Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where Compassion is Needed

I try to put myself in their shoes. It's not hard for me, it never has been. I have always been highly-sensitive to other people, empathically empathetic even. So when I put myself in their shoes I don't just logically dictate how my life-as-I-know-it would change. I create a reality where that *is* my life and I sense-it-as-true intensely.

So I wonder how my world would have changed if, when I went to my mom to ask for my birth certificate and social security card so that I could get my driver's license and/or my first job, she had to reveal a dark secret to me... that I was not born in America. That we were illegal.

I think about what constitutes my childhood near the Great Lakes-- the playground of my elementary school, McDonald's happy meals, craft fairs down Main Street in the summer, playing hide and seek in m neighborhood, babysitting, reading, the library that was my second home, dancing, theatre, applying for colleges, filling out my first round of taxes, etc.

And what if my government told me that I wasn't welcome here? That I had months to settle my affairs before they shipped me back to, for instance, Poland (a country of my ancestry). A country I had never been to. A country I couldn't point to on a map with a hundred percent confidence. A country whose language was completely foreign to me. A country that housed none of my family. What if my government suddenly told me that was my real home?

What if, instead of college, deportation was my future?

What would be crueler? Charging me $500 every two years until I could arrange my naturalization? Or deporting me to a country that is not and has never been my home?

We often let bureaucracy get in the way of taking care of humans. But the institutions we put in place were always meant to be in service to people. And somewhere along the way we lost those pieces. The way back to them involves compassion and kindness. Empathy and love.

Our Dreamers are not terrorists. Their classmates had no idea they were here illegally. They were people with faces and names and hopes for how to help make this country a better world. They were raised to believe they were citizens until they found out they weren't.

I know about living a life in secret. I know about pretending to not be gay. I had a job for two years where I had to make up a whole alternate life where I wasn't in a serious monogamous relationship with a woman. No one should have to live like that. There has to be a better answer for them than deportation.

They did not make the choice to come here.

All of my ancestors came here at some point from another country. That is true for most of us. So I cannot, in good conscience, support the decision to deport people who are culturally as American as I am. Besides, I do not consider myself American first. I am human first. We are all human beneath the color of our skin and the country of our birth. Sometimes that has to matter more.

This video, titled Illegal, is moving and gives a humanitarian perspective on this topic.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Equality Now

Altar items used to cleanse a space of negativity.
I learned this week that it is illegal in Germany to do the Nazi salute in public and to wear or hang any symbols of the Nazi party, especially the swastika.

Yes, I know that the swastika was a Buddhist symbol for centuries before the Facists claimed it for their own designs. Someone challenged me this weekend, with whether we could let the workings of one group alter the discourse of the original meaning.

My response was that yes, the blood of six million Jews is enough to taint the image forever. Or at least for now. Until none are alive who remember what their ancestors lost to the Nazis.

Which was the moment I realized that we have been remiss in allowing people to wave and hang Nazi flags or shirts or stickers. We have. Because Nationalists, as a rule, are racist. There is no more room to allow free speech to groups who fundamentally believe their superiority over everyone else. We have a responsibility to tell them they are wrong, that divisiveness will not be tolerated in our country.

We are at the point where we have to say it. Because Nationalists don't want equality, and equality should be our human, compassionate end goal. Or what are we existing for?

Everyone fights change. Our country has always fought it. But our nation is changing. As our young people fall in love, ignoring labels and boxes, we are organically becoming a different people, a different race. Why is that a bad thing? It's been happening in the open for the last five decades. It's time we say that being racist is wrong.

I know a lot of white people the generation above me who wouldn't say they were racist but didn't want their children having a relationship with someone of color. I had friends who cried over it and I was witness to some of those family fights. But as soon as there were grandchildren, most of that fear-of-the-unknown-racism melted away. Love filled the space that fear had held.

Love is the greater and more natural emotion.

I stand on the backs of my ancestors. The way we are living right now would likely be offensive to most of them. But as the generations passed, my family did not hang onto cultural values of those who came before us. They adapted.

I have no problem saying that people who believe in an ideology that promotes racism are wrong and have no place in this evolving country. They have to adapt.

I mean that across the board, not just as applied to Nationalists. But they're the ones who are in the news today.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Altars to Alter Space in a Place

I make altars wherever I go. Sometimes when I use the word, people who know I am pagan quiet, not certain how I mean it. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a usually raised structure or place on which sacrifices are offered or incense is burned in worship —often used figuratively to describe a thing given great or undue precedence or value especially at the cost of something else.”

That's fairly accurate. I would define it as a space dedicated as sacred, dedicated with a specific spiritual purpose. I have many in my home and over the years they have been featured on my blog in photos. There are three in my office. The main one is my ancestor altar. There is a second one dedicated to Kuan Yin and Jizo that evolved during my work on finding peace within myself. The last one I call my Working altar. It changes with my spiritual progression but it is always sacred. I don't even set a cup on it for a moment. If you know me, that's saying something.

It is a large part of my dedication to hold what is sacred to me as sacred every day. The creation and tending of altars is integral to that work. They are placed through the house, in the kitchen and the living room. We often joke that if there was room in the bathroom we'd put one in there, but it's a true statement. Some of our altars are so old they look like purposeful artistic installations.

We make ones when we go to the woods. When we go camping. When we stay in hotel rooms. And when I visit my family.

Working Altars
Last year I was in a space of recovery still and I set up a small altar with a piece of fluorite I has used in the Burn ICU. As the week progressed and I pushed at the edges of what was physically possible for me, I added objects to it I found in the park and on the beach and it became a thing of beauty and peace to my heart.

Healing Altars
When I initially had my accident, we created altars in our home with items sent from our loved ones.

And then friends of family of different faiths and beliefs rallied together to send me thoughts and prayers. Each of them created something personal to them with my health and in mind. They were altars created while I was in a coma and my life was uncertain. With their permission, I share some of the photos, just a sampling of altars built around the country, connecting energetically in one purpose. Magic.

From Anne's home...

...and Dani's home...

...and Heather's home...

...and Irene's home...

...and Kaye's home...

...and Kim's home...

...and Michelle's heart...

...and Rahdne's home...

...and Tracy's home.

Altars in Nature
I spend a lot of time in nature. Not as much as I'd like to, but it's my happy place. It fills me with such joy that I feel drawn to make temporary altars in gratitude for the time and space I share with the land and it's other inhabitants. I use what's around- sticks and stones and leaves and ferns and flowers and feathers- and I let my heart guide the end result. There are some spaces we travel often enough that the altar has become more permanent. Enough so that those who visit the space feel the sacredness laid down.

Isn't that the best magic?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Solstice, 581 Days After Near-Death By Fire, and Elsie's Birthday

Blessed Solstice everyone! My house smells like freshly made honey-butter bread and freshly cut strawberries. As the sun sets on the longest day we will eave a fairie offering outside to appease the fae folk. It's one of our traditions.

It is the first day of summer and the longest stretch of daylight we'll see for the year; roughly fifteen hours and fifteen minutes of light for New York. Even as we move into our warmest days the light is waning towards the longest night.

It's a hot one today, too, driving me mostly inside after a morning trip to the laundromat. It's been five hundred and eighty-one days since my accident and after too long in this heat, my insides feel poached. I am also extremely photo-sensitive.

So I am struggling to connect to this glorious holiday that I used to revel in. Today is the Summer Solstice. It is also the day my Great-Grandma Elsie was born. Happy birthday, Grandma-from-Florida! She was born in 1904. She was born one hundred and thirteen years ago. She died in 1994, when I was 17. She loved the summer. I think of her and I smile. It never fails. She is still with me.

Me and Elsie the first time we met.

Elsie and me the last time we saw each other.

Today on her birthday, I got a twinge to check again and there was a hint on her name! I have never been so excited to see a leaf pop up! It brought up a new document that was scanned in- her marriage record to my Great-Grandpa Harold!

They were married August 16, 1924. I knew that already. It happens to be my birthday. I was born on their anniversary, the first one without my Great-Grandpa. He died the year before I was born.

It lists her place of birth as Potsdam NY, which we didn't know. The witnesses were Edwin Kinyon (likely Kenyon) and Pearl Riddle. It also lists her mother- the one whose parents I have been searching for- as Louise Burnett. We previously had Emma Louise Burnah (we know she went by Louise day-to-day). It feels like a present! I now have another lead in the search for more information on Elsie's parentage.

Listen to your gut! Allow your searches to be as intuitive as it is document-driven.

Tonight my house will rejoice in the healthy growth of our garden thanks to the mix of hot and stormy days leading into the beginning of summer. That will be my balm. I will toast to Elsie and thank her for all the love she gave me during the living days she was with me, as well as the days she has been part of my life since her death.

Blessed Solstice!
A screen-capture of the marriage record.

Harold and Elsie the day of their wedding, August 16, 1924.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How I Keep the Dead Alive

Snuggling with Luna the day before she passed.
I used to go to the local zoo when they housed Bison. I have a special affinity for the buffalo and would sit with them, sharing the day. I spent time telling them stories about their ancestors. I told them about the giant aurochs and the time of the mammoths.

"Your ancestors were giants," I whispered.

When it is quiet at night and my tiny tuxedo cat Mara is curled in my lap, I tell her stories of the furry sisters she never knew. I tell her about Luna's moth hunting skills and how she once drained milk out of a cup without knocking it over or off the side table. I tell her about how Bella had vision problems and lived under the bed for eight years. I tell her about how Bella concussed herself twice slamming head-first into furniture. I tell her how Zami was kinder before her two younger sisters died. I tell Mara that Zami, known at 22 as Crazy Grams, would miss her if she died first.

And then we talk about how she's going to live a very long life.

But no one lives forever. I have a list of loved loves lost to time, some recently inked in. And we miss them forever. We ever get over the loss. We're not meant to. We miss them forever. It just hurts less as time passes. We add more to our life stories and some experiences begin to fill in the cracks.

We become repaired, healing things, more beautiful for the new joys.

When I am feeling insecure I talk out loud to my Great-Grandma Elsie. She used to make sure I knew that I was fine just the way I was. In fact she loved me for it. She would try to explain why people treated me the way they did. She gave me their perspective while affirming that I had a right to be hurt. So I talk to her and I smell her in the room and I feel her sitting beside me.

When I am lost I talk to my Grandpa Dick. He was beloved, the only Grandpa present in my life. He had a way of telling me how reality was while not making me feel wrong. He could help me break down a situation and logically show me where I misunderstood. And I would know I had to apologize, and he would squeeze my hand with pride. And then he would tell me he was sorry I had felt hurt. And he would set his mouth and look at me and I always felt like he really understood.

I was in the room when he died. I felt him leave. But I talk to him still. I ask him for guidance, for help in knowing what the right direction is... and I smell the inside of his Cadillac and I feel like no matter what choice I make, he's along for the ride with me. I'm not alone.

I share the stories of my beloveds. It's how I keep the dead alive.
Grandpa Dick and me during  family generational photo, around '87.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Every morning the news brings me another story of some woman being harassed for wearing a hijab. It sickens me and saddens my heart. And now those stories are getting brasher. They are being discriminated against. People are refusing to service them. People are snatching their hijabs off their heads. That is akin to stripping them naked.

I don't understand.

At it's core, the hijab is a head scarf. It  covers the hair. It is a symbol of modesty. That is all.

Rather than preach religious tolerance, I thought I'd post photos of the other head scarves and wraps that religions and cultures have worn and still wear. They each have their own stories of discrimination.

Can't we just skip that step this time?

Remember that if you wish your beliefs and practices to be tolerated, you must extend the same courtesy to others. I'm talking about beliefs that do not interfere with someone else's right to life. Beliefs do not harm. Actions harm.

Be kind. Be open. Be tolerant.

[All photos used for illumination's sake are stock photos for public use.]

They're not wearing head scarves, but they are wearing wigs over their hair as a covering.

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