mentioned that I don't like physics?), I have a court date coming up soon, I have to go buy ink to print out everything I need for said court date, and I really don't like being poor anymore. Granted, I can afford rent and food... but that's it. I'm really itching to get a job and do something useful with my time rather than prepare for being useful...

But as I look over my mushroom pictures and try to identify these varied specimens to species, I wandered over to Wikipedia to see what I could see. And lo, there upon the page stood a link to the Odes written by Keates, whereupon I did click that link of cerulean shade and wast transported into a faery-realm, little brooks hidden in the forest shade burbling quietly by.

Wow. it's been far too long since I've been exposed to good poetry. ^^

So please please please read up on Keats' Odes, and read the story of Psyche and Eros so we can discuss it! It's so romantic and sweet and amazing that a story such as this hasn't made it to the big screen--I'd *love* a movie or animated feature of it. I wonder what Hayao Miyazaki could do with it... ~giggle~
No really, it's a story where they fall it love and it *works*. There's trials and heartache but the happy ending leaves me thinking of butterflies (which are associated with dear Psyche anyway); so light and beautiful and heartlifting.
I've been getting so cynical lately... this is the fresh air I needed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

a good hurt

well, I guess going to dojo is working out pretty well so far... the guys there are nudging me to work harder so I can get to the next rank (in this case, green belt). I'm pretty happy to hear that--it's encouraging to know that if I work hard enough I can do it ^^ Though this is going to mean not landing on my wrists during falls anymore... and a host of other things, too. Though I think the bruises will be worth it.
Yesterday, we went to sword class and were surprised to find folks there to practice with! One of the black-belts (D.) is just getting into sword, and the other we normally practice with has bad joints, so bad enough weather means he might not show, but he did. J. (dojo leader) also was there, and we practiced some new kata from a friend who trains in Japan in a different sword style than we normally do.

Maybe I should explain what I mean when I say "sword class". When we do 'sword', we are practicing kenjutsu (, which is using a katana (full-size curved Japanese sword, often called "samurai swords") to cut and stab at imaginary opponents. Other flavors of this include iaido, the art of drawing smoothly, and iaijutsu. The difference between a -do and a -jutsu practice is that "do" translates to "way" or "path", and is more an art form that arose from the practical dispatching of enemies that a -jutsu more closely resembles.

Confused yet? ;)

Anyway, we put on hakama (, which in this picture are the stripey pants (ours are black). Yes, they are pants--heavily pleated and wide-legged, and then the sword goes under the obi (wide belt) worn just underneath. The swords we use are usually iai (hence iai-do and iai-jutsu), which are blunted katana used for practice. Sometimes folks bring their cutting blades to practice on sheets of paper, but that's not very often.

On a related note, I suspect Tyr has been poking at me lately.

In addition to increased martial arts practice, things have come to a point where I have a court hearing soon: hopefully I can convince the judge that there's sufficient evidence to warrant the restraining order I applied for a couple weeks ago. I won't get into too much detail here, but with the combination of justice and martial aspects increasing in my life... I need His help.
And in order to get that, I need to develop a better relationship with Him. I really haven't had much of one with Him in the past, but I think maybe They think I'm ready for one. Considering that in the past I mostly revere the Vanir--Nerthus, Njord, Freyr, Freyja, Heimdall--this marks a big change in my life.

I've always thought of the Vanir as more earthy, primal, and defensive Gods, while the Aesir are more closely related to society and human things, like law, war, marriage, and all the ties of relationships (be they business, friends, enemies, colleagues, etc.). So I guess I'm growing up, as I become introduced to and better able to handle such adult tasks as conducting my own legal affairs and graduating from college and getting the proverbial "real" job.

This too hurts, though--going through such messy things as getting a restraining order instead of being able to resolve the issue peacefully and leaving my childhood behind for good in a way... it's hard to let go. Yet as this all happens, I'm finding that my potential is shining through and that dangit, I'm *capable*. These challenges are what I need to grow (there's Nauthiz again!) and realize my limits as I do.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Life is what happens when you're making other plans

In short, change is difficult.

Then again, I'm at a bit of a crux; winter break is ending and a new semester at college beginning, so I'll be busy finding textbooks, going to class, and re-organizing my schedule to handle new classes, different work hours, what I'm even doing at my job, dojo, and somehow find time to still hang with friends and not turn into a hermit :P
I guess I just have to take things as they come.
Granted, this is usually how I run and it's served me well. I like having rather flexible plans, since it means if one thing doesn't work out my day is not ruined (see post title lol). The downside is that I tend to let some things slide, especially if I'm trying to start a new habit. I read somewhere that it takes a month for a given behavior to become a fixed habit, but I still have trouble adding something like doing so many sit-ups to my schedule so that I do them automatically. It takes a lot of prodding from others for me to remember and then do it... and somehow I keep relating this to the rune nauthiz.

As a (generally) Norse/Germanic-centered Pagan, I've found that studying the Elder Futhark has been both fun and informative. (however, like my Tarot deck, I turn to them when I really need guidance and/or answers to existential questions. Read that as "not often".) It's interesting to see how the runes apply to my life. In this case, nauthiz or "need-fire" seems to manifest in my ability or lack thereof to be a self-starter on whatever projects need done.
Nauthiz, the "n" rune, represents the fire within us that burns when we most need its power and is often likened to the bow-drill method of starting fire; all the friction generating heat and the life-giving flame when we most need fire to survive.
In my case, I tend to be most energetic and efficient when something absolutely needs to happen (otherwise I don't work at my full potential). For instance, when there's an emergency I'm up and at the ready and I feel like I'm doing something worth every second of my time and energy. in other cases, I procrastinate, take things easy and work at my own pace.
Maybe this means I should be a firefighter or something... in some kind of position where my help is needed and they need it now. It's how I feel most useful, I guess. Plus I admit that getting to be the hero for once gives a great boost to my self-esteem and ego.
Which reminds me...

When I was very young, there was this boy living next door that I would sometimes play with. I liked going to his backyard, since it was much larger than ours and had a big trampoline too. Well, B. was a couple years older than I, and once when we were playing he was bouncing all over the backyard fighting imaginary monsters and "saving" me, the princess. After a while I got bored sitting around and felt that it wasn't fair for me to just sit around while he did all the fun stuff. I then walked up to him, told him so and asked why I couldn't save him sometimes too.
He said it was his rules and if I wasn't going to play by his rules then we wouldn't be friends anymore.
I said fine, and left.
We didn't play again after that, and I haven't heard much of him since.

So I guess the point of all this is that yes, I'm contrary, and I like to think I'm good in a pinch. Hopefully I'll actually be able to start doing things like meditating and sit-ups more regularly this semester and still keep my grades up. Balance will be good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


well, I'm only at work for an hour today between errands and such, so I'll have to make sure to post about this in its entirety later.

It seems like reading A Book of Five Rings and going to dojo more often are coming together in a good way. Although a white belt (beginner/n00b/etc.) I'm starting to get to the point where more confidence will really help me to do everything effectively (as in not be afraid when some huge muscly dude comes at me). Plus, going to dojo more often means more exercise ^^ along with helping me stick to doing this over the long term. It's hard to get motivated to practice something every day; at best I'll go every 2-3 days usually, but this should help develop some constancy in my habits. I really have been wanting to be better about doing the things I ought to regularly, and I feel that with going to dojo and studying this book I can do that better.
More on this later!

Friday, January 8, 2010

a sticky situation

y'know, I think I've been so caught up in life and all the trappings of a Pagan path that it's now time to re-examine why I turned to this path in the first place.

The prompt for this is Musashi's Book of Five Rings.
This week at dojo, instead of practicing kata or learning/reviewing different holds, throws, kicks, etc, we sat down in front of J. (our dojo's founder and leader) and listened as he told us stories of his life, occasionally bringing them around to his real point: the deeper side of martial arts practice. J., before his strokes, was a martial artist extraordinare (or so they tell me, and who am I to question it? They speak with knowing, if that makes sense) and can still bring anyone to their knees if they get close enough to him. Please imagine, if you will, a rather small man in his sixties; gray hair, surprisingly unwrinkled face, and in a wheelchair. It's amazing what a simple wrist lock can do, and word is his grip strength is like an iron vise.

Anyway, our illustrious leader slowly told us how he was raised Catholic and questioned it far too much for his family's comfort. He also spoke of ki, and told us how he helped a friend avoid surgery by helping to lower his fever using ki. (I'm don't think J. is aware of reiki and all the new-age fervor over it, but I'm sure he knows more than most about ki and its use.) This led into some key phrases in Japanese that everyone, regardless of rank or time spent at the dojo, must learn, remember, and learn from.
And for once I feel that learning Japanese was actually useful!
These phrases have much to do with a book written by an old Japanese swordsman, Musashi Miyamoto. He's worth looking up and learning more about. As he grew old, Musashi retired to a cave to write this book: Go Rin No Sho.
A Book of Five Rings outlines his view on strategy, which applies not only to single combat but can also encompass larger battles. This relates not only to combat with sword, but how to be... well, I don't know yet. I've only read the first two chapters (out of five, hence the "five rings") and this kind of book will take a very long time to really understand enough that I can explain it effectively.

I've read enough to pick up a few basic things. Firstly, I must remember that this was written back when Japan was unifying under shogun rule (1500-1600ish) and that definitely colors the contents.

no. I'm sidestepping it.

it speaks of selflessness. and this is something I've always had some trouble with. whether it be giving yourself over to God/Jesus, or working for the betterment of your lord (as seen in Musashi's work) with no thought of yourself... I've always kind of thought that if I don't take care of myself, what use will I be to anyone? and do I really want to dedicate my whole being to this? I'm always questioning and that doesn't go well with completely letting go. I think about everything and I flip around from activity to activity, I'm a scatterbrain really. I have lots of trouble with dedicating myself to anything more specific than keeping our Mother Earth healthy. I mean, yes, I'm an environmental science major in college, but I'm still mulling over what *exactly* to do with it when I graduate. I've had thoughts of grad school and working for the Park Service but it's hard to choose because it means (or at least a part of me thinks it means) that once I do that, I'll either have to stick with that to make anything out of myself or I'm stuck with it.

I'm also introverted, and do love me some quiet time where I can wander around and explore without the weight of a schedule or obligations holding me back. This is why I turned to a nature-worshipping path: I feel a kindred with all those wild creatures, who live by their own rhythm. They live and hunt and feed and escape death with such grace that it astounds me.

and yet.

I'm human, and stuck in a human world. Granted, I like it here most of the time. it's a cozy little cage at that. I wonder if there really is anything more than breathing and living right now; I don't hold with anyone's theories or ideas of life after death as I haven't been there yet.
plus I don't think I like the idea of being a cog in a great machine. far too orderly. My life has what purpose I give it, and has meaning that others attach to it: I'm daughter and lover and stranger and classmate and that one wierd girl from way back when that you'd rather forget about.

This book is so very dedicated, so serious and precise and it boggles me. When you read it at first, the phrases are vague and then you start to think and when I think about it enough I can see what he means, if only a glimpse. it's hard to put into words or action as my Japanese-style sworsdmanship is just this side of nil, and I'm not terribly prone to doing the same thing day in and day out so that in twenty years I might get a glimpse of wisdom or a single word of recognition. So many paths espouse doing one thing over and over and over... like saying a mantra or doing so many sit-ups for that perfectly flat tummy or doing the same kick over and over and over until you can react without thinking and do it perfectly.

I guess I'm too attached to thinking.