place-based pagan practice in Austin, Texas

growing up and out

July 7th, 2015 by Anna

Seven years ago I started writing Seeds. Then it was a gardening blog. I had begun growing food and native plants, and I wanted a place to record my successes and failures and to have a forum for participating in the garden blogging community. Then, after both of my children were born, all of my energy went into parenting, into nurturing the seeds of small human people, and this blog lay fallow for a while.

A couple of years ago, when I began identifying as Pagan, I realized that this blog was about something more than gardening or parenting. Here was a space to write about the seeds of practice, my beginning experiences in a holistic way of living consciously closer to the land beneath my feet and the air enveloping my body. I worked through the exercises in Starhawk’s book Earth Path, I walked creeks as often as I could, I dedicated myself to learning the names of the trees, flowers, and birds that I met. I set up an altar and began a daily devotional to my ancestors. A little over a year ago, I began sitting for regular observation and meditation in a small urban wood near my home. There the living land itself trained me up in the ways of the elements and cyclical change. Recently I’ve completed the Reclaiming core course Elements of Magic, I’ve begun writing a regular column for Humanisticpaganism.com, and I’ve joined my local community garden. A first chapter is ended and a new one begun. I’ve planted the seeds of my practice, of a lifeway in intentional relationship with Gaia, the living earth, and with several other members of the witches’ pantheon. Now it’s time to nurture those seeds.

I believe in consciously closing the circles I’ve opened, once they’ve served their purpose. And one can’t live in the intensity of beginner’s mind forever; I have children to feed and educate, a nursing degree to finish, a career to establish, a hearth to tend, more Reclaiming core courses to complete, a column to write, and alliances and practices to develop. I have a lot more creek stomping, moon gazing, and compost turning to do. As much as I look forward to all the juiciness ahead, it will be bittersweet to archive Seeds. The readers here have changed with the focus. I don’t get many comments, nor do I look at site stats or traffic analysis, so I have no idea who might still be reading this. But to everyone who has read even a little along the way: thank you for bearing witness.

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the wilderness where we are

July 1st, 2015 by Anna

My family and I are home after a two-week road trip to places in and around the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and Colorado: Santa Fe National Forest, Taos, the Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain National Forest. The world is steeped in perspective when I’m standing at the feet of the Sangre de Cristos, or Colorado’s Front Range. The mountains are greater than I am in every sense of the word: size, age, influence. Impressive even from a distance, they unfold in my perception the closer I come, expanding, unfurling great waves of earth, some gentle, some choppy and jagged, on the thin, dry mountain air. Their colors shift and change in the waxing and waning sunlight, from black to brilliant green, grey, and pink, to blood red to dusky purple. It was fun to encounter mountain beings who don’t live at home: magpies, broad-tailed hummingbirds, elk, and mule deer. Ponderosa pines. Wild strawberries. Golden banner in the subalpine meadows. Pink granite streaked with grey. Rusty red sandstone.

But now it’s time to reconnect with the wilderness where we are, at home in Central Texas. Reconnecting with the non-human wilderness hasn’t felt difficult. I visited Bull Creek with a friend a couple of nights ago. I sucked in great gulps of the relatively thick, soupy air there and rolled it around in my nostrils and the back of my throat. A stone I picked up from the creek bottom tasted earthy, green, chalky; a familiar, bitter tang. I watched birds do bird things and people do people things around the creek. I stepped into the creek myself. The water was grey-green, languid, silky, and inviting (in marked contrast with its raging urgency of a few weeks ago). I wasn’t the only one who experienced its siren call; all around me, other people waded in, too, though they hadn’t planned to. They wore street clothes, not swimsuits, and had to empty their pockets of cell phones and electronic keys before wading in just..a little..farther. My friend and I smiled and watched a nearly full moon crest the hilltop opposite the creek. Bats and fireflies took to the air around the juniper covered limestone hills. Home.

Reconnecting with the wilderness of human community at home is proving more difficult. The place-based practice working group that I’ve been a part of for more than a year seems to have evaporated down to just the one friend who met me at the creek earlier this week. I’m hungry for a vibrant community of practice. One which primarily honors the “dogmatically real earth on which we stand,” one which sits in silent meditation, observation, and witness to the land, and also one which casts the circle. One composed of people who are committed enough to show up, even if it’s not convenient. One–unlike online pagan communities in which I sometimes participate–more committed to action and experience than abstract theorizing about the nature of deity. The role deities do or don’t play in our lives, whether the deities are real: for me these questions are boring and irrelevant. What experiences do we have in circle? What specifically do we do and say in circle, and why? What happens outside and in connection with the circle? What are we growing, and how are our compost piles doing? How do we work for social justice in our communities? These are the sacred edges I want to walk, and I’d like the container of a committed small group within which to do so.

Cloudy in Austin today, but I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of the full moon and Venus and Jupiter in conjunction tonight.

Posted in community, practice, summer, water having Comments Off

Spell of earthly life, June 7, 2015

June 8th, 2015 by Anna

fire and oak

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lichen and stone

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hunter and leaf

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bloom and branch

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thistle and threads

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whispy wet paint

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and me, all alive

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things seen on tonight’s walk in the woods

May 30th, 2015 by Anna

leaf-footed bugs crawling all over a prickly pear

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limestone rock sheltering a spider’s web, green plant, and orange fungus

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and a vine I’ve never seen before. Is it balsam gourd? Do you know?

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Memorial Weekend 2015 Flood

May 27th, 2015 by Anna

On Monday in under four hours we received nearly five inches of rain at our house, as much as we receive on average for the whole month. My family and I were lucky. Though we’d been camping along the San Gabriel last weekend, we chose to come home early due to weather. Our home stayed dry, and we’re all safe. But others across the Hill Country were not so lucky.

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Hays County Food Bank Flood Relief

Austin Disaster Relief Network Memorial Weekend Flood Fund

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Water and stone

May 21st, 2015 by Anna

Austin has received several more inches of rain this week, with more forecasted for the next week, thanks to an El Niño cycle in the Pacific. Our phones keep lighting up with flash flood warnings. Previously cracked clay soils have soaked up the rainfall and transmuted into mud, and the parched lakes and limestone creeks are quenching their thirst after several years of drought. Today I visited Shoal Creek just south of 34th St. to see how it fared. I’ve never seen water pouring over the tops of these big slabs like this:

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The water swished and slapped against the stone, hissing and clapping like a thousand hands, as it rushed downstream. Not languidly laying down sediment, but energetically cleansing the creek bottom, revealing things long ago buried in ancient inland seas. It’s an especially good day for fossil hunting on Shoal Creek:

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And making magic where water, stone, and sky meet.

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Posted in altars and shrines, creeks, earth, patterns, practice, weather having Comments Off

Mother’s Day

May 10th, 2015 by Anna

I was super spoiled by my family this weekend. My daughter performed in her first dance recital, titled “On The Day You Were Born,” after the picture book of the same name, and dedicated to the all the dancers’ mothers. (I cried. Read that book, if you haven’t already. It’s a deeply spiritual, Earth-reverent story of birth.) My husband bought me tulips, which brightened the table where I’ve been studying for my Adult Health final, and he cooked waffles with berries for breakfast this morning. My son and daughter made me cards, and together with my husband performed for me a Stone Soup drum jam, which was so fun and beautiful that we plan to repeat it.

Today I celebrated my mother with a gift. Honestly we’re not close. Frequent conflict and hurt characterized our relationship during my childhood, and after I left home and grew into adulthood, our world views, values, and interests diverged. Nevertheless, she gave birth to me, she worked hard to provide the food, home, healthcare, and transportation that I needed to grow into adulthood, and she’s a committed grandmother. For all this I honor her.

Today I also held close in thought all of the many women who have mothered me. Grandmothers, teachers, both academic and spiritual, neighbor mamas, friends. Happy Mother’s Day to all our human mothers, who made our lives as they are possible.

And Happy Mother’s Day to Mama Earth. She’s so green, golden, and lovely here in late spring, after a May storm. (My rain gauge shows more than four inches for the week.) From the grove where I sit:

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prickly pear

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I’ve been calling this plant yucca, but I think it can’t be, because of the teeth on the leaf margins. A member of Furcraea, maybe? Or Dasylirion? Or an agave?

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firewheels

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A mockingbird and a house finch sang from the top of nearby cedar elms, while I made these photos. I saw a grasshopper, and I swatted at mosquitoes. Before leaving I knelt in the center of the grove, put my forehead to the bare limestone, and prayed.

Posted in birds, earth, insects, practice, spring, wildflowers having Comments Off

Firewheels

April 30th, 2015 by Anna

firewheels with grass

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May Day is coming up! Last month’s bluebonnets have gone to seed and given way to fields of drought-tolerant firewheels (sometimes called Indian Blanket). In her picture book Bloomin’ Tales, gardener and author Cherie Foster Colburn includes a Native American tale about the flowers. She doesn’t say which Plains tribe the tale is from, only that it comes from “the oral tradition of the Native Texas people” (Colburn and Hein 62). Ugh, the decontextualization. But at least the tale isn’t completely lost?

The story goes like this: Little Firefly, a girl of one of the Plains tribes, chased a butterfly through the tall grass and lost her way back to her tribe. Night began to fall, and she fell to the ground sobbing, afraid that no one would find her. She prayed to the Great Spirit, and “while she prayed, the rhythmic noises of the night blended into a song that lulled her weary body to sleep” (Colburn and Hein 37). She dreamed of her mother painting a beautiful firewheel on a hide blanket and slept soundly through the night. In the morning, Little Firefly awoke in a carpet of crimson, orange, and bright yellow blooms, and she heard someone calling her name from a distance. As the voice came closer, Little Firefly recognized her father, the chief. He called to the Great Spirit to give thanks for his daughter’s safety and to ask a blessing over the firewheels. As he prayed, Little Firefly and her father beheld sun-yellow tips appear at the edges of each bloom. According to Colburn, the flowers are a promise of the sun’s warmth to come and a sign of the chief’s gratitude for his daughter’s safety (38). She also states that the Kiowa consider firewheels to be signs of good luck (Colburn and Hein 60). Perhaps the Kiowa are the source of the tale? We don’t know; she doesn’t say.

For me, too, firewheels symbolize the sun’s returning strength. May Day is spring’s last hurrah here in Central Texas. From here the wheel turns into summer; the lush green hills will soon bake brown under the sun’s relentless fire. Time to enjoy a few more hikes and camping trips, before it’s too hot to be comfortable outside.

Work Cited

Colburn, Cherie Foster and Joy Fisher Hein. Bloomin’ Tales: Legends of Seven Favorite Texas Wildflowers. Houston: Bright Sky Press, 2012. Print.

 

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Earth Day altar

April 22nd, 2015 by Anna

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Prayer to Gaia on Earth Day 2015

April 21st, 2015 by Anna

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Prayer to Gaia
based on a prayer by Donald Engstrom

Maga, Gaia, Mother Earth,
In your name I, your daughter, dare to dwell in beauty, balance, and delight.
I dare to see this world with the eyes of clarity and compassion.

Bless this world:

Bless the trees.
Bless the bluebonnets.
Bless the bees.
Bless my dog.
Bless all the people I love and at least a few of those I don’t.
Bless the nests.
Bless the compost.
Bless the creeks.
Bless the limestone.
Bless the roads.
Bless the earth beneath my feet.

Blessed be, and Happy Earth Day!

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