Happy belated Beltane
May 5, 2010I had the privilege during winter term of being on research leave, which was most productive for me. I completed revisions on two academic papers (on on Irish folklore and environment, the other on the French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud and his debate with Descartes). Plus I finished a chapbook of poetry that will be published this fall by the new Voices from the American Land series. “The Grace of Ancient Land” is about the Driftless Area where Michael and I have our farm, orchard and vineyard. In struggling with how to organize the book, I kept being tempted to use a seasonal arrangement, as the seasons are the most powerful metaphor to me. But I’ve already done that, in “Seasons of the Witch!” Ultimately I settled on using the framework of the Catholic Mass, which was a fascinating form to work with and led to the creation of some poems of which I am quite proud. This one was written because I needed a “Credo” at that point in the book’s development:
THINGS TO BELIEVE IN
trees, in general; oaks, especially;
burr oaks that survive fire, in particular;
and the generosity of apples
seeds, all of them: carrots like dust,
winged maple, doubled beet, peach kernel;
the inevitability of change
frogsong in spring; cattle
lowing on the farm across the hill;
the melodies of sad old songs
comfort of savory soup;
sweet iced fruit; the aroma of yeast;
a friend’s voice; hard work
seasons; bedrock; lilacs;
moonshadows under the ash grove;
something breaking through
I’m thrilled with the book, which will be out this fall. I’ll be doing a series of reading from it around the Midwest which will appear on my new website!
Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of attending the first-ever national conference of ASWM, the Association for Study of Women and Mythology. Words almost fail! Almost 100 attenders brought an amazing array of research and experience together in a mountaintop setting in the Delaware Water Gap. Margot Adler received the first Demeter Award for Leadership in Women’s Spirituality, and Dawn Work-MaKinne was given the first Kore Award for Best Dissertation in Goddess Studies. We hosted the world premiere of the amazing documentary on Catholic women priests, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican” (http://pinksmoke.org/). It was incredibly inspiring! We had poets, storytellers, musicians and other performers, plus scores of academics presenting extraordinary work. Ruth Barrett, Elizabeth Cunningham, Cristina Eisenberg, Diane Wolkstein, Annie Finch, all under one roof! I am still dazed and dazzled. Next national conference: Chicago, 2012. ASWM is at www.womanandmyth.wordpress.com and also on Facebook.
AN EARLY SPRING
This day a year ago, we were burning our prairie, which is necessary to cut down invasive plants and encourage native ones. But this Cinco de Mayo, we’re two-three weeks past the Burning Time. Spring was very early and very beautiful. Masses of lilacs, tulips, daffodils, filled the house. The trees were heavy with bloom, especially the apple trees. It really was the most gorgeous spring, but it was somewhat unsettling to have it so early.
We’ve got the cold weather seeds all in the ground, so we’ll be eating lettuce and peas and turnips and such soon. We’ve had our three servings of nettles before May Day and are relishing the warm days (but not too warm) for outdoor work. We’re in full-on asparagus season! And jeepers! The spring peepers! A wonderful time, thanks to mother earth.
Yet the horrifying news from the Gulf reminds me of how much our modern lifestyle costs. Even trying to live green, I know I am a burden on the environment. Margot Adler has been writing about vampires recently:
Her point is that we all feel conflicted about our role in draining the sustenance of the earth. So true! But what to do about it? I am pondering that problem for myself while organizing a new class, to be called “Living Richly”—about simple living. Because I do believe “simpler” living can be “richer,” including through human contact as well as the delights of nature. Good luck to us all, and happy Beltane.
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