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.