St. Edmund’s Day

The calendar’s wound around again to the feast of St. Edmund the Prodigal, one of those I identify with most strongly out of the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve who make up the choir of Narnian saints.

Lately, though, I seem to be thinking more about the one who doesn’t come back. The Prodigal is important if you want people to understand that they can always come back to the Light, but sometimes in life there really is no turning back.

I had an appointment with a plastic surgeon today. That’s a long post of it’s own, one I’m working on but not ready to talk about yet, but here’s the thing. When I told my mother about it in the course of a bigger conversation, she asked if I was sure.

Sometimes you do things you can’t undo. You show me someone who’s never done anything they couldn’t take back, and I’ll show you someone who’s never done much of anything. Having a child did that for me. Getting married, while I could get divorced, is a thing I can’t not have done. My body already has plenty of scars that won’t go away; this is just going to be more visible.

The prodigal option means coming back changed, and being welcomed anyway. Can you welcome your prodigal back regardless of what’s happened? Can you welcome him as the person he’s become instead of the person who left?

Edmund couldn’t undo his time with the Witch, and he was a different person because of it. Like Edmund, I’ve made choices I can’t undo. More than that, choices I don’t want to undo.

If someone doesn’t welcome me as the person I am now, the person I have worked to become, then they don’t really welcome me. Edmund understands the lesson of learning from your choices and moving forward, without trying to undo what can’t be undone.

Optimally Clean

Now that I’m a stay-home dad, I try to keep up with the housework.

“Try” is the operative term, of course. We used to split the chores pretty evenly and generally we did the same amount of getting done and letting things slide. Now that it’s just me, even with the baby and trying to write I try to stay a little bit further ahead. It’s a balancing act of daily maintenance – cleaning up after I cook, litter box, the never-ending parade of laundry – and projects that will hopefully make daily maintenance easier, like cleaning out the linen closets, figuring out how to store more than a few days of groceries in our storage-shy kitchen, and constantly fighting the battle of Not Enough Bookshelves.

If I’m not careful, chores start inching into OCD headspace. Growing up, I didn’t feel like I had enough space in my room, and I would clean all day and feel like it wasn’t good enough. Now I’ve at least learned the value of maintenance, but if things get away from me or I start hyper-focusing on one thing, I can get “stuck” on things that don’t matter. (Have you ever scrubbed the vent hood or the inside of the freezer at 2am? I have.)

Today I stumbled across a post called What Is a “Clean House” Anyway? and I really like the standard for cleanliness set out there:

I want to clean such that the effort I spend cleaning is less than the effort I save in having to work around stuff. I want my stuff to be so organized that it makes things easy to do, but NOT so organized that it’s a pain to keep it organized.

My goal is to work exactly hard enough to do all the stuff I want to do with the absolute minimum effort and stress. THAT’S how clean I want my house. Exactly so clean that, any messier, and things would take more effort to do, but that making it cleaner wouldn’t make anything easier.

Well, that’s pretty optimal, right? And I suspect that’ll give me something to redirect those intrusive thoughts at – instead of overanalyzing whether something is germ-free or what people would think if they saw my place, I can focus on what the most optimal cleaning choice is.

I think I can work with that.

Grounds

It was  supposed to snow yesterday.

Well, it did snow, or at least it flurried where I am. And then it rained, freezing rain for hours, enough to screw up the plumbing in our oldish rental. And it was cold, and windy, and then dark too.
But a little past midnight, I was feeling awfully unmoored. The rain had stopped, though everything still shone wet under the streetlight. And I needed to ground myself, so out I went, barefoot and in my pajamas. Because sometimes I need the actual earth, stone and dirt under your feet, regardless of the temperature.

I’m still working on NaNoWriMo, though I’m a little behind. My health situation turned out to be less resolved, and more serious, than my surgeon had expected, so there’s more of that in the future. I know I haven’t talked about it here much, but I may, when I feel ready. Suffice to say I’m almost certainly not dying, and there are some surprising upsides to go with serious downsides.

It makes it hard to concentrate, to stay grounded. In the past I’d have gone too deep into myself, maybe gotten depressed, but I’m finding that writing and cooking and child care can all be very grounding. And when they’re not, that’s what the earth herself is for.

W is for Wei Tuo

Wei Tuo, also called Skanda or Idaten, is said to have first lived during the life of the Buddha, when he was known as a formidable fighter. As the time of the Buddha’s physical death drew close, Wei Tuo was charged with guarding the relics of the dharma from the demons who would seek to steal or scatter them.

Just as the Buddha had expected, after his death, those demons stole his relics and carried them far away, but true to his word, Wei Tuo tracked them down, defeated them, and returned them. For this reason, he is often depicted in temples, guarding the dharma by himself or with Guan Yu.

He is alleged, in another incarnation, to have had a total crush on Guan Yin during her incarnation as Miao Shan, going so far as to disobey orders to kill her. Recognizing that she was pure and chaste, and he could never hope to have her as a wife, he nonetheless pledged to be faithful and take care of her. He tried to help her escape from her cruel father, and subsequently died protecting her. Because of this, he is sometimes depicted alongside Guan Yin.

Wei Tuo could be considered the patron bodhisattva of unrequited crushes, and his quiet devotion offers a strong counterpoint to the modern message that unrequited love needs to either be forced onto the other person or put aside entirely.

Rainbowland: Canary Yellow

Canary Yellow

I’m a little late with my initial thoughts on Canary Yellow. You may have noticed that I was pretty busy the last couple of days, and I didn’t just want to write this without actually meditating on her.

Yellow’s an optimistic color, and I’ve got good reason to be an optimist right now. NaNoWriMo, a resolution to health issues, a little bit of progress on the freelance front. And hey, the new Rainbow Brite cartoon debuts this month. Nothing’s perfect, but I don’t expect perfect. I just want to feel like I’m getting by.

This month should be quieter than Orange was; Canary’s a lot more laid-back than Lala is. Last time I worked with Yellow, the lesson was that I get what I need but not necessarily what I think I want – that the universe isn’t actually responding to my desires.

I don’t believe in that Secret stuff, it’s just dressed-up prosperity gospel, but I do find that Mara takes care of me. When I’m truly desperate, things work out, one way or another. I get what she thinks I need, though, not what I might ask her for. It may not seem like much comfort when one is, say, job hunting and getting turned down or only hearing crickets. But last time I was working with Canary, she told me to stop worrying about a job I was taking on, that it would be fine – and I only worked one day at that job. It took a couple of months, but eventually I ended up with a job I was good at and benefited from, that I was able to stay in for several years. I got the job I needed, but I had to wait until it existed.

There’s a fine balance to doing your best to make things happen and also letting a higher power guide you and take care of you. Making the opportunities definitely makes it easier for them to come to fruition, but some things never work out, no matter how much work you put into them, and some things happen without you even knowing it’s an option.

Ultimately, I think it’s about working hard but keeping your eyes open and being willing and able to trust that you’re not going to miss something. If it’s for you, and you’re looking, you’ll see it. If it’s not, then it wasn’t meant to be.

The nice thing about this way of phrasing the philosophy is that I still have enough control that I don’t feel powerless, and I have responsibility for my life, but I can give up trying to hold onto the things I can’t control and I have no say in. Those things belong to Mara and the Powers and the Tao. They don’t belong to me. The path is the path, and I walk it as best I can.

Surprising Myself

Wacky Cake in some vintage Country Festival Corningware

Wacky Cake in some vintage Country Festival Corningware

You know how a couple of days ago I said that if I wanted to be perfect, I’d learn to bake? Guess I must be after perfection, because that wacky cake in the image over there is mine.

Wacky cake is great because it’s egg and dairy-free, and yet still manages to be delicious. I’m sort of curious if it’d still be good if you used a non-wheat flour, but probably not curious enough to try right now.

Hail to Mara and the Earth, and to new lessons, and to doing things I didn’t think I could do.

I’m two days into NaNo and the story is already doing things I wasn’t expecting. I’m getting to know my main character. She’s Filipina, originally from Southern California by way of Phoenix. She doesn’t trust the police; she mentioned she hasn’t run from them “in years.” She’s a bit of an anarchist. One of my recurring characters showed up in chapter two almost by accident. I’d written several paragraphs before I realized I was describing him.

It’s a good sign when the story is getting away from me. It means that I’m succeeding in plugging in to something that wants to be told, and that’s especially helpful during NaNo when I’m running on whatever I can drop onto the page.

I don’t usually stop to analyze my writing in terms of Theos Logos, but that state of writing-getting-away is a good one to be in. Whether you’re writing something just to see how the story plays out or you’re trying to tell a specific story, surprise means you’re tapping into something higher than yourself. The whole point of this exercise is to go beyond myself and find something new.

Say Hello To Me When You See Me

Kitty-chan Shrine

(Photo credit: kalupa)

Posted in honor of Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday.

Hail and well met, Catherine the White,
Called Kitty, Lady of the Five Apples,
She Who Wears the Bow,
Sister of Mimmy, Beloved of Dear Daniel,
I bid you bring your influence
Into my life, your simple pleasures,
Your joys and happiness.
In return I offer myself
As your paw in the wide world
Speaking where you cannot
To bring that same joy to others.
Grant me the strength of heart
To be kind to those who need kindness
And silent when my words do no good.

For the Good Earth At the New Year

The first new year belongs to the Good Earth and the Deep Waters, as we go down into the darkness and leave behind the previous year and its sorrows and its challenges. In my house, this means roast pork with apples and supper with the dead, and then journeying forth in the dark to a liminal space to prepare for First New Year.

We sit awake in vigil for the New Year, burning bonfires of creativity, armed with words and caffeine. We await the stroke of midnight so we can dive into new projects for the new year. So begins the month long festival of First New Year, called National Novel Writing Month. Portlandia’s overnight celebration is at the airport, a lovely liminal space with lots of available outlets and 24 hour coffee. At midnight we will launch into the attempt to write a novel in 30 days.

Hail to the Lady of the Good Earth!
Hail to the Serpent of the Deep Waters!
Hail to the dead gone down, and the dying year with them!
Hail to the new year, and all that grows with it!

Rainbowland: Thoughts on Orange

Lala Orange

Last time I spent a month with Orange, I upended my whole life and moved cross-country. This time there wasn’t any significant physical change. I’m not much bothered by that, as this is a nice apartment and moving is terrible.

Instead the change was internal, but in many ways just as jarring. I’ve never worked particularly with earth, or been an “earth” person. I’ve always been fire and air, all but wired for it. And this month, it was like a switch was flipped and now I’m a different person altogether, even if I still look the same.

I can’t say as Murky and Lurky are banished forever but they’ve taken a serious blow. I’m cooking and cleaning and finding simple satisfaction in householding that I’ve never felt. And damn, it feels good for a change, to be someone who can deal with things. It’s been a while since I was someone functional.

It’s a good change. But it’s a heck of a change, and I’m left not sure what everything else is going to look like going forward.

Guess we’ll see with Yellow, won’t we?

 

Chop Fish, Carry Butter Sauce

Going into the earth is hard to explain because it’s such a simple experience. There’s not a lot of flowery words you can put to it. I put down my hands, I lay down roots, I go down. That’s it. The bedrock holds me, takes me in. I become it, it becomes me, and there’s nothing to do but rest inside it.

What I like about earth is how grounding the work feels. I feel more present and more in the moment, even though earth itself is… well, it’s not timeless, but geologic time is not the time scale we’re used to. Aside from the vague sense of the history of different types of rock, there’s not a lot of sense of time there. There’s just now, and everything is now, and worrying about the future isn’t very helpful.

Instead I’m battening down the hatches around the house. We’ve mostly skipped over the nice parts of autumn and gone straight into cold rain, so I’m less inclined to go out. I’m trying to finish up some of the organizing I didn’t get to during the summer, I’m just about to sew up some medical stuff, and I’m teaching myself to cook. Last night I made pasta with leftover roast, tonight I made salmon with leftover pasta, and I’m learning to do more than just throw things in the slow cooker.

I appreciate the slow cooker. It’s a marvelous invention, and there’s definite appreciation of the forethought that has to go into slow cooker cooking. But the shorter-term cooking is more grounding, more earthy for me. When I have something in the oven and a pot and a saucepan on the stove, as I did last night, and I’m keeping an eye on all three, there’s nothing else I can do except maybe spare some attention to clean up as I go. If I’m not in the moment, I find out right quick because something gets away from me.

It’s a delicious form of chop wood, carry water, as well as a lesson in trusting myself and not being afraid of failure. For years I let myself believe I was ‘not good’ at cooking – I had some bad experiences in home ec (did you know it’s possible to set a crepe on fire?), never particularly learned at home, and my ex very much thought of herself as a Gourmet Chef so I had nothing reasonable to compare myself to. Now, I’m probably never going to be a gourmet chef or appear on a Food Network competition, but I’ve finally made the connection in my head that I don’t have to. I can put the salmon in the oven with a butter and lemon dill vinegar sauce I made on the back burner, and it’s not the end of the world if the sauce is a little heavy. Cooking doesn’t require perfection; if I wanted to be perfect, I’d learn to bake.

Earth isn’t really concerned with perfection. Plants grow where there’s dirt, whether it’s a good idea or not. Rocks don’t usually polish themselves.

Maybe I could use a little polish, but I’ll worry about that another time.