10/12/2011 Work From Home

Hello- I am in “brain-free” mode today. As if I weren’t already thrown off by the long weekend (it always takes me all week to figure out what day it is when they throw in Monday- it FEELS like Tuesday to me today!), I also have a head-cold. This is entirely expected because it’s not really surprising to get a cold after a large event like Twilight Covening. Large crowds offer your body a selection of new bacteria and virus from which to choose, and when you throw in less sleep, lots of energy changes- colds are a common effect. A cold is your body’s way of saying “Slow down, take a day or two off” whether you have the time to do so or not. Oh well. So I’m on the tea and broth regimen, and often realizing I’m either not as profound as I thought I was, or actively dozing off.

The weather couldn’t have been lovelier. The weather has been chilly and the color has come out. It may be peak color here in Southern NH- it certainly was gorgeous down in western Massachusetts, on their Mount Washington. I’d packed for the chilly weather we’d been having: wool skirts, flannel slips, long sleeved blouses and shawls (as well as feather beds and furs to sleep in), extra hats, gloves, and a coat I never put on. While that first night was chilly (not that I didn’t close the window), the rest of the days the weather was, I think, in the 70s. It was actively hot in the sun, and we had most of our classes outside under the trees. At night it got down into the 60s or 70s- really great weather, especially compared to other TCs I’ve attended (34º at night- with rain). The moon was nearly full (I think it’s full today or yesterday), and the color was incredible- the view across the lake was inspiring. I am not sure if it was different up here- but when I got home, the front door was standing open. During the chill I’d reminded John not to take down the screen door until after Indian Summer came- as it always does- and we’d be happy to be able to have the air at that point. It’s cooled off again, so I think we can take the screen door down now.

I think I mentioned last week that I was packing up for Twilight. I tried to leave by noon, had notes to my self posted around with lists of what I was trying to get done first, ending with “Leave Noon, no, really!” Google maps said it was a nearly four hour trip, and I don’t read road signs well after dark, and didn’t want to take any chances. (In previous years I have gotten there after dark and took extra time because of getting lost.) I did manage to get out by one. But as I went through Peterboro realized that I was thirsty, so I stopped at the Shaws there to pick up some tea and lemonade. Also Cider. I’d brought an unbaked loaf of my Frigga Bread with me for breakfast Friday morning, but hadn’t made anything for the potluck for the leaders Thursday night. I was lucky and Cider was on sale. Afterwards I offered it around to my clan members. Oddly, there was some to bring home. Apparently most people like coffee. At any rate, when I got to the checkout, I couldn’t find my debit card. I used a check, and tried to think where I had seen it last. Apparently when Kat and I had been out on Tuesday, we’d stopped for a drink at Wendy’s and I’d been so amused by the performance of the young man making the Raspberry Iced Tea (shaken- very vigorously, not stirred), I’d driven off without the card. Willow drove over to Peterboro and gave me her card, then went back to collect mine. (I called them, and they were willing to let me have her pick it up.) Got to remember to switch back. It’s not like they aren’t on the same account, but one does want to know which PIN to use.
THAT cost me an hour, and then more slow going- I got to Keene about 4. After a a lot of police allowing one lane of alternating traffic, I passed them loading a crumpled car onto a tow truck. I figured it was that or construction. But since sunset is around quarter past six, and it was supposed to take nearly three more hours (Keene’s about an hour out for me), I was skating on the edge of not driving in the dark. I actually did get in about quarter to seven and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Jane always organizes a pot luck barbecue for the leaders who come in the day before everyone else. There was steak and chicken and sausage, as well as salads and other side dishes, and lots of relaxing chatter. I was not the only one arriving after a long drive and serious packing. The next day we discussed the upcoming rituals, and around four the non-leaders started to arrive.
I’m not into ritual as much as the Earth Spirit folk are. I like Twilight Covening because it gives me a chance to give a weekend long seminar on one subject. For me, rituals (as they are done in the neo-pagan community) are artificial and external. I like making every part of ordinary life holy. But what works for one doesn’t work for another. Some people live for this weekend, and I will keep my mouth shut. In between “clan sessions” where each group splits up to study or explore one thing with their leader(s), there are other rituals for everyone. Since there are 200 people there (about 50 of whom are leaders and assistants), they have learned to send people through serially different stations, as the SCA or Live Action Role Playing groups do with quests, or they have several at once, and let people go from one to another. The opening and closing Circles are with everyone (a VERY large circle). At the opening circle people each present a vegetable and say who they are and where they came from. At the closing circle, each clan does a brief presentation to show what they’ve done. Friday night there’s a Releasing Fire (I threw in the introduction to RunValdr between opening and Releasing). Saturday night they have three rituals- Trance Dance, Clear Space and Dream Circle. Sunday night, at around 6, everyone meets and shares a soup made from all the offerings made at the opening. Then the various NPCs go out to their stations, and the others go from station to station having symbolic experiences. This year it was about water. I was really surprised that it didn’t rain. At one on Monday there’s the closing circle with a Spiral Dance, and we all dash for our cars.
At the releasing fire (they’ve sped it up recently by making it multiple fires- at one you dance around and build up your energy, another for something else, and finally two (so two people can go at once) where you toss the little fetish you have charged with something you want to get rid of into the fire. They had a lovely lane of luminaria leading to the fires, and it ended by the lakes edge. I decided to release whatever made me resist their style, and I really felt my mood lift after chucking the stick in the fire. Then when I got to the lake, I burst into tears, so I figure something happened – even if I don’t know what. (I had neither broken toe nor bum knee this year as an excuse not to hobble down to the ritual.)
On the other hand, since I do generally sleep 8-9 hours a night, I was nearly out after the leader meeting at 7 on Saturday, so since they didn’t need me down at the rituals, I chucked it in, and went to bed early (pausing to write in my journal and put the names on the RunValdr Certificates).
As I said, I did the basic introduction Friday evening, Saturday morning we went through the runes and the symbols and I started the attunements. We had to finish them after lunch, at which point we started practicing what I’d described. I put “making magickal objects” on Sunday morning to lure them away from dallying over breakfast, and on Monday morning we did the Havamal Rune Query, but I ran out of time before we could cover the second degree stuff. It’s mostly meditation anyway.
Not having an assistant this year, I asked if there was anyone who wanted to assist, because I figured I needed someone to help integrate the clan work into the overall weekend of Ritual. Miriam, a talented card reader, had offered to do the Mole Clan- something about being aware of your body, but not enough people had put in for it, so she joined us, and did an admirable job advocating for the Earth Spirit rituals. Clear Space is her special project.
I had some discomfort that first day because I was told that we were going to have 10 people in our clan including Miriam and I, and when I got there the list had 12 people on it. The problem was that I’d made 11 booklets- I made an extra one for Deirdre for her TC records, but even by diverting that one, we’d come up one short. Except that one person never showed up, so it all worked out. One of the clan members did come fairly late, and then had to leave early. She was fighting off a cold- sneezing a lot- and also had some family crisis that she said was the real reason she had to leave. At least she had all the materials, the attunement, and, since I’d made them up the night before, the certificate- all nicely calligraphed. (I really must return Jeanne’s pen to her!)
Because I wasn’t sure whether I’d be busy Sunday between lunch and Soup, I’d assigned the clan members to each look up three runes in at least three books, so they’d get an idea of the way different authors/rune users interpret the same runes. The only one in the class who’d had previous rune experience was Eric, who’d gotten a basic grounding in the Snow Owl (Divination) clan last year. All the rest were neophytes, so I figured I had to counter the usual assumption that you get a book, and what’s in it is right. I think Diane had also been to one of my one hour RunValdr workshops as well. Since I was able to get back to them, we were able to spend a couple of hours on rune divination as well. The key to using sticks is to learn to “see” the runes in the patterns into which the runes fall- then relate those greater runes, with the ones marked on the tines. I think they took to it fairly well. I also had them look at the trees and spot runes up in the branches. They’ll be seeing runes everywhere! (mwah-ha-ha!)
At five we went to the soup-sharing, and then I went off to MY station. (This year I brought onions to try to counter the many, many squash that form the base of the soup. It seems that many other people had found it bland as well, because I discovered, to my surprise, that you can indeed have too much garlic in a soup. It was hot, and it was over dosed with garlic, and the garlic wasn’t cooked well enough. Still, it was basically un salted squash soup, and far more “communion” than nourishment. I had a lovely walk back to the final fire though. The foliage is lovely, and the moon had come up, and it was still light.
Deirdre assigned me to the holding fire at the end of the again. At the beginning, people have to wait until it gets dark (for maximum mystery I suppose), and then are let out a few at a time, often by clan. There were 18 clans this year. While they wait, they can do divination, or journaling, meditation, or several other activities they have to keep people in the mood from the soup ceremony. At the other end, people arrive and are supposed to keep the mood of whatever revelations they’ve had until everyone else gets through all the stations. So the first people were sent off at around seven, and got to the final fire about 45 minutes later, and the last ones arrived at about eleven. My job, and Star’s who was drumming and feeding the fire, and Chris’s (he was playing his harp- I think inside, they’d had no guarantees that the weather would be so fantastic, and had a place to send people if they got too cold). So we were to “hold sacred space”, cynically described by me as keeping them from “getting bored spitless”. Deirdre asked me to do rune readings for them.
While ordinarily I go for the sticks, I knew that there would be about 150 people going by, and probably most would want a reading, so I had to do something fairly quick. Also, I wanted to enhance, not distract, from what they’d just experienced. So I had each of them pick three runes, and one represented what they should be looking at in their environment, one represented what they should be looking at in themselves, and one was what they should be looking for in their training. Most of the people seemed to find what I told them very meaningful, although of course, since I didn’t know most of them, I have no idea whether it meant myself. One guy surprised me by drawing one rune from the bag of rune “tiles”, and the next from the box of rune disks (I’d picked them purely because they’d be more legible by moonlight). They were both the same rune: H. So I handed him the bag with the goldstone runes Willow had found for me- I’d only brought them out because I wanted to see how they looked under the stars. I told him that if he pulled H (hagal) again, I’d plotz. He did. So I told him I’d officially plotzed, and invited him to come to the table to check out Hagal in our books the next day. Hagal(az) is a pretty scary rune- usually means things are out of your control and things are being destroyed (so that they can be rebuilt). WHat are the odds of pulling the same rune from three randomized sets? (yes, I know 24x24x24, or 1:13824, not nearly as bad as trying to get a good lottery number)
But I have to say that the ritual went very well (it was about water this year), and pretty much ran on time- sometimes it’s gone until after midnight or later. I think Deirdre and friends get better every year. And the weather was great; I don’t think it went under 60 all night. The dinner was stew, rolls, and apple crisp, which was very nice, but once again, midnight is late. Especially when you are getting up at 6:30 for a 7-9 kitchen shift. Basically there’s a brunch Monday of all the leftovers- reheated. What doesn’t go out, they ask people take home. I brought a box of fruit, rolls, salad makings, stew, burrito makings, and potatoes. As well as some of my cider, to my surprise.
The next day the clan decided to make a gate so that if you passed through it, you’d be automatically grounded. (First thought was ground everyone, but while that would show off how cool what we did was, maybe some people wouldn’t want it. A gate made it voluntary.) Also- it took maybe 10 seconds. People who went through were very impressed. Also we added wyn/wunjo (joy) to it. It got to be a running joke during practice that “every working is better with a little wyn in it”.
After the final ceremony (on time) at one, we had the final leader meeting- mostly expressing gratitude for each other’s efforts and lucky breaks. I was hoping to get out ASAP and kept my mouth shut, but still didn’t pull out until 4. This meant that I got to Keene before it got dark, so I was OK. On familiar roads I don’t need to look at street signs. Given the long drive, I managed to listen to 18 lectures in my Integrated History of Greece and Rome, so I got all sorts of perspective from everything from architecture to theater. (Sounds like the Commedia del Arte is a direct and not much changed descendent of Roman comedic theater.)
Yesterday, of course, I spent trying to catch up on the email that collected from Thursday onward. I also watched several episodes of Dark Shadows that we can now stream. We’re getting some reservations in for the Changing Times-Changing Worlds Con. This isn’t surprising as it’s about a month before it, when I figure most people will start thinking about it. I am still cudgeling my brain to think of ways to promote it for free. I have set myself the goal to get a basic schedule done by the 15th, but that will take a minor miracle now that I’m slowed down.
I also thought I’d try to start every day by sweeping the kitchen, wiping down the table, and emptying the wastebasket (as well as exercising, writing on the book, practicing a musical instrument and creating world peace…). Also not happening.

The big news while I was gone was that one of Kat’s teeth crumbled. She’s called for an appointment, and we spent quite a while trying to figure out whether it’s a wisdom tooth or not, and remembering which she’s had out so far. Sadly tooth pain is oddly general, and it’s hard to figure out just which one is bothering you.
Willow was sewing on a Cosplay for upcoming cons: Samurai Applejack, a joke based on the anime Samurai Jack and the My Little Pony character Applejack. It’s a lovely kimono (lined) with the “cutie mark” from Applejack appliqued on the sleeves. Willow, with her background, always makes costumes that are really clothing and will be comfortable to wear- and well made.
From the screams I hear coming from the living room, I think John is doing his traditional attempt to watch every scary movie available during October. The last time I answered the phone, there was a “Frankenstein’s monster” on the screen, I have no idea which movie it was.
Zoloft has managed to collect a huge supply of burdock in her fur- mostly belly and tail. She and I, with help from Willow and Kat, have spent a great deal of time working on it over the last three days. She even comes into my room and rolls on her back to present her belly for my efforts. Sadly, the ones attached to her guard hairs are done, and what we have left is the ones in the ground fur- the soft, short, fine, fuzzy stuff, which is now mostly also pretty matted with cat spit from her working on it herself. My best method is carefully pulling a few hairs off the side, then another few, etc. etc. until there’s nothing left but the burr- or more frequently, she gets tired and bored and runs off- often leaving the burr along with more hair than one would prefer in my grasp. It may not all be boredom; obviously as I hold the tangled burr there’s a little tug on the roots, and I keep thinking how I’d feel if someone was pulling on my armpit hairs for ten or fifteen minutes running- however “gently”. We are down mostly, to the ones in her “arm-pits”, and sadly, the skin there is very soft and loose (so she can move), which makes me nervous about taking the razor comb to it. Not that I haven’t used it elsewhere.
Of these things are our lives made.

I must beg off now- I am so tired that when I went to dump the soggy coltsfoot leaves from my tea-ball into the compost bucket, I took my foot off the pedal just in time to have them fall onto the closing lid of the canister. And I’d made my tea in my soup mug- I hope I got most of the chicken soup out, but it’s annoying. And when the paper tag from my tea-bag was dragged into the tea-pot by the stream of boiling water, and I went to fish it out with chopsticks, it took me three or four tries, not just one to pick it up. So I’m feeling slow and stupid. I expect to be fine again in a day or two, but meanwhile- phooey!


When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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