Buzzing About Bees

As part of my plan to be at home more, I want to build beehives and work with a colony or two of honeybees. My primary motive is not to share their honey and beeswax, though I will be honored to do so, but to get to know the energy and spirit of these fascinating beings.

I used to be terrified of bees, or any flying stinging insect. At Girl Scout Camp when I was fairly young, I stepped on a nest of ground bees while returning from a hike, and ended up rolling down the hill, being stung all over by angry bees. It was a sleepover camp, so I didn’t have the comfort of Mom to soothe me. Being rather shy and sensitive, I took the basic medical treatment that was offered, and suffered the emotional effects on my own. That experience combined with a close run-in with yellow-jackets earlier in life left me fleeing from bees whenever one approached the area I was in.

My friend Luke is a natural friend to bees. He taught me to overcome my fear and panic at the sight of one. He showed me how to calmly and gently tell the bee “there are flowers over there,” and point to the nearest flowering plants. I was fascinated that they almost always understood this message, reading the energy that we sent along with our words.

Several years ago, I had a series of synchronicities about bees, which included finding individual bees lying on the ground on several walks. The 5 of swords in the Motherpeace Tarot deck, which I was using at the time, has a picture of a bee, symbolizing the negativity we associate with a “sting,” “hex” or “curse.” I worked to assimilate the lessons of that card, which at the time meant learning to maintain my equanimity without feeling defeated by every small “failure.” In the process, I realized that bees could be positive messengers, bringing me the reminder to be mindful and release my expectations.

The depiction of bees and beekeepers in Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing has also intrigued me since I first read it. I re-read the book last year, and was again captivated by the magick shared between the bees and the priestesses. Now that I won’t be working outside the home full-time (not to mention commuting) I’ll have time to explore this ancient relationship myself.

LM, BlackLion and I took a 2-hour beekeeping seminar last week. They are going to follow up with a session of bee classes, and I plan to purchase the book and read their notes (my current work schedule means I can’t attend the classes with them). Perhaps as soon as this spring, I’ll be welcoming bees to the homestead.

Blessed Bees!

A Birthday Tribute

Today is the day to celebrate ElvenTiger (that is her chosen magickal name, not what she goes by every day). My youngest child turns 9 years old! On the day she was born, we had a Nor’Easter snowstorm – and today, just as she’d predicted, we woke up to a very similar storm! She told me that because it snowed when she was born, having a snowstorm today means good luck for her and her loved ones. Sounds wonderful to me!

ElvenTiger is a beautiful and creative and fun young woman. She has blue eyes, red-blond hair which she is growing out, and is rather petite. She is kind, sweet, funny and quick to smile. She is determined, sometimes fiercely, and knows what she likes and doesn’t like (well, she is a Capricorn, with Sagittarius moon and Gemini rising). Most of the time she is calm and even-tempered, though she can get fiery when she’s upset; usually the catalyst is her brother, Crow.

Her interests include cooking, faeries, knitting, drawing, soccer, and music. She loves to sing, dance, and make up her own lyrics. She likes being read to, mostly fantasy stories and ones with talking animals. She loves cats and jewelry. ElvenTiger has several close friends of varying ages, kids and adults. She loves to hang out with her Grammy, and is also developing a magickal connection with Raven, who is also a Capricorn and a pagan. ElvenTiger is homeschooled, and is learning reading, math and many other things at her own pace, on her own timetable.

For her birthday celebration yesterday, we went ice skating at an indoor rink with friends. ElvenTiger skated around with her two close girlfriends. They had fun despite some falling. Then we went back home and had cake and ice cream. Grammy made her an awesome snowman cake! Then she unwrapped presents; she got lots of lovely gifts. The kids ran around and played and worked off all the sugar.

Today, her actual birthday, we are having a dinner and dessert of her choice: curried vegetables and rice, and whooppee pie cake. All of it is vegan, by the way. Then she’ll pick a game or two for us to play. A nice plan for a quiet snowy evening.

I’m so thankful for my sweet daughter ElvenTiger!!!

New Year, New Energy

I’ve noticed the shift of energy with the new calendar year (welcome, 2008!). It’s taking me a while to adjust to it, but now I seem to be settling into the groove.

While I don’t do “resolutions” per se, I do have some big and exciting goals that I’m focusing on this year. Here’s my list:

1. Writing! I will be a published co-author of at least two books this year. They are a vegan pagan cookbook, and “The Book of Ing.” I’ll also continue to write articles and personal journal entries, and of course websites. I’ll have more time to devote to it, thanks to:

2. Career change! Quester and I are going to trade roles this year. I’ll be the primary at-home parent, and he’ll be the primary breadwinner. I’m looking forward to unschooling with the kids, and doing my writing from home on my own schedule. BlackLion’s new schedule will allow us to have more time to write together, too.

3. Heart resonance. I’m reading a wonderful book that’s changing and inspiring my emotional life. (It’s called The HeartMath Solution, by Doc Childre and Howard Martin, and I very highly recommend it). I’m practicing the exercises, and integrating them so that I can access my heart’s wisdom all the time.

4. Healthy eating. I’m not a strict vegan, and during the holidays my standards tend to slip, as I share meals with non-vegans/non-vegetarians and indulge in sweets more often. The dairy and eggs sort of creep in there. Now I’m back to my usual vegan diet, and am cutting back on the sugars too.

5. Yoga. For some reason, 2007 wasn’t the year for me to do much yoga (after the previous two years, where I did it very regularly). I feel good when I do my yoga. So why wouldn’t I do it more? I will!

Holiday Greetings and a Quote

Holiday greetings to all! I’ve been away from the online world, mostly because my computer has been out of commission, but also because of the busy time with holiday preparations.

I’m very thankful for all the people in my life, and for all their love and caring. I’m thankful for the blessings of abundance that surround me. Thank you Universe!

We had a wonderful Winter Solstice ritual and celebration on Friday night with a small festive group of family and friends. The ritual was fun, and the feast was delicious. We didn’t have as many guests as we’ve had other years, and I enjoyed having a mellow gathering. Only four of us stayed up to keep the vigil; this was the first year that ElvenTiger has made it all night! We played games and ate candy and hung out by the fire.

Our Christmas celebration was also a lot of fun. We gathered at Mom’s on Christmas Eve for a yummy supper and to watch a movie. I also got to bond with her new kitten a bit. Then, on Christmas morning, we opened gifts at my house, had Christmas dinner and played with the new games and toys. The celebration continued into the evening, as Raven and BlackLion joined us to open gifts, have some munchies and play a game.

Then I took a shower and collapsed into bed. I tend to get caught up in doing too much to get ready for the winter holidays. While I wasn’t stressed out this year, I do feel tired, like I did too much and wore myself out a bit. I want to take some time to just relax and restore, and not have to accomplish anything.

Here’s a quote I found today that spoke to me of the importance of being present where and when you are:

“If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”
– Maria Edgeworth

From Holiday Frenzy to Holiday Fun

Over the years, I’ve been gradually figuring out how to not only survive the holidays, but to thrive throughout the season. I’m lucky to have a Mom who loves this season, and so my holiday spirit is strong. Yet preparing for the holidays has certainly become a lot of work over the years, especially after having kids. We celebrate both Winter Solstice and Christmas, so we have multiple gatherings to prepare for and host.

Six or seven years ago, when the kids were small, it got really overwhelming and stressful, and I had to rethink the things I chose to do around the holidays. I want to cook and make cards and gifts and buy presents and decorate the house and all of that, but for the right reasons. I want to have fun, and put positive energy into what I’m doing, not be freaking out because there’s not enough time to “do it all.” As the saying goes, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

Ever since then, I’ve been gradually refining how I craft my experience of the winter holidays. First, I acknowledge that December is a busy time, and don’t try to do too much. I recognize that the preparation for the holidays is my creative project for the month, and try not to add others. Second, I make sure that I take time to have fun and relax. Some of my holiday preparations are relaxing, like making collage cards for my immediate family. I enjoy thinking of each individual as I work, creating a card that reflects their interests and personality. I also take time to read, which is my way of recharging. Third, I go easy on myself. I’m learning not to be so quick to judge myself when I don’t do a “good enough” job, or I eat sugar or don’t find time to exercise. Especially at this time of year, I “go with the flow” more and try to be in the moment, no matter what I’m doing.

If I do get overwhelmed or find myself getting stressed out, I have tools to release myself from those states of being. The major one is skillful use of lists. Having a long “to do” list can in itself be stressful, but if you prioritize the list and note when you’re going to work on each item, you can see the big picture and know that everything will get done. Next is asking for help. Especially now that the kids are older, they’re a big help with things like cooking and wrapping gifts. Not only that, it’s fun to do together! Putting on some Christmas music also keeps me in a cheerful mood, and reminds me of the fun of the season.

And finally, after preparing busily for events like the annual Winter Solstice ritual and celebration, or our family’s Christmas Day get-together, I consciously relax and enjoy myself. Spending time with friends and family is an essential part of the holiday season, and I look forward to those times, even as I enjoy curling up in a quiet moment to create unique gifts for them.

Creating a Process-Folio

I recently read The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner. It was focused primarily on how to change and improve public education in order to foster true understanding (rather than the “teaching to the test” that goes on too much of the time). One of the concepts that I found really intriguing is that of “process-folios.”

Many unschoolers track their learning by creating yearly portfolios, which display some aspects of the subjects they’ve been studying. Often these consist of finished products such as artwork, reports, workbook pages and the like.

A process-folio, which focuses on a particular project, goes deeper. Here’s the idea. As you work on a project, you tend to generate papers and other items along the way. Save all of these for your process folio. They might be jotted notes, journal entries, first drafts, fabric swatches, feedback from colleagues or peers, photos, printed e-mails or other communications, doodles and drawings, lists of CDs or books that inspired you…whatever materials in some way contribute to or inform the final product or performance. In the book, Gardner related how students were encouraged to seek input from peers and teachers on their work while it was in progress, and to write journal entries about how the project was going. You should even hang onto ideas that proved to be a dead end or were changed along the way.

When you are finished with the project, compile this archive of items into a process-folio. You can then get an idea of your own creative process, find what worked and what didn’t, note what support you might seek out next time, and even discover inspirations for your next undertaking. You can also share your process-folio, if you choose, with project partners, colleagues or family members.

I think this is a great idea for unschoolers, and also for anyone working on creative projects. I plan to do this for all of my current creations, and I’ve already begun to compile in folders the printed drafts and notes I tend to hang onto anyway. Now that I think about it, maybe one of the reasons I’m so drawn to this idea is that I tend to be a pack rat when it comes to paperwork. Oh well, it’s good to put to new use the stacks of papers that clutter my desk and bookshelves!

We Are All Solitaries

I went and got my hair cut last night. I’ve been going to one of those places where you can walk in without an appointment and whoever is there will cut your hair. I like my hair short, and I’ve generally been happy with their work. Last night I got a really cool hairstylist (I’ll call her Alanna) and as we chatted, she told me she’s Wiccan. I told her I’m pagan, too, and asked her about her plans for Winter Solstice. She wasn’t sure. She said that she’d started out practicing Wicca with a good friend of hers, and her friend had moved away for a couple of years. In the meantime, Alanna hadn’t been celebrating the sabbats and esbats, or practicing her religion actively. She’d lost some of her former focus, now that her friend wasn’t physically near.

This got me thinking of how we can rely on interactions with others to fuel our spiritual life. Pagans, especially those who began their spiritual journey with a coven or circle, may feel like they’re not “really” being spiritually active if they aren’t doing ritual with a group of people on a regular basis. But ultimately, we’re all solitary practitioners. Each person’s relationship with the Divine is unique. When we get distracted from that, and seek connection solely through other people or customary modes and tools of worship, we can lose focus and feel disconnected. As the Charge of the Goddess says, “if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”

Alanna’s experience of missing the connection to her spirituality, but not pursuing it because she isn’t in a familiar setting with other people, rings true. I’ve felt it myself in the past, and hear echoes of it from pagan friends. I started out as a solitary pagan, and I’m currently feeling called to focus on that deep solo work, which for me is tied closely with my creativity and imagination. At the same time, I continue to reach out to my spiritual community through writing, Reiki, the creativity coven, hosting gatherings, and other means. As I change, my expressions of my path change too. I’m working on finding a balance of shared spirituality and going deeper into my calling as a writer. Something that works for me is my two co-writing projects. That way I can connect spiritually with others, and also feed my personal connection with the Divine. Obviously, each person’s needs and wants for community will be different. I guess it’s a matter of clarifying what those needs and wants are, and then finding positive ways to pursue them, both alone and in community.