Happy May Day 2011
April 29, 2011April, T. S. Eliot famously said,
"is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."
In Wisconsin, there are no lilacs this April, the coldest in three decades. My tulips have shivered in the front garden for three weeks, waiting to bloom. But the vineyard is looking the best it's ever looked, because we've used the extra time to prune and cultivate. Despite that useful activity, winter seems lengthened by the cold spring, even though we've been able to harvest nettles for soup, pizza and pasta for almost two weeks. Like my neighbors, I'm ready for spring onions, spinach, lettuce and other early vegetables!
Spring has been cruel in other ways too. In the last two weeks, I've lost three friends. Deaths increase in spring, even in developed lands, so this cluster is not really surprising, although saddening nonetheless. Alaskan poet Joe Enzweiler died, quite prematurely in his early 60's, leaving behind an impressive body of work and a to-be-published memoir. Also in Alaska, the fine Yu'pik scholar Oscar Kawagley, whose work on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and kindly friendship have meant much to me, died. Then in Ireland my dear friend and teacher Tom Hannon (whose stories make up the basis of several chapters in "The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog") died at the fine age of 90; he had been weakening in recent years but still was ready to share a story or a myth. He was my first great teacher on Irish folklore, and I treasure the memories I hold of him.
Our family too has been dealing with health issues, perhaps inevitable as one ages and one's parents and siblings also age. I've felt blessed by the love and support of friends in dealing with these matters. Buddhists tell us that suffering exists to "open the heart of compassion," and I hope that this season's pains have taught me some of that openness. And I hope for a thriving summer for all!
Exciting publications news
Earlier this year, I finished revisions of "Magical Gardens" and "Meditation: The Complete Guide," both of which are due out within the next publishing cycle. Meanwhile I awaited word on a project that consumed much of last year--a satirical novel on fundamentalism. I've just received word that it will be published later this year! More details to come as they emerge.
This encourages me to finish a project that has been back-burnered for some years--a novel about St. Augustine's mistress. I hope to resume work on that later this year, but first I will complete a novel-in-verse about the Blessed Virgin, to be published by Salmon Poetry in Ireland on December 8 (a Marian feast, the Immaculate Conception). We will travel to Ireland for the launches in Dublin and elsewhere. I plan to begin work on the book on Sunday, the day when Mary was traditionally crowned "Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May." Don't be surprised that this version of Mary's life is feminist, revisionist, and--well--a bit heretical. I've been working on the poems for this book for over 20 years, and some have been published in journals like "Creation Spirituality" and "The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion." I'm delighted to bring it all together at last.
Much work has gone into the Midwestern Symposium of the Association for Study of Women and Mythology (http://womenandmythology.wordpress.com/), on May 19 in Madison Wisconsin, at which I'm speaking on "Spiritual Geography and the Goddess." Registration is still open for the conference, which features an exciting keynote lecture by ritual cloth expert Mary Kelly, whose work on goddesses in traditional embroideries has inspired me for years. I've never met Mary and am thrilled she'll be sharing her work.
The same weekend, I'll be reading from the new novel and sharing insights on fundamentalism and feminism at the annual Priestess Gathering in Wisconsin Dells (www.rcgi.org), as well as attending lectures on crop circles and other fascinating subjects. Check out both events!
Beltane and beyond
Every year we watch "Monty Python's Life of Brian" on Easter, and the old "Wicker Man" on Beltane. As usual this Beltane, we'll burn our solstice tree and a lot of winter clearings. I have come to believe that the ancient "fire feasts" were the inevitable results of agriculture, an idea for which I found support in reading Thomas Hardy this spring. In "Return of the Native," he describes Hallows fires as constructed of the brush that needed to be burned off before winter, and tells of a scandalous woman who actually burned useful wood. We held our annual prairie burn a few weeks ago, and the land is already greening in beneath the blackened grasses. We continue to look for ways to ritualize our bonds to and dependence upon the land, from eating nettle soup in spring to hanging toast in the fruit trees on New Year's. Happy Beltane to all, and good health and strength to the world.
(Some computer systems deliver this newsletter with strange formatting; should that occur, you can read it online at www.patricia-monaghan.com).