Friday, April 30, 2010

A Radical Notion of Marriage: Consenting Adults.

A little over a year ago, my partner and I announced that we were going to be handfasting at Beltane and getting married a year and a day later. (The wedding is this Sunday!) Included in our announcement is the fact that we will not be getting legally married. 

On the phone with my mother the other day, I got another dose of "I think you two ought to just get legally married. What about ________ issue? Have you thought of that?" Over the course of the last year, I have heard about health insurance (no longer an issue, thank you Obama), intensive care visitation rights (also soon not to be a problem, a la my favorite president, Obama), protection for our children, tax benefits, and others. 

Yes, of course, legal marriage comes with a whole host of benefits, legal, financial, and otherwise. If it didn't, there would not be a movement to expand the definition of legal marriage to include same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples. For the most part, I support this inclusion and do see it as a human rights and equality issue. 

On the other hand, my partner and I are polyamorous, polyamory being the opposite of monogamy in the quick definition. There are many flavors of poly, but my partner and I are specifically what we call polyfidelitous, meaning that we would like to have more than the two of us in our marriage. So yes, right now we can "pass" as a straight monogamous couple, but that denies who we are in our sexuality and a legal marriage now could seriously complicate power dynamics etc. in the marriage we ultimately want to develop. 

So why are we getting married with just the two of us now? Because we want children and are emotionally ready for children. Making a formal commitment to each other in front of our friends, family, and the gods feels like the right way to start. First, we bind ourselves to each other, make ourselves fast, so to speak, and then from that foundation, we grow. 

I believe, and my partner agrees with me, that the idea of marriage needs to be radically redefined. Marriage needs to be defined as being among consenting adults. Period. If a person is an adult and capable of giving consent, then that person is a viable marriage partner in whatever configuration of partnership they choose to engage in. I do also think that detailed marriage contracts should be negotiated (duration of marriage, procreative goals, procreative consequences, financial consequences of divorce or dissolution, etc.), but then again I think every partnership needs to take a long look at such logistics and negotiate them deliberately regardless. It would certainly clean up divorce court!

We are eagerly looking forward to our wedding this weekend. We have worked with other clergy to craft the binding ritual that will work best for us, and unlike the broken and exclusionary system of legal marriage, our pagan wedding will include all of ourselves, not just the parts that "pass" as conformist and non-threatening to the status quo.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boomerang Magic

I am often amazed how it is when we let go of things that we get them. I saw this in high school with lovers. There were people then that I had huge crushes on. Several times, I gave up on my crush of months, moved on, forgot, and then a year or so later, they would fall into my lap with the perfect timing, perfect situation, and I would have what I had longed for so many months before.

My former housemate, apparently, has a variation on the theme. In her life, she will work for something, strive to manifest it, be frustrated, get stubborn, and then finally leave for greener pastures. Right after she leaves, it comes to fruition without her. Perhaps it is her Aries nature. Perhaps, to make a fully astrological metaphor, she has to leave the Piscean imminent completion of a cycle to go butt heads with a new beginning because she is Aries. 

Either way, I don't know. But I do know that she and I were the ideologues behind this living in community thing and she was always so frustrated that we were not, well, communal enough to satisfy her longings. Now that she has left for pagan communities in the Smokies, I find myself wrapped in community. I often spend hours a day talking with my housemates and the vast majority of my socializing is at the house. We share meals sometimes and talk about philosophy and magic and sex. We now share wine together, have even designated a communal wine cabinet (the box stuff really isn't all bad). 

My former housemate, the one who wanted this and left, still comes back some weeks and is glad to be here for a couple days. She has moved on to other things she really wanted. At the same time, I wonder a bit about what would happen if I did let go of my yearnings, what might come. It seems sometimes that Time does pry them from between my fingers, little by little, as they grow well-worn.   

Monday, April 26, 2010

Friends With the Land

I do not believe in the ownership of land, and yet I desperately wish to own some. On the one hand, I do not believe land CAN be owned, or really even ever SHOULD be owned. I much prefer what I understand to be a more indigenous idea of living in relationship with the land. 

That said, I also live in this world, this reality, and this socio-economic system, which decrees that I have ownership of these things and you have ownership of those things, and we are all allowed to do with those things exactly what we please (within the letter of the law, or at least as long as we don't get caught). For that reason, the only way I can come to be in true relationship with land is to legally own some. Otherwise, I can never know when it might be sold, developed, logged, drained, flooded, appropriated, hunted, mined, etc. Without legal ownership, I cannot protect the land that I love or have much, if any,  influence over how it is treated in the hands of humans. 

I know, I could choose to be in relationship with the entire earth, with all the land and sea on the planet, but honestly, my heart is not that big. My head, yes. I can think my love and send the energy of my love for the planet easily. But in my heart, when I think of the planet, I think of the green of grass in my own yard, the light coming through the leaves at the park I grew up near, the dirt I planted beans in once, and then a picture of earth from space or in an atlas with all the different countries picked out in yellows and oranges with blue oceans. In other words, I take what I have known with my own senses, and then use my mind to stretch it out to cover the world. 

And since my heart is so specific to what I can see and touch and sense on an energetic level, I yearn for a parcel of land that I can see and touch and sense energetically and fall in love with, a bit of the earth to invest with my love and plant bulbs for spring on and converse with trees and honey bees on, to run around naked and make love on, and somehow I am fully dissatisfied with the corner lot grassy yard of my current home. I am so dissatisfied that I have been unwilling to bond with this partial acre because I have dreamed so intensely of leaving. 
I do not believe in owning the land, and yet paradoxically I yearn to call a property my own so that I can set it free from ownership and we can be friends.

A Family of Children and Trees

I went to hear Joy Harjo perform and read her poetry Friday night. My friend Thandiwe Shiprah has been dreaming of bringing her to Nashville for years, and finally managed to get the art grant money to get it done. I did have a moment of disorientation when I walked in and found out it wasn't free like a Facebook friend had said, but since I was already there in the beautiful new space of the W. O Smith Community Music School, I decided to spring for it. 

Some of the lines of her poetry struck me like blows to the chest or hammers suddenly released from their moorings to ping inside my skull. One line in particular that stuck with me talked about drops of blood falling to the earth and springing up into daughters, sons, and trees. As someone on the cusp of making babies and obsessed with getting to the woods, it really resonated with me. That is exactly how I feel about life. The trees are as close to me as children, and the longing I have for them in my life is very similar to the longing I have for kids. I have also seen my partner mourn a beloved shade tree that fell in a storm, and I understood completely. 

What I long for, really, is to be in full intimacy with the lives of my children and the land. I yearn to be in long term relationships with trees, to get to know kids and trees and earth as they grow ever closer to being their fullest selves, to protect the womb, the soil, from whence they come, and to nourish them with nutrients and love even as they enrich my life. 

It is the same hunger, the same bone-deep longing, but until I heard that line in that poem, I had not realized. I had not seen that my yearning for land and my yearning for children are at their heart the same yearning for family of my own.   


Have a Monday double-post to compensate for my unfortunate lack of bloggage last Friday. And look, they are even related thematically!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Everybody Loves the Trolley

Headed to the local Earth Day festival at the park downtown this year. Wandering around the booths, I stopped at the public transit booth and got to ask some questions. I am so excited to learn that we now have a local bus that runs for free around downtown. There are two lines heading to different sites of interest, and one runs until 6 and the other until midnight 6 days a week.This is especially exciting because I saw a similar transportation solution in Seattle when I was there a few years ago. It really made the city friendlier and much more accessible to everyone, local citizens and tourists alike. 

I also got to ask the transit folks if we are going to get trolleys. We used to have them about 100 years ago, but they were all taken out. The city is laid out in a good design for trolleys (or light rail, as they are more modernly called), since we are in a spoke and wheel instead of a grid. I love the idea of running trolleys (trolley is more interesting than tram or light rail, come on, admit it...) down the major arteries out of downtown, and then smaller neighborhood buses could run exclusively to dump (ahem, transport) passengers out of the neighborhoods onto the trolley lines. Add a few circuit buses to connect trolley lines several miles out of town (the wheel part of the spoke and wheel) and I think we would have a highly functional and FUN transit system that I would want to ride. 

The transit advocates say that trolleys are being looked at as an option, and it looks pretty good. I also asked if they have any ad campaigns in the works to counter the public sentiment in town that the bus is only for the poor and those who cannot afford cars, and despite a lot of talk, the answer I got was really a no. I think that is a shame, because I think the public image of public transport is one of the first and most important steps to getting public transport in town up to something sustainable and functional. 

On the whimsical side, I picked up a little keychain in the shape of a bus, and when I push the button the headlights come on. They are LED and so pretty bright. I figure I'll keep it in my truck (oh the irony!) as an emergency flashlight.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weddings are really zombies that eat BRAINS

Okay, so my previous wedding post was all about "everyone wants to know about the wedding and it is going so smoothly and easily that I have nothing to tell them."

Well, scratch that. I still don't have anything to tell people, but the freak out is definitely setting in. There is no one piece that is worrying me. I am absolutely certain that I want to be married to my partner and make a life and family together. I am not worried about how the wedding itself will go because I have done enough Full Moon Celebrations that I know that events come off easily when lightly planned. As a friend told me, the wedding is a success if you are married to the right person at the end of the day, nothing else matters. Completely true. 

And yet, somehow, the sum of the parts is starting to bring on tremendous anxiety, and what is most worrying is that there is no particular thing that worries me, only a generalized sense of freak. I think I need to get my house in order, clean and organize some things that need it, and especially I need to refresh my personal altar. Perhaps then I will feel calmer. 

I have a great support network and I have been talking to them about this. Mostly they say, well, yeah, weddings are a big deal, they are inherently stressful. But, really, can stress be this completely amorphous and non-localized to specific concerns? Bizarre.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Breathing Wrong

I went for my first ever Breathwork session today with a woman who has been doing this for years. She had contacted me about a trade of energy work for breathwork, and I thought it would be a good idea. I have known for a while that breathwork would be good for me because I have trouble interfacing with the physical world. When under stress or pressure especially, I jump up a bit out of my body and groundedness and then find things like laundry and dishes overwhelmingly difficult. Breath keeps spirit and physical balanced. 

I felt nervous when I got to her place for the session, and so was breathing shallowly. She didn't tell me in time and so I wore my shoes into her session room. Her chairs were white and I was afraid I might get them dirty somehow. I was afraid I had parked in the wrong spot and when I asked her if it was okay, her response was less reassuring as of-course-why-wouldn't-it-be. 

She told me a little about breathwork, we chatted for a little while so she could get a read on where I am, and then she recommended that we work on the physical mechanics of breathing. She told me I am doing it wrong and probably always have. (This is, generally speaking, a bad way to approach me, I am an overachiever who hates to be told flat-out that I am doing something wrong, especially as a diagnosis by an expert.) I have done yoga for years, my initial instructions were very breath-based, and when I meditate I do a good bit of breathing exercises as well. That all is apparently rather irrelevant. 

She worked with me a bit, had me try some things, notice and share my noticing about some things, and I began to realize that my scoliosis really affects the mechanics of my breathing. Even in its much improved state, the closer I got to how I am "supposed" to breathe, the more uncomfortable I became in my spinal musculature and therefore spinal alignment. These noticings were not within her area of expertise, I think. On top of that, I really had trouble isolating my diaphram, probably because so many other muscle groups have learned to compensate for it due to my spinal curvature, and that got frustrating. She seemed a little impatient with my difficulty, or maybe that was just me being overly self-conscious. I found it very hard not to be self-conscious since it is not like I can stop breathing in between lesson points and she was watching and evaluating the rise and fall of various parts of my body as I breathed. 

So in the end, I don't think we will be seeing each other again. Our energies don't really click. I have learned that breath exercises will help to release areas of my spinal musculature that really don't want to release (structural muscles are like that), but I am enjoying my improved energy and functionality now that things have restabilized, so I think I will be shelving this knowledge for a few years until it is time to work on it again.

Apologies, it is not my fault...

Apologies that Wednesday's post didn't go up on Wednesday. I had it written and scheduled and everything, but apparently when I edited Monday's post, it caused Blogger to somehow randomly decide that Wednesday's post was just a draft and not actually for publishing as scheduled. 

Blogger tech folks, that sucks. If I schedule something, please just leave it as is unless I change it. (Not that you are reading this, but it feels better if I just say it.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Curiosity Seekers/Well-Wishers Begin to Gather

We are now less than 3 weeks away from the wedding, and the curiosity seekers and well wishers are starting to gather. My partner and I were recently asked, "Are you excited?" and without any context, we looked at each other in confusion. "Excited about what?" "The wedding." "Oh, yeah, um, sure...." People want to know details, but there really aren't that many involved, so it seems like they still walk away unsatisfied. 

I have noticed in particular that my partner's mother seems to feel that she is out of the loop. She missed our wedding planning party because she was out of town, and now seems to think that she is missing something. She listened avidly as I described a few things (venue, ritual basics, clergy) to someone else at lunch. I tried to make a special effort to get her filled in later that night, but she got distracted. 

Really, the details are as follows: This is a no-budget wedding. We are both wearing silk wrap skirts with vegetation crowns. There will be no rings. We are getting married at a picnic shelter at the park, next to the river. Reception is pot-luck, we are asking for money for gifts and there will be a basket for such cards at the reception, my dark moon circle is clergy for the ritual. The ritual will be held in circle so that the sacred space is created by the surrounding presence of our friends and family. Fundie family members have been warned to expect paganness and politely invited to just attend the reception. 

We have also delegated as much as we can. There are people (mostly family) who are in charge of: paper goods, colorful and cheap decor, flowers and crowns to be made of mostly wild/found plants, official pictures, informal pictures, ipod play list for music, and my sister the chef is making the wedding cake.

That's really about it. I want one more item for my outfit, the ritual planning is this week, and I think that's about it. Mostly, I don't think about the wedding so much as how much we are going to enjoy our lives together. And that brings a huge smile to my spirit. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

On the Collective

A friend's recent blog post (linked by permission, be advised the blog deals with BDSM and is NSFW), included the belief statement, "I do not believe that anything has ever been achieved or maintained by consensus." I disagree. 

First of all, I want to say that I respect his opinion and belief on this. He absolutely lives his beliefs, and his personal responsibility is the very relevant result of not believing in the value of consensus. He is the head of his House, and as far as I can tell, he is good at being a Patriarch and he truly values being good at it. I understand some of where he is coming from in his perspective, life experience, training, etc. and firmly support his right to have his beliefs and live his chosen lifestyle.

That said, I think his statement would be more accurate to say, "I do not believe anything I value has ever been achieved or maintained by consensus." I personally have been a part of multiple projects and creations that were both achieved and maintained by consensus. A short list: 
1. The three plays (series of monologues) about gender that were co-created by a partner and myself with significant content co-creation from the cast. My creative partner and I were absolutely working on consensus with each other AND able to incorporate input from the cast. 
2. My Dark Moon Circle, which has been meeting for going on three years now. We co-create our rituals based on consensus, and furthermore, we have effectively and informally divvied up various roles based on talent and availability, since some of us have more demanding professional and family lives than others. 
3. My community household, which has been bumping along for almost four years now. I cannot pretend it has been smooth going, but that has been because we HAVE been working on consensus and we typically have very opinionated and independently-minded individuals in the community. It takes a good bit of maintenance, but it has been worthwhile and valuable to me and others.

My friend, however, does not tend to choose these kinds of projects because he does not share in these values. He values hierarchy and being the one in charge (or at least having the most competent person) at the top of the hierarchy, and so his belief system necessarily negates the value of creating by consensus. 

I believe he has full rights to believe that hierarchy is better than consensus (especially since hierarchy necessarily implies better-than judgments), but that does not mean that consensus never gets anything done. It just doesn't get anything done that he personally values, thinks is of value, or chooses to participate in. Just because he chooses to opt out of consensus processes does not mean that they are ineffective for everyone and for all projects. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Which Set of Lips Stay Closed Now?

A friend recently sent me a link to this article about Purity, or how dieting is the new virginity. It makes the point that women's bodies used to be more controlled via sexuality. Women were valuable based on their virginity and the sex they did not have. Now, women's bodies are more valued on their thinness, or on the food they did not eat. 

I think there are some interesting correlations here. Firstly, both sex and eating can be highly pleasurable activities, and I believe that we as a culture are quite afraid of pleasure, especially the pleasure of women. Women feeling pleasure makes them into people instead of objects or "lesser beings" and that can be dangerous to the "men are people, women are commodities" story of much of our patriarchal culture. 

I also am sorry that the author of the article, Zaftigzeitgeist missed the obvious play on words. Zey say, "It is as if we have gone from legs closed to lips closed." I would say that the more obvious phrasing would be more like, "It is as if we have just changed which set of lips to keep closed." (Groan, I know. My partner definitely groaned at that one. But I think it's good.) Looking at it from a lips point of view raises the appetites correlation, which delves a little deeper. 

Things go through women's lips into their bodies, and often it is because women choose to bring those things (food, fingers, penises) into themselves. The patriarchy has a fear of women's appetites and women wanting too much. Too much sex, which can "unman" a man, too much food, which can mean she is not striving to meet patriarchal beauty standards, too much attention, work, rights, votes, influence, power, equality, etc. Women wanting things, or more than their allotted amount, is dangerous to the patriarchy. Therefore what passes through women's lips and how much they are allowed to WANT to pass through their lips becomes an appetites control. 

I also find the whole situation sad. Sex shame and food/fat shame do documented damage to women throughout our society. And as for the men, they don't really want skinny women or women who hate sex. Studies have shown that men in our society really do prefer women curvier than the prevailing beauty standards and willing partners. Patriarchy hurts all of us.

This all goes back to the Pleasure House ambition of mine, and speaks to the deep revolutionary nature of a sacred space for people, especially women, to explore and indulge themselves in sacred pleasure. Perhaps the motto should be something like "open wide" or "making all lips smile" or "read our lips to see if we're satisfied." Okay, all of those are terrible, but I'm sure someone will think of something actually clever and a little raunchy without being terribly offensive along those same lines.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Delicate Possibilities and Connections

There is a woman who is a client and friend of a client and friend, who is now my own client and friend thanks to the referral of our mutual friend, and in meeting with her a few months ago, she mentioned that she knew several older women interested in establishing community on land in order to be more sustainable and to make provision for their old(er) age. I was hard pressed to not be too excited and asked her to pass along my definite interest to these women. 

Many emails, two cases of food poisoning and some brain-eating life later, I got to go out to meet one of these older women, see her current property and talk life goals, sustainability, and community. Really, we spent a very enjoyable two hours agreeing with each other in a "yes, exactly, and I also think this," kind of way. She took me on a golf-cart tour of her garden and around the property, blithely reassuring me that we would be fine even as she told me of how she had wrecked that very same golf cart on this very same steep graveled hill and I hung on tightly and tried not to crush the large dog who was equally crushing my feet. 

A few years ago she had a nearby property with a lot of water and specifically running water, and now she really regrets letting it go and hates where she is now. She knows she could put in some solar and a well and work on going off grid, but she misses her old place more than she is motivated to make her new place work. In thinking about properties, I told her I thought an old summer camp would really make the best community starter property, especially since it would probably already have some kind of sleeping shelters and some kind of great hall/lodge on property. 

Her eyes lit up and she told me about just such a place just a few miles down the road that has all kinds of running water like she would like to live near, and if she were more recovered from the food poisoning she would run me down there, but I can find it on my own, I won't get lost, will I, and then I can just take a left onto this road and that will run me back into town. I left to the cacophony of very large wind chimes and headed down the road to the substantial gated bridge she had described. I stood there and watched a yellow butterfly flit by me, and I stared at the gravel road that went up and around a bend in front of me, beyond the gate and over the bridge. 

I took pictures. I sent one to my friend who is a psychic and also very committed to building sacred community to ask if this could be it. I have now looked up who owns it, how big it is, and even scoured the satellite photos online. I feel...cautiously optimistic. This could be really good. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Gloria Steinem Was Right When She Said to Invite Young Folk In

I have a new housemate who is 8 years younger than I am, and I am really enjoying the experience. When I first moved in with roommates into a cooperative and/or community living situation, I was the young one, the one they had to reassure themselves of my maturity and put-together-ness. Our new housemate is a little younger than I was then, and it is fascinating to me to find that I have added a few notches on the life experience bed post. 

One of the things I heard Gloria Steinem say recently was that older folk should invite more younger folk into their lives, it will keep us all young and help the young folk with getting started resources and some anecdotal experience (all my words, not hers, she used different language for what I interpret to be the same idea). Since I have always been one of the "younger folk," I have not had a chance to turn around and see the other side of the experience. 

Talking with my new roommate has really helped put a lot of things into perspective. Hearing what she is thinking, talking about some of the gender and authoritarian dynamics she is contending with, discussing paganism and what I think the basics are and what is really important versus the formulas out there, etc. has really helped show me how much I have matured and grown up. I find myself saying things like, "I understand exactly what you mean, when I was about your age, I went through this, and it helped me learn this," and in response she nods her head enthusiastically, finding my experience to be informative to her situation. In the process, I am informed about the fact that my experiences, as unique as I thought they were at the time, are actually not special snowflakes and can be useful, interesting, and entertaining.

I have also noticed how we both move through time differently. She says, I want to learn about this, and then goes out the next day to talk with someone I suggested as a resource. I would have taken a week or two. She speaks of important events in her life history in terms of months ago, like last June or last fall, instead of living in terms of this year, last year, or four years ago, like I do. I see the benefits of both. Personally, I am very glad to be on a year-based cycle, because there is a wholeness to the cycle of the year that really works for my psyche. At the same time, I appreciate her quickness and feel inspired to move more quickly on some of my own processes. 

All told, I am very excited about this whole experience and the benefits of our new friendship. Gloria Steinem was right. Again.

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Dreams Are Not Special, But No Less Relevant For It

I find it interesting how so many pagans I know really want to be in the center of the social whirl. We want OUR house, our property, to be the place where everyone comes to celebrate, to feast, to gather and commune. 

My theory is that we are all so earthy-ish that we nest/burrow/den up and want others to come appreciate the wonderful habitat we have created. I think also we often don't want to go jaunting off through "mundane" space to get to each other; it would be so much easier if they came here. 

It is humbling to know that my dreams are not special, not unique, not iridescent butterflies effervescing on the hurricane breeze. And yet, it also speaks to a deep longing for more community, more connection, and known safe spaces to do it in. Also, it speaks of desiring ease. It can be hard for pagans to live in the 5-senses or mundane world, to pass as being of "acceptable" religion in a society dominated by Christians (especially in the South), to not speak of the things we Know, to not acknowledge the meta-stories of myth, story, ritual, intention, energy, and/or soul purpose that so greatly inform our lives. 

Most pagans I know are doing okay. We are finding our way along and that is good. But I also think that being pagan and not feeling safe to be completely open about it is stressful, and that speaks to our deep need to have and provide safe and easy space to be ourselves.