Thursday, October 14, 2010

Remembering Connie

In August, Connie Baker passed away. She was a friendly presence at our local farmer's market, where I have been selling baked goods for two years. Before that, I bought fruit from her, and she always had a smile, a joke or a helpful tip about their products. She helped operate her family's orchard business for 42 years, selling plants and fruit at local farm markets. The Hudson Farmers' Market website posted a nice tribute to her.

I wanted to mention Connie, even though she passed a few weeks ago, because at this time of year, when orchard businesses are so busy, "u-pick" businesses are such a wonderful feature of life in our communities. Connie helped run the "u-pick" aspect of their business, and also helped sell fruit at the markets, and without her, the family has had to hire additional help.

I know women like Connie are a rare sight these days: working with family-owned farm businesses their entire lives, bearing up through extremes of weather (the market could be hot and humid, or cold and rainy), and through lean seasons of drought or other challenges for fruit growers. Her legacy is an honorable one we should all take a moment to appreciate.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some poetry, plucked for October...

My favorite month. I often feel both melancholy and happy on any given day in October. The weather, the scents, the colors, make this time of year a sensual carnival. Here, some poems that capture the month nicely. I'm feeling a poetry writing mood coming on...

A child looking at ruins grows younger
but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips
in the sun.
~~ W. S. Merwin, The Love of October

How innocent were these Trees, that in
Mist-green May, blown by a prospering breeze,
Stood garlanded and gay;
Who now in sundown glow
Of serious color clad confront me with their show
As though resigned and sad,
Trees, who unwhispering stand umber, bronze, gold;
Pavilioning the land for one grown tired and old;
Elm, chestnut, aspen and pine, I am merged in you,
Who tell once more in tones of time,
Your foliaged farewell.
~~ Siegfried Sassoon, October Trees

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
~~ Robert Frost, October

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on."
~~ Emily Dickinson, Nature 27 - Autumn

And this charming bit of prose about wild apples, from Henry David Thoreau:

"To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labeled, “To be eaten in the wind.” It takes a savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild fruit. . . The era of the Wild Apple will soon be past. It is a fruit which will probably become extinct in New England. I fear that he who walks over these fields a century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor soul, there are many pleasures which you will not know! . . . the end of it all will be that we shall be compelled to look for our apples in a barrel."
~~ Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I am a Witch. I’m Everything You’ve Heard. I’m You.

Christine O’Donnell apparently thinks the way to win the hearts of the conservative base is to continue to try and spin (nay, backpedal on) the outrageous statements she made about “dabbling in witchcraft” when she was in high school.
Her most recent video to go viral was one she had made as a political ad. And once again, she doesn't appear to think that offending the many thousands (millions?) of people who practice modern witchcraft or other nature-based spiritualities is a problem. Apparently, we are simply not people who are anywhere near her calibre of human being.

The blogosphere, pagan and otherwise, is full of commentary on the fallout of her first series of unfortunate remarks, made during an appearance on Bill Maher’s ABC show “Politically Incorrect” in the late 1990s. She claimed to have had a picnic on a “satanic altar” while out on a date. Of course, her remarks were clearly an opportunity for her to condemn modern paganism and reveal her titillating insider secrets (“You can’t make this stuff up! I know what these people say they do!”)

O’Donnell was a frequent guest on Maher’s show, especially around Hallowe’en, since she often had entertaining things to say about the occult. My personal favorite was her pronouncement (unchallenged by other guests or Maher) that the origin of trick or treat lay in the custom of the druids, who “would go door to door looking for a human sacrifice.” That is verbatim, folks. Given the recent recognition of druidry as a legitimate religion by the British government, I am fervently wishing for Maher to unearth that video clip and share it with the world.

Personally, I think this painting is where she came up with that lame-brained image:

Apparently some ultra-Christian websites such as Jesuswalk like to refer to it from time to time. O'Donnell's grasp of history (or should that be art history?) is as nonexistent as her vaunted claim that she always tells the truth. What she doesn't seem to get is that we've all seen this before: the innocent Christian who, during some youthful phase of rebellion, hung around with "real" witches or satan-worshippers, only to reject their evil ways, but not before she got a big eyeful of the naked midnight rituals complete with dancing goats, devilish orgies, and the sacrifice of innocent little babies on on satanic altars. (Because obviously, that's what witches do. Just ask Christine, who gets her history from fantastical pre-Raphaelite paintings.)

This "insider knowledge" is a tired old trick, utilized frequently during the height of the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare in the 1980s; talk show mavens like Oprah and Geraldo whipped audiences into a frenzy when they'd host guests who claimed to have seen every disgusting atrocity known to mankind, all perpetrated in the name of satan worship and witchcraft. Too bad the FBI never found a scrap of evidence to prove that children were being tortured or sacrificed in the name of Beezelebub, despite investigating such claims for years.

Christine O'Donnell is trading on the same methods because her followers, Tea Baggers who barely have a passing relationship with factual information, eat it up like miniature candy bars. Her scrubbed-face innocence (she's like a pious Rachael Ray) ensures people will forgive her youthful folly, and worship her for escaping the evil influence of witches like me, or you.

Many of us, as practicing neopagans, witches and druids, will no doubt become enraged by O'Donnel's ignorance and prejudice, by the news media's insensitivity as they, like her, continue to miss the point. Which is this: regardless of how unusual or "different" anyone thinks practitioners of witchcraft might be, we're still people. Our indignant response to the media's ridiculous and condescending attitude towards our beliefs and practices is entirely appropriate. We're not some fringe element living on the edge of society. We call ourselves witches, druids, neopagans, heathens and many other names, because this identifies our spiritual path. Like other spiritual people, we must live within the framework of contemporary society.

We have jobs, we raise families, we vote, we walk our dogs, we grow tomatoes, we pay taxes, we have gym memberships, we buy groceries, we visit Salem during October. Gods help us, we believe in evolution, and yes, we masturbate. We also believe in magic, and in the healing and awe-inspiring power and beauty of nature. We are teachers, firefighters, secretaries, chefs, accountants, personal trainers, doctors, lawyers, journalists. We're everywhere. We're you.