I read some wonderful posts last spring and summer about the beauties of the outdoors. One that especially inspired me was by Molly Meade. If you missed Molly’s description of how she goes out to the “priestess rocks,” read it now.
But as much as I admire people who like to spend time outdoors in gardens or the wilderness or national parks or anywhere else without kitchens and bathrooms…well, I just don’t like to get the outdoors on me. Most Pagans I know like to camp and hold grand outdoor rituals. Not me. I get lost. I trip over tree roots and get allergic in some large gardens. I don’t like to climb or hike and I stay away from the beach because it’s got all that icky, dirty sand all over it. Although I send money to the Wilderness Society and Friends of the Earth, the wilderness does not need my footprints in it.
So here’s another of my weird little stories. This one’s a fable I wrote several years ago for a friend who was holding regular ceremonies at Joshua Tree National Park in the SoCal desert. (I went to some of those ceremonies. My friends were very proud of me.)
Back in the Olden Days, when the world was a whole lot fresher (not to mention cheekier) than it is now, the people lived in the City of the Goddess. They were sensible people, beautiful people, smart people, golden people and—because they stayed in the city—they were Civilized People. They were much beloved by their Urban Goddess, who gave them Every Civilized Comfort, and so they lived in clean, comfortable homes and did the things civilized people have always done: they read books, they went to plays and concerts, they entertained their friends with home-cooked meals and home-bred conversation. They did every creative golden thing they could think to do.
Now these civilized people who lived so peacefully in the Olden Days were ruled by the Two Daughters of the Goddess of the City, Comforta and Cleanessa, who were the Co-Queens of the City and lived at the Ritz, where they enjoyed all the amenities of city life—haute cuisine, haute couture, and haute tub.
“Cleanliness is next to Goddessness,” Cleanessa always said, and … “You shouldn’t get the outdoors on you,” Comforta always added.
The sisters always nodded at each other, folded their hands over their stomachers, ordered a light supper, and sat upon their clean and comfortable thrones to receive and counsel their people. Life in the City was clean, comfortable, calm, and civilized and nobody got the outdoors on them.
But one day …One day something happened! No one knows why. Perhaps the Goddess was bored. Perhaps She decided that Her Daughters were too prissy and needed a little loosening up. Perhaps She decided that Her children needed chocolate to go with the vanilla. One day, two girls named Crystal and Blossom left the City. They ran into the Great Outdoors that was all around the city. They traveled the long, winding path to Turtle Hill, and there on Turtle Hill they began to dance. Crystal and Blossom boogied, they cha-cha-cha’d, they lambadad’d, they charleston’d, they waltzed, they jitterbugged, they macarena’d. For three days and three nights, Crystal and Blossom were so busy dancing that they forgot to eat. They were so busy spinning, jumping, whirling, leaping, and skipping that they forgot to drink. Crystal and Blossom were Having A Good Time.
Crystal and Blossom got the outdoors on them. Their Mommy missed them and called them to come home to supper. For three days and nights, she kept calling them, and finally Crystal and Blossom heard her voice calling them. Finally, they paid attention. Finally, they stopped dancing. They came home. They still had the outdoors on them.
“My goodness!” said Mommy. “Where have you been?”
“Out in the outdoors,” said Crystal.
“What have you been doing?”
“Dancing,” said Blossom.
“Inventing the samba and the fox-trot,” said Crystal.
“Perfecting the tango and the bunny-hop,” said Blossom.
“Is that how you got the outdoors all over yourselves?” Mommy asked.
Crystal looked sideways at Blossom. Blossom looked sideways at Crystal. They looked up at Mommy and shuffled their feet and shrugged their shoulders. “When you dance the outdoor dance,” said Crystal, “you tend to get it on you,” said Blossom.
What could Mommy do? She threw up her hands and shook her head. Then she pulled her big white hankie out of her pocket and told Crystal to spit in it so she could scrub behind her ears. Then she told Blossom to spit in the hankie so she could wipe the back of her neck. She made them smooth their hair and stand up straight. She told Crystal to tuck in her shirt and Blossom to tie her shoelaces.
“We’re going to the Ritz,” said Mommy when she was satisfied that her children were Clean Enough. Comforta and Cleanessa were holding a Full Moon Drumming Ritual at the Ritz to honor their Mother and all the people of the City were invited. Who knows, some of them said—perhaps even the Creator might come. “Of course,” they said, “you never know with him.”
When they arrived at the Ritz, all the people were enjoying the drumming and the potluck supper. They were all wearing their best clothes and fanciest jewelry. They were singing the usual songs and chants and gossiping the usual gossip.
And the Creator was there. He had brought along his Paint-By-Number kit, which he used to create and name all of the wild things that lived in the outdoors. He was also, as usual, teasing his sisters.
“Look,” he said to Comforta, “lions and tigers and bears!”
“Oh, my,” she said, taking a step back.
“Look!” he said to Cleanessa, “spiders and flies!”
“Not in my parlor!” she said.
“Children,” said the Goddess, “you behave yourselves and Play Nice Together. You don’t want to make me have to take you outdoors and Speak Firmly to you.”
As the festive night went on, Comforta made sure everyone had enough to eat and drink. She plumped up all the pillows and opened the windows when it became too hot in the Ritz. Cleanessa put her Handiwipes in her pocket so she could wipe up the inevitable spills. She picked up the empty Pepsi cans, kept the cats off the table, and stacked the coffee cups and plates and forks and knives and spoons in the dishwasher. Creator sat in the corner with his Etch-a-Sketch and created aardvarks and wombats and lemurs and Joshua trees and mugwort. Crystal and Blossom taught everybody the fox-trot and the bunny-hop and the jitterbug.
Pretty soon, Crystal and Blossom took their friends out dancing and taught them the spiral hokey-pokey. They had so much fun that they stirred up the outdoors and got it all over themselves … and, you know, sometimes even Comforta and Cleanessa could feel their toes a-tap-tap-tapping.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.
9 thoughts on “How the Outdoors Got on Us by Barbara Ardinger”
Oh my goodness goddess Barbara, what a lovely and joyful little jaunt into the outdoors… thank you.
I love this story! You always make me laugh when you talk about how you don’t want the “outdoors to get on you.” As someone whose awakening to the Goddess came while living on East Sixth Street in NYC’s East Village but who now lives where the outdoors gets on me a lot, I, too, resonate with the joys of both. Brava!
Such delight in this story Barbara A. that I had to go back and read it twice. (I suspect I’ll read it some more later today too!) My feeling of the kingdom ruled by Comforta and Cleanessa is that it is very … “nice” – in a certain way. But for community that loves, creates, dances with abandon, we need the “outdoors”. I suspect I’ll read the story many times and find different meaning each time.
Very refreshing, light hearted Sunday morning read. Toe tapping and dancing, two of the greatest means of “trans portation”. Never know where that movement will take you. Thank you!
Thanks, y’all. It’s fun to write these stories. Expect more of them!
It’s usually assumed that because you embrace the Goddess, you embrace Nature, too. Like you, Barbara, I support environmental causes; however, “…the wilderness does not need my footprints in it”, either. Loved your story. Dance on!
Love this story! Right on, write on!
Such a lovely story — light, but deep as well. Because Goddess-worshipping and neo-Pagan communities (quite rightly) celebrate nature and all things wild, there’s a tendency to look down on members of these communities who don’t like “to get the outdoors on them” or who prefer cultural and/or domestic pleasures over “the wild.” It’s true that the worship of Cleanessa and Comforta is w-a-a-a-a-y out of balance in our world, contributing to the whole big mess of consumerism, industrialism, individualism, climate change, pollution, classism, racism and colonialism (white = clean = better) etc. But they are still daughters of the Goddess and we can’t just turn our backs on them. Let’s keep them as part of our pantheon, part of our community, and welcome people who love them, as part of a grand endeavour to move towards a future where Comforta and Cleanessa are right-sized, and are valued but not elevated or used for any kind of power-trip — kind of like where things were heading at the end of the story!!!