Welcome, EarthTides Readers!

A friendly welcome to those who are regular readers of my “Starcat’s Corner” column in the EarthTides Pagan Network newsletter and have been referred here. Don’t be scared, blogs don’t bite! (Those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about can check out EarthTides here.)

Anyway, here we are in March and approaching Spring Equinox/Ostara/Eostar. It still doesn’t feel much like it outside, but that’s to be expected. March came in like an arctic lamb. The winds have been wild, and I can feel the energies shifting as we approach the change of season. My clan has all been sick with a late-winter virus that snuck up on us just when we got used to the (relatively) mild weather.

I’ve found myself busier than I prefer lately, with lots of community commitments, and I think perhaps catching the virus was meant to slow me down a bit. Extra reading time is good, though I could do without the nasty earaches. My own energies are shifting as the wheel of the year turns, and I feel I’m letting go of a really old pattern, which will leave space for increasing wellness. I welcome the cleansing winds of Spring. Throw open the windows! Bask in the strengthening sun! The light really is returning, and bringing, slowly but surely, milder weather. The bairns and I even got to hike this past weekend; neither of them complained of tired legs, so I think it will be a terrific hiking season for our family. I think I will build a labyrinth this Spring, here at the homestead. And perhaps Quester and I will work on the stone well…

Blessed Be and “may the four winds blow you safely home.”

Book Review

I just finished reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (published in 1980). Years ago, I read his novel Foucault’s Pendulum (published in 1988), and really enjoyed it. So I decided to read The Name of the Rose, which was also made into a movie. I haven’t seen the movie yet, though I plan to rent it soon. But that said, I was disappointed in the book. It didn’t seem as well written (or as well translated from the original Italian, or perhaps a combination) as Foucault’s Pendulum. Perhaps he was still developing his style.

There are many times where a character goes off on a long diatribe that doesn’t contribute to the plot in any significant way. If I was reading the book in bed, it tended to put me to sleep. I don’t suffer from insomnia, though if I did, I’d probably keep this book nearby. The book is set in a monestary in the Middle Ages, and thus is full of Christian theology and Biblical references. I’ve never been a Christian, but I’m usually interested in mysticism of many types. But for some reason, this particular book seemed overly pendantic. The narrator was likeable enough, and the mystery did hold my interest enough that I plowed my way through the book, but that didn’t overcome the its flaws, from my perspective.

I hope the movie is more interesting.

Have you read the book? Did you enjoy it and find it of value? If so, please enlighten me!

That Vegan Thing

Over the past few months, I’ve been eating more and more like a vegan. I’ve been eating less dairy and eggs because they cause me digestive problems. I get along fine that way (I’m one of those people who really likes tofu) and I really appreciate the fact that foods without cheese and cream are also lower in calories. Although I consider myself a vegetarian (for about the past 12 years), I do eat fish and seafood occasionally.

My food choices have thus far been primarily about health. I originally stopped eating red meats because of a family history of colitis. As mentioned above, avoiding dairy and eggs keeps me from having health issues, too. Though I do value the fact that I’m not personally contributing to animals living in cramped and unhealthy conditions, I know that vegetarianism isn’t for everyone.

A couple of nights ago, though, I had a dream which involved a pool of water being formed (temporarily) on my Aunt’s driveway. When the water was drying up, there were three large salmon flopping around in the evaporating pool. My companions and I knew they would die soon, and I was given a knife and told to put them out of their misery. I just couldn’t do it, though, and I handed the knife off to someone else, covering my eyes and turning away. The question that ended the dream was “well, should I be eating fish, then?”

Today I went out to lunch with my parents at a local diner, which isn’t particularly vegetarian-savvy. This is the type of situation where I might normally have a haddock sandwich or some such thing, but after that dream, I couldn’t do it. I’m not sure what my long-term decision on this is, but for the moment at least, I’m feeling that I’ve made a further step down the vegan path.

[As a footnote, if vegan food interests you, there’s a really cute blog about it that I’ve linked here, called The Vegan Lunchbox.]

A Curious Dream

I was hanging out with a friend in his apartment (a dreamtime friend, apparently; I didn’t recognize him from waking life) in a city. We went out for a while, to get something to eat, but when we came back to his street, his apartment building was gone. Not demolished or burned down, but just…not there. He was incredulous and upset, and checked up and down the street, and several adjoining streets, making sure we were in the right neighborhood, looking at building numbers, and just generally freaking out. Finally I made him stop and look at me, and said, “look, it’s obvious we’ve somehow gotten into a different reality. You’re trying to solve this with logic, with your left brain, but it’s not a logical situation. I know you’re not going to like this, but we’re going to have to solve it with magick.” I asked him to take me to a place in nature. He said there wasn’t anyplace, we were right in the city, but finally admitted there was a golf course nearby, “but we’re not supposed to go there.” I said “perfect,” and we snuck onto the golf course and found a cluster of trees with low, gnarled branches. We sat down to work our magick. Pretty soon we started to see fantastical creatures walking around the golf course. My friend was still incredulous, but I took it as a good sign that we were between the worlds. Unfortunately, that was when I woke up, so I don’t know if my right-brain solution got us back to the reality we started in, or not.

Life-Long Learning, and All That

My Freewill Astrology horoscope for the year says, in part, “Virgo: in 2006, you will have greatest success if you approach every experience as a student. Your ability to experience happiness will expand if you re-ignite your love of learning and become perpetually ablaze with curiosity.” Well, that’s certainly happening so far! The month of January (and February thus far) has been very busy, but filled with interesting new experiences. A sampling:

Quester and I are finally, thanks to our good friend K, doing something we’ve talked about for quite a while: taking ballroom dancing classes. We’re also doing some cross-country skiing, and thinking of buying our own equipment (at which point the rain came, and much of the snow melted away…sigh). I’m deepening my study of Reiki, and my yoga class this session is focused on exploring mindfulness. I’m also doing more writing (and have lots of ideas for blog entries and articles, Dear Readers), and my circle is focusing on some in-depth self-exploration centered around a workbook we’re working on together. I’ve also been learning some new skills at work. Phew! I think I, like my kids, am an unschooler.

My eldest, Crow, age 9, is also a Virgo, and he’s excited about learning too. He’s reading to himself more, and becoming the bookworm I knew he’d be. His basketball playing, and understanding of the game, is strong and improving. He’s diving into a computer game called “Civilization,” which sparks his interest in history, geography, and cultures around the globe.

My little Capricorn, ElvenTiger, age 7, is having a great year so far. She’s learning to read, and doing really well with it. She, too, is a basketball player (Quester is coaching her team); she’s very new to the game, but really determined and enthused. Her love of art of all types is flourishing, as well as her penchant for cooking.

Quester has been not only coaching, but also refereeing for the older kids’ teams in the league, so he’s keeping busy with that. His music is always a front-burner priority, too.

So, that’s what we’ve been up to when I’ve been away from this blog for a while. Oh, and a lovely mountain adventure with friends (sans kids) that involved heading up to K’s family cabin, seeing a concert at which we all danced crazily for hours, doing some skiing, and driving home in a snowstorm. Plus our community celebration of Imbolc, which included a fire in the fireplace, poetry reading, and a delicious feast.

Hope you’re doing well this season, as the days grow longer and we inch slowly toward spring!

Parenting Never Stops

Quester and I, and quite a few of our friends, practice a type of parenting that is different than that used by many in the generations just prior to us. Call it what you will. Attachment parenting covers it to some extent, though the basic gist of it is respecting your children as you would another adult human being (well, you have to have compassion to begin with, I guess—some people aren’t very nice to other adults, either). My Mom was actually ahead of her time in this area. She has always said, “kids are just smaller people,” and they should be treated as such.

This doesn’t mean that you aren’t playing the role of the parent. When I was a teenager, I babysat for some neighbors who never told their kids “no,” and the two girls ran wild, making life very difficult for the parents. Kids need boundaries, and you are disrespecting them if you don’t provide any, just as much as you are if you’re arbitrarily strict.

The idea, in my view, is to create a healthy working relationship with your kids. Have fun with them, and also make it clear what rules you want them to live by. Teach them, and learn from them. Correct them when they mess up, then forgive them and move on; gracefully admit it when you’re the one in the wrong. Because of your age and experience, you get to make decisions about their lives. But encourage them to make as many choices on their own behalf as possible, so they can learn to choose well.

Something I’ve learned from colleagues with adult children is that parenting never stops. In this culture, we either look forward to the day when the kids turn 18 and move out, or we lament the “empty nest” when they head off to college or work. But they are still your kids. You’ll still worry about them, call them to see how they’re doing, probably even loan them money. They’ll distance themselves from you to some degree, as part of the natural process of finding out how to be on their own. But they’ll draw closer once again, and you’ll still be part of each others’ lives. At least, ideally.

What I see from the parents of some of my friends, though, is a lack of respect that was probably there from the beginning. They treat their adult children as if they were still kids, meant to be “seen and not heard,” or told what to do. Rather than respecting the wisdom their son or daughter has gained, they instead belittle them, which is probably an old pattern, or take them for granted. This, understandably, makes the kids less likely to want to hang out with them. Some parents even refuse to be part of their adult kids’ lives, due to some (imagined or real) slight or insult. What a waste.

What I’m learning from those relationships is how I don’t want to treat my kids as they get older. In fact, perhaps the logic behind attachment parenting extends to the lifelong relationship I’ll have with my kids. I hope that, together, we’re learning how to be a family that can enjoy each other’s company, work through our differences of opinion, and continue to love and learn together throughout our lifetimes.

Convenient Conspiracies

I’ve been reading a novel my brother got me for Christmas, “The Eight” by Katherine Neville. On the front cover, it promises, “readers thrilled by ‘The DaVinci Code’ will relish the multi-layered secrets of ‘The Eight.'” So at first I figured it was a copycat of the Dan Brown book, which was so popular a few years ago. But when I looked at the publication date, it said 1988. So apparently they’re just re-marketing it to take advantage of the popularity of the genre.

It’s a fun read, a thriller full of famous characters from history, centered around a mystical formula that describes the nature of life, focused on (and hidden in) an ancient chess set. While reading it, though, I began to wonder about why we are so fascinated with books like this, based on puzzles that tie in disparate religious movements, mystical orders such as the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians, famous thinkers throughout history, and well-known works of art. Generally the theory is also somehow related to a life-or-death modern quest for knowledge – “before it’s too late!”

I think that we have an innate desire to “make sense of it all,” to form some kind of order from the chaotic swirl of human history and civilization. An author who can tie up a lot of loose ends, particularly regarding mythology and mysticism, satisfies that part of us that longs for a cohesive story.

You see this in other arenas, too. There are several religions across the globe which claim to be “the one and only true way.” If you faithfully follow their proven beliefs and practices, the reasoning goes, you’ll be assured of rewards in the afterlife, or a clean karmic slate, or a peaceful and easy life. All the “loose ends” and questions are tied up, in this case, by the religion’s leaders or sacred texts. The believer need not worry about pesky questions or situations not covered by the belief system, for those things are either explained away as they arise, or are reviled as evil, as a temptation to leave the fold, which should be resisted at all costs. This type of religious practice is appealing to many people because of its simplicity and seeming comprehensiveness. They need no longer question the vicissitudes of life, because there is a reason for everything, a reason that fits neatly into the spiritual picture-puzzle.

Among some modern intellectuals, who would claim to be above such simplistic belief in comprehensive explanations, the pull towards conspiracy theories is nonetheless strong. These days, it is seen in the gravitation towards theories regarding the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or the world-dominating plans of the neo-conservatives. Many books are written in which it is “proven” (see the connection here?) that people of power form a conscious network of power-over, which explains everything from foreign wars to the price of milk. Buying into these paranoid theories is easier than accepting that the people in leadership positions are people, like ourselves: some are greedy and selfish, some are well-meaning but deluded, some are kind and smart, and some are full of hatred. Granted, people in power whose motivations are bad can have a wide-reaching harmful effect on millions of others, and they should be accountable for their actions. However, it’s just too convenient to believe in a comprehensive “evil plan” that is responsible for all the world’s problems.

“But,” you might well ask, “doesn’t Starcat’s own metaphysical study fit into this category?” It’s a self-discovered web of practices and spiritual beliefs that enhances my life. However, I feel that there are some significant differences here: first, the study is something that I use as my own collection of personal truths, on my private spiritual path. I’m not imposing it on other people, or insisting that it is objective fact or “the one true way.” What works well for me might be a huge mistake for you. Second, I in no way claim to wrap up all the loose ends, or even to know about all of them! And rather than being frightening or disturbing, that is a source of excitement and joy – just think of all of the undiscovered wisdom out there, that I have the potential to learn about! And lastly, the study continually changes as I grow and learn. It is a working model, constantly being created, evaluated, and updated.

Sure, I too have this human need to create some kind of order out of the chaos of life in the multiverse. But I think a healthy dose of balance is applicable – the realization that chaos is also necessary, and provides the spark of inspiration and creativity that can keep us on the path of learning and growing.

Or, perhaps I’m completely wrong. Maybe the Rosicrucians are, at this very moment, deciphering this blog in order to prove I’m a metaphysical troublemaker, a trickster terrorist who must be immediately reported to the Pope! We’ll see…

Welcome to the Study

Welcome to Starcat’s Study. Come on in. Here, have a pillow to sit on. Tonight we’re just sitting around listening to the Counting Crows, contemplating winter, eating vegan pizza (whad’ya mean? of course it tastes good!).

If you’ve discovered this blog already, you’re either JWL (hi J! Thanks for the help getting this set up!) or you stumbled on it by accident. Once I get some real content up, I’ll spread the word.

What’s it about? Well, I’m a big-time journal writer. I mean, real journals, on paper, with luscious fabric covers, written in groovy gel pens and decorated with doodles. So, I figured I’d share some of my random thoughts with you. It’s also a way to give back, since there are a few cool blogs that I enjoy reading regularly (see the links on the side, once I figure out how to get them there…).

I’ve been doing what I call “The Study” for quite a long time now. Basically checking out what others have written about various metaphysical subjects, and applying it to my life to see how it works for me. And of course, coming up with my own techniques and practices along the way. It’s fun. I’m a Virgo, so this type of semi-scholarly stuff draws me right in. I plan to share some of my findings with you in future posts. Hope you enjoy it, and maybe even learn something new.

Get comfy, grab a book from one of the shelves (we can light some more candles in here if you want). Blessed Be!