Movement of Moving and Spiritual Journey by Elisabeth Schilling

It looks like it is time again for me to pack up and drive a few hundred or more miles to a new destination, a place I will finally try to plant roots, this time offering commitment + endurance, hoping to build a life of more balance and authenticity. I assume I will need a constant reminder of gratitude, quelling the entitlement that can bubble up when I think “this should be easier.” I’m not sure when, why, or where I’ve picked up that refrain, but I see it in others and myself and wish for an alternative.

With the help of several people, I’ve secured a full-time college teaching position on a beautiful college campus of a kind of institution I am certain is doing its part to heal the world. At least that is what I feel when I serve at a community college, a place where I feel inspired and challenged by students who have a diversity of needs. I’ve been teaching in such institutions for so long, I’ve fallen in love and know, by experience, that I can help in such spaces.

Continue reading “Movement of Moving and Spiritual Journey by Elisabeth Schilling”

Gift-Economy in a Time of Lack by Elisabeth Schilling

Carol Christ wrote about gift economy on this blog in 2013, and I am taken by her story of the woman who brought raisins or cracked nuts to the group even though she had very little. In beginning to encounter the literature on gift economy myself, I am wondering how it all works, especially wondering, perhaps outside of such a conversation if it doesn’t relate or misses the point, what someone who feels they have nothing to give can give.

When Genevieve Vaughan wrote about gift economy in Ms. Magazine in 1991, she wrote, “where there is enough, we can abundantly nurture others. The problem is that scarcity is usually the case, artificially created in order to maintain control, so that other-orientation becomes difficult and self-depleting.”

I think we start to look for other ways of existing when we experience the brokenness of a current existence. The exchange economy under mindless capitalism does not honor equal, fair exchanges. If we could keep from manipulating and being deceptive about what a product is worth, if we could more generously assess the contribution of workers, then some of us might not be bothered. Of course, for that work which is never compensated by money, mostly women’s work, that is the other issue that might not be solved by more equal exchange, and probably more the point of Vaughn’s.

Continue reading “Gift-Economy in a Time of Lack by Elisabeth Schilling”

Making it Mine: An Un-Orthodox Passover by Joyce Zonana

Passover is a holiday of remembrance, of ritual re-enactment: this, we say, is what our ancestors experienced. This is what they felt and knew, what they tasted in their blood. The movement from slavery to liberation, from the soul’s winter to spring. We must never forget, we say, we must always remember, be thankful for our freedom, never take it for granted. “In each generation,” the Haggadah enjoins, “we should feel as if we personally had come out of Egypt.”

jz-headshotThis year, I celebrated the Jewish feast of Passover on March 31st–almost three weeks before the holiday’s official start on the evening of April 19th, the 15th of Nissan. It turned out to be my best Passover yet.

Because I’d been accepted for a residency at an artists’ colony beginning on April 17th, I had known since last Fall that I would not be home for the holiday. Given Passover’s importance for me–a Jew who left Egypt in her own lifetime, part of what some have called the “Second Exodus”–I had thought I might postpone the residency and even considered turning it down. But the colony could not change the dates, and, after much deliberation, I decided that my work as a fledgling translator was worth missing my usual gathering of family and friends. I told myself I could mark the arrival of Passover internally.

Continue reading “Making it Mine: An Un-Orthodox Passover by Joyce Zonana”

When the Cranes Come by Sara Wright


I stood deep
in a toad hole
slinging mud
at twilight
when the sky
turned lemon
and gold.
They arced
my head
in pairs,
loose aggregations –
it seemed like thousands
crying out,
the river.
Spirits defying
image or word.

A Mighty Migration begins…

I shivered.
Tears rose unbidden
Who calls them North?
I call out “I love you” –
Believing they know.
A crescent moon listens
cradled by nightfall.

To witness
a sky full
of Sandhill
dark red heads
ebony eyes
long graceful necks
curved gray wings
dripping black legs
descending out of the blue
to roost
along this
winding Red
Willow River,
gracing fields
of depleted grain
is a Gift
at midnight;
the moment
This turning
of the wheel
days full of light
and an empty
sky bowl.

Haunting cries
in my ears
ring in the silence
of beloved crane absence
for another year.
Continue reading “When the Cranes Come by Sara Wright”

Honoring the Completion of the Year, by Molly Remer

“Beginnings and endings are so very sacred, to give honor to all that has transpired, every experience, every joy, every pain, is a doorway to the magical. Hold your entire year between your hands, every day, every thought, every breath. Now bless it with gratitude, love and humility. You have done more to transform this new year than a thousand resolutions.” 

 –K. Allen Kay

Two years ago, at the end of the year, I was supposed to hold a closing ceremony for a year-long Ariadne’s Thread study group I had been guiding throughout the year. Every member of the circle ended up backing out of the closing circle at the last minute, but I held the ceremony in full anyway, alone in my front yard, just for myself, and expanding it to include acknowledging and appreciating all the work I had completed in 2016, including my D.Min degree. People’s reasons for backing out of the ceremony were very valid and while on a cognitive level I understood why they couldn’t come, on an emotional level I still felt let down and disappointed at being “abandoned” by them. Holding the closing ceremony for myself anyway and acknowledging that I kept my own commitment to doing a full year of this work in circle, felt like a powerful declaration and affirmation of my own worth. In fact, it was such a validating and powerful experience that I continued the practice with a personal year-end closing ceremony for 2017 as well and I will do the same for myself this year too. Continue reading “Honoring the Completion of the Year, by Molly Remer”

The Gifts of Life: Do We Remember? by Carol P. Christ

Strawberries shaped my view of a world full of gifts simply scattered at your feet. A gift comes to you through no action of your own, free, having moved toward you without your beckoning. It is not a reward, you cannot earn it, or call it to you, or even deserve it. And yet it appears.

Sweetgrass belongs to Mother Earth. Sweetgrass pickers collect properly and respectfully, for their own use and the needs of their community. They return a gift to the earth.

That is the fundamental nature of gifts: they move, and their value increases with their passage. The fields made a gift of berries to us and we made a gift of them to our father. The more something is shared, the greater its value becomes. This is hard to grasp for societies steeped in notions of private property, where others are, by definition, excluded from sharing.

The essence of a gift is that it creates a set of relationships. The currency of a gift economy is, at its root, reciprocity.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 27-28

Thanksgiving has come and gone. We gave thanks for the food placed on the table and for the family or friends who shared it with us.

In our culture giving thanks can feel forced: I remember how my brothers and cousins and I hated to be asked to say grace at Grandma’s house. When we have not been taught, it can be difficult for us to understand that nothing is ours by right. Continue reading “The Gifts of Life: Do We Remember? by Carol P. Christ”

A Precious Gift by Natalie Weaver

This has been another hard month.  I don’t feel it to be hard.  I just know objectively that it is.  The typical challenge of balancing my work with the children’s needs and the management of a household has been intensified by the onset of a serious medical condition in my family.  I now enter that phase of elder care, which I understand is more or less bound to bankrupt the average household.  I have become the much-begrudged adult child, compelled to make decisions for other people’s lives and regarded in the fog of suspicion. My intentions are now under scrutiny; my time is usurped; my efforts are thankless.  I’m not complaining really.  I am just describing.

In the midst of things, I have managed to take my older son to the seeming ends of the earth to visit potential high schools.  I am managing a Destination Imagination team for my fourth grade son’s class.  I am teaching six courses, and my home is relatively clean.  I am running a weekly lecture series, I volunteered at the Church this month, and no one has missed any meals.  I even managed to sew a blanket for a friend’s new baby. There are many more serious family, medical, and economic issues that underlie my day-to-day, but along with everyone else, and perhaps a little more so than some others, I just accept that I am amazingly over-extended.

Continue reading “A Precious Gift by Natalie Weaver”

Sustaining Myself by Molly Remer

37880751_2142186212660256_8002693145366102016_nI touch the earth and offer gratitude
for this land I call home.

I reach towards the sky and offer gratitude
for sun, moon, and stars.

I place my hand on my heart
and breathe deep, offering gratitude

for all that I am and all that I have
and for the many blessings of my life…

June 2016

I am finishing my last semester of college teaching. I have four children ranging from 18 months to 12 years and a thriving home business. I am exhausted. I feel wrung out, weary, overloaded, sped up, and on the edge of collapse. My dominant fantasy, the one that pops unbidden to my mind as I work through my never-ending to-do list is to just lie on the floor, flat on my back. I tell my husband, “this isn’t a sustainable pace for me. If I keep going like this, something bad is going to happen to me.”

I keep going.

Continue reading “Sustaining Myself by Molly Remer”

 Witches in the Weeds by Sara Wright

In folklore Old women are believed to control all aspects of Nature – Fire, Earth, Air and Water, but in myth and story they have a special relationship with water.

The title “witches in the weeds” emerged after I did some research on the Datura plant. This plant is usually associated with old women and sorcery in myth and story. For example, in European mythology, the dark goddesses, Hecate, and Baba Yaga are associated with Datura. Datura is considered to be a ‘witch weed’ and is categorized as a poison along with deadly nightshade, henbane and mandrake. The seeds and flowers have a history of creating visions, delirious states, and causing death. Datura thrives in wilderness areas. Old women, dark goddesses and Datura have a lot in common.

Women and birds have been associated since Neolithic times. Scholar and mytho-archeologist Marija Gimbutas unearthed many bird-women sculptures that were fashioned out of clay in “Old Europe”. Old women in particular are most often associated with owls, herons, crows, ravens, and black birds of all kinds. It is probably the relationship between women and birds that is one of the roots behind the belief that old women can fly. The other root behind flight can probably be found in the relationship between women healers and the plants they used. Plants like Datura contain alkaloid properties (scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine) that are capable of producing visions of flight and are used by folk healers and medicine women and men. Continue reading ” Witches in the Weeds by Sara Wright”

Wild Snail Festivals by Molly Remer

“It’s a wild snail festival out here!”
—Tanner (age 3)

This spring we took a family mini vacation to Table Rock Lake, about three hours away from home.

At its best, working and schooling from home with our family of six feels like a beautifully seamless integration of work and life—there is no need to compartmentalize or draw distinctions between “life” and “work,” because it is ALL just life and living. At its worst, it feels like the work bleeds into everything else in an all-consuming way and the to-do list just never ends and something or someone is always getting overlooked or shortchanged. We find that it is helpful for us all sometimes to just all step away and be somewhere else, while the to-do list stays at home! We try to take at least five family adventures/trips a year (some of them small and some more involved).

Continue reading “Wild Snail Festivals by Molly Remer”

A Feminist Liturgy of Old and Age by Elisabeth Schilling

blue fleurHow the voices speak of what is and isn’t tastes of a superficial sauce I let drip from my lips. In the first dialectic of aging (harkening back to Marie Cartier’s helpful division of conversational foci), usually what is spoken about has little to do with our mental, spiritual, or emotional states. It is not a comment on perhaps what it should be: how evolved in consciousness or how mindful a soul is, how evolved in practices of discipline and surrender one is, how creative we have been in our attempt to ease the suffering of ourselves and others. It is not this because when people comment on age or how old someone might be, it is usually, in my recent experience, from one who knows not a person well enough to address any of these former possibilities nor in a situation where those in conversation have the luxury of mulling over such glittering, dazzling musings.

For indeed, let beings sit together on rocks or leather couches, playfully and perhaps seriously, discuss opinions on reincarnation, what has appeared in Tarot readings of current life stages and what the presence of what that Major Arcana card might represent as intuited by our subconscious. We might share stories of the messages we have lately received from trees, how they surrender so seemingly freely to their baldness as we might, with a few tufts of auburn leaves on a naked limb, how sometimes the bark is smooth and ghostly pale and how other times the trees that catch our communion are thick and rough like we are, tempting us to press our soft flesh into each other’s bark and feel how specks of wood and sap enter us, how we all bend and break and maybe rise up in another season with a flamboyant, hairy green bush, taking up all the space that we can, as we reach our arms in passionate ecstasy to the sun and moon, learning that sometimes we can best speak in silence and trembling. Continue reading “A Feminist Liturgy of Old and Age by Elisabeth Schilling”

A Dream Home by Joyce Zonana

Forty years ago, I abandoned my own inner quest to establish myself as a writer/translator, discouraged by the voices of publishers who told me the book was unmarketable, worried about making a living and reassuring my family (whom I had broken from when I was seventeen) that I was “okay.” I chose the relatively safer path of becoming an English professor, and I worked for more than thirty years helping others to find their voices. I do not regret taking that path. It has led me here.

jz-headshotI wake up each morning in a simple bedroom lit by the rising sun: a wardrobe, a bookshelf, a small wooden table, and a chair, arranged on painted plank floors. Just outside the window behind my head are the tallest trees I have ever seen, their grey-brown trunks growing straight up into a sky I cannot quite make out from my warm bed, with its white cotton sheets, white coverlet, and cozy down comforter. The room’s soft yellow walls reflect and amplify the winter light. Part of me wants to luxuriate, to lie here for hours, feeling the sun on my face as I gaze up at the trees and allow my consciousness slowly to return from dreams.


Yet I am here not simply to luxuriate but to work . . . in the next room is a desk, two desks actually, piled with books, folders, dictionaries, my HP Laser Jet printer, and my tiny laptop. From this room too, I can look out on woods and fields on three sides. Best of all, from the desk where I work, I can watch the sun set in the late afternoon.

Sunrise and sunset. And in between, a day entirely to myself, a day when I can work and dream at leisure, but during which I also feel impelled to stay on task, to complete the project that brought me here. Continue reading “A Dream Home by Joyce Zonana”

Saying Yes to Saying No by Katey Zeh


I was sitting in my then-therapist’s office one day, feeling exhausted and hopeless. Between mourning a break-up and constantly traveling for work, I felt like I’d been digging myself out of an ever-deepening hole of despair for months.

“When someone asks you to do something, how do you decide when to say ‘yes’?” she asked.

“If I’m not committed to something else at the same time, then I usually agree to do it,” I responded.

That was my only criterion: was I physically able to do it? If I was, I did it. 

I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time where I was surrounded by other ambitious, overachieving twenty-somethings who seemingly never turned down an opportunity that might help them succeed professionally.

Continue reading “Saying Yes to Saying No by Katey Zeh”

Gifts from the Sea by Molly Remer

“Island living has been a lens through which to examine my own life…I must keep my lens when I go back… I must remember to see with island eyes. The shells will remind me; they must be my island eyes.”

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Each winter, we travel with our family to a small island in the Gulf Coast outside of Alabama and spend a month living on the beach. There is something about being on an island that quite literally transports you into another world. The sensation of stepping out, stepping off, and stepping into is palpable as we cross the bridge to the island and settle into the slow, quiet rhythm of island life, guided by the tides, the moon, and the rising and setting of the sun. Our sleep and waking schedules change. Our priorities shift. Our to-do lists become very short. While we enjoy a creative, home-based life and business at home in Missouri, there is something incredibly freeing, and clarifying, about laying everything aside and having the biggest item on the schedule be a long walk on the beach (we walk from two to five hours each day). We actually bring our business along with us in a travel trailer, so we aren’t truly “off work” during this month, but instead of making everything as we go, we only sell the inventory we’ve already completed and brought with us, which leaves us with many extra hours a day compared to our work at home.

As I shed layers of myself at the beach, watching dolphins, running with my children, picking up shells, walking hand in hand with my husband into the setting sun, life feels simple, and what I need and want feels very clean and very clear. My intense self-motivation and drive softens, my itch to get more done and to make more lists fades away, and I am left with the core of myself and discover, anew, how very much I like her.

This year, the morning after we arrived at the island, my husband and I headed to our favorite part of the beach where the beachcombing is the best and the shells are the biggest. We were stopped on the road at a little guard tower and told we could not continue. When we inquired why, the sour-faced man told us with the smirk that the beach was “gone” and it had been destroyed in a hurricane last fall. He clearly took delight in breaking the news to us and very much enjoyed the act of turning us away.

We returned to our beach house in a state of confusion and shock. Our long walks on the beach, our hopes for the new treasures we would discover, the part of the island we so love and have so many happy memories of, all swept away. We walked on a different part of the island feeling a genuine sense of distress and grief. How could the beach just be gone? Does the island now just abruptly drop away into the sea? We feel a sensation that something had died. As we walk, we decide that the “gift” in this disappointment is that we will now explore and learn from different parts of the island than we are used to and that we can find new things to do and love while here, that we need to release our attachment to past visits and the ways things used to be and enjoy discovering what is right here, right now. But, then I say that I do not want to rush to “make it all better,” but instead I would like to just sit with and acknowledge the grief, and loss, and disappointment, rather than hurrying to turn everything into a lesson.

We walk in silence for a time and then realization dawns. There is no way the beach we long for can actually be “gone.” There is still a road visible headed in that direction and many dump trucks and earth-moving equipment driving back and forth. That part of the beach is damaged, we realize, but the facts we can see with our own eyes do not point to the total erasure of it as suggested by our power hungry little friend in his road blocking shed.

Back in the beach house we google to discover that yes, the beach sustained significant hurricane damage in the fall and restoration efforts are underway. The correct description from the guard should have been that the beach is “closed for restoration” and not “gone.” We continue to try to accept our “gift” of making new discoveries in the face of disappointment, but a few days later we decide to ask at the rental company if there is a way we can still go to the closed part of the island. They are able to give us a pass to enter it, and so, in fact, we are able to walk on our favorite part of the beach after all. The parking lot is damaged, but the beach itself is still very much there and very much alive.

This is a new gift, I muse. Rather than accepting our initial grief and disappointment, we tried again. Sometimes, you do not actually need to accept no for an answer, but you can push a little more and get what you want. What if we had just turned away in grim acceptance and “gone with the flow” instead of twisting a little harder and asking for what we want? I try to reconcile the two lessons—the letting go and the pushing, our refusal to let go. And then, a third lesson: not everything has to be a lesson, sometimes things just are.

My favorite shell in the world is from a moon snail. Round, smooth, and beautiful, curling in a wave to a perfect tiny spiral in the center, with colors ranging from brown to pale blue, many of the moon shells we find are small, the size of a quarter or smaller. My holy grail (holy snail) is a palm-sized moon shell that will fill my hand. In the morning as we walk on the previously forbidden part of the beach, I stop to take a photo of one of my goddesses on a piece of faded green driftwood. I am in that state of total presence that I experience often in our island walks, the complete immersion in the moment, stripped of all other purpose or task, but simply myself, walking on the beach. It is a type of what I call: “stepping through,” like I have stepped out of myself, out of reality, and into a different plane of relationship with the natural world. We find several fighting conch shells fairly close together and I say to my husband: “what we really need to do is find where the moon snails come up.” I turn away from the driftwood to continue walking and just as his foot begins to come down on the sand I see it…right below where his foot is poised to step, the distinctive curve of a huge moon snail shell, half-buried in the sand. I grab his arm and pull him back, making an indistinct babbling sort of squeal in my throat. I dig it up and there it is, a sun-bleached moon snail shell that exactly fills the palm of my hand. I laugh with joy and exhilaration and nearly cry in my delight. I tell my husband I feel as excited and happy and full of wild euphoria as if I’ve just given birth to another child. This is one of the best moments of my life! I crow, laughing semi-hysterically, this ranks right up there with the time we saw the otters at the river!

Then, realizing what I have said, I laugh some more. Is it sad, perhaps even pathetic, that some of the best moments of my life have been seeing wild otters and finding perfect shells? No, I decide, I adore being the kind of person who sees with island eyes and who discovers the best moments of her life simply by paying attention to what is happening on the shore. 


Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove

Kintsugi for the Soul – Part II – by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


Continued from Part 1.

How do you start to put the pieces together? For me, it was imperative to keep a space to express emotions without self-censorship or self-prejudice, to identify exactly what was hurting me. It was not the What, but the How. A split is always sad, but part of life. I could have been the “ungrateful” partner.

What aches …

Well, just to mention some, it was not the obstacles of a relationship between two people used to singleness, with different cultural backgrounds and family styles, but the neglecting, insults, and public belittling, leading to my progressive invisibility and objectification in the daily life. It was not his one night stand a few years ago with an Islamic feminist I know. Every adult has a sexual past, that is not a problem, but discovering that past was quite current (thanks Whatssap) is the problem. Someone decided I was not smart enough to understand it, so triangulation and lies were employed, with the consequent mind games, an emotional roller coaster that included gaslighting and violation of trust.

Continue reading “Kintsugi for the Soul – Part II – by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Gratitude – A Salve to Heal Our Wounds by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoTomorrow being Thanksgiving in the United States offers an opportunity to reflect on gratitude. With so much anger bubbling up on all fronts is it possible that gratitude could be the salve to heal our wounds?

Continue reading “Gratitude – A Salve to Heal Our Wounds by Judith Shaw”

Gratitudo et Fortitudo by Natalie Weaver

One of the bigger problems with being the only Classics major at a Jesuit university is that all my friends were fairly old men before I had even reached drinking age. Now, they are pretty much gone back to the cradle of the grave, save one, who is on his way to a remote retirement home. As a young woman, my coterie wasn’t a terrible problem for me because some deep part of my psyche had been convinced, since I was about nine years old, that I myself was an old man. I sort of felt at home reading about the Second Punic War and identifying with the sexual ramblings of the naughty old Latin poets, noting between me and my teacher-purveyors of such materials only the occasional, modest differences in skin elasticity and dental sheen.

I never felt like a girl, although, to be sure, one’s ability to assess such a thing is limited to one’s observations and conceptions about what, for example, a girl is or does or thinks. I found myself “ungirlike” in comparison with my conceptions of “girl-ness,” perhaps most notably in the operations of my mind. I felt “old” and “serious.” I remember contemplating with enormous focus the abstractions of total being and absolute nothingness from my nursery room. My big wheel was solid black, and my Dad got me into fishing and hooking live bait. I had read Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil by eighth grade; my favorite book was Camus’ The Plague until it was replaced by Hesse’s more romantic investigations in Narcissus and Goldmund; and I spent my days writing philosophical poems and trying to teach myself to paint in the style of Chinese ink and wash painting. I couldn’t stand Sweet Valley High novels, and even my doll play was odd. I had a gay Ken doll, whom I named David, and his best friend was a shaven-headed Western Barbie, whose backstory was a woeful tale of drugs and topless dancing.   Continue reading “Gratitudo et Fortitudo by Natalie Weaver”

Pride by John Erickson

When we come together, we are the Divine.  I didn’t think I could experience that twice in one year; clearly, I was wrong. 

If you’re anything like me you not only hate opening up your Twitter feed each morning but also feel compelled to in order to make sure you didn’t miss whatever new atrocity to come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After the Women’s March, I felt charged. I felt that whatever this administration threw at the proverbial “us,” I knew we could and would overcome it. Although that charge kept me going for a few months, there came a time where I just couldn’t go on anymore and that I was completely drained; then walked in a man named Brian Pendleton.

After the Women’s March on January 21, I didn’t know what to expect. The event was truly so successful that many of the organizers and coordinators were on an activist high as a result of what was a truly magical and divine moment. A few months came and went and the 45th President of the United States continued (much to our surprise) to be as awful as we all knew and expected. However, while I am able to exist in a world, no matter how oppressive, as a cisgendered white male and the full on privilege and power that comes along with that territory, many of the individuals and communities being attacked did not have those same freedoms; and like with the Women’s March and how that all took shape, in walked Brian Pendleton to my life to talk to me about the #ResistMarch.

Cover PhotoAlthough my involvement during the 120 days or more that led up to the #ResistMarch happened in a flash, one thing is for certain: miracles exist not because of divine intervention but because G-d places people on this Earth to make positive impacts. The beauty of the #ResistMarch was not just the passion of the organizers but the beauty of the rainbow that came out in full force on June 11

The strength shown by our community was one that, for all intensive purposes, proves that love does conquer all. RuPaul couldn’t have expressed the common and conquering theme better than when he said: “It’s all about love; giving love and being able to receive love. That’s our secret weapon; that’s the one thing they don’t have: our love and our music. That is our activism. That is what we use and what we always use to fight the ugliness.”

That is the one experience that I took most out of the #ResistMarch: the power of love and friendship; the beauty in the unexpected conversation that leads to changing the world, again.  Thank you, Brian. Thank you, for bringing us all together to resist, recharge, and love.


When we come together, we are the Divine.  I didn’t think I could experience that twice in one year; clearly, I was wrong.

John Erickson is the President of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women. John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University where he is finishing up his dissertation tentatively titled “Step Sons and Step Daughter”: Chosen Communities, Religion, and LGBT Liberation.” John holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies. He is the Founding and Past President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association and currently serves as the Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Stonewall Democratic Club, a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. He is a permanent contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Co-Founder of the blog The Engaged Gaze, and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. In April 2017, he was the first openly gay athlete to be inducted into the Wisconsin Volleyball Conference Hall of Fame. Most recently, John was one of the coordinators of the Women’s March Los Angeles, which brought together 750,000 people in downtown Los Angeles on January 21, 2017, and a Committee Member for the #ResistMarch, which brought together 100,000 people from Hollywood to West Hollywood in honor of LA Pride on June 11, 2017.






How do you feel about me now? by Natalie Weaver

How do you feel about me now?

I was talking to an old friend the other day, and when I asked how he was, he said, “I’m getting by.”  “Getting by?  Not tearing it up, not taking ‘em down, and taking names?”  I joked. “No,” he replied too dryly, “not at my age.”

“Well, how old are you now?” I inquired playfully.  “Eighty-three,” he said.  “Oh,” I paused.  “And, I tell you, Nat,” he continued, “I don’t know about these last twenty years.  I just don’t know what happened to me.  Never imagined my life would turn out like this…” he spoke, trailing off.

His talk prompted me to wonder about the girl I once was, the woman I used to be, the mother I had imagined in myself at the outset, the scholar I prepared, the indefatigable friend I was to my peers as a teenager, the filial duty I felt in my youth, the honor I ascribed to my vocation as an educator, the family I tried to create.  I have changed too, I realized.  These last twenty years have been markedly transformational for me as well.  As I considered, I saw in all of the things I tried to do how my spirit and my faith walked alongside my life unfolding as companion and guide and interlocutor.

At each step along the way, my faith both informed and framed the meaning of my choices and my disposition toward the outcomes of my efforts.  For a long time, there was a harmony and an alignment between my meaning, my disposition, and my experience of living purposefully.  But then, sure as rain, the wheel turned, and I began to lose clarity on that alignment.  The idealism I had brought to each of my roles and endeavors was tested and tried as a matter of course.  But, in some instances, the trial was egregious.

I concluded that some disappointments run so deep they change who we are.  Some wounds are structural enough that they scar the tissue permanently and alter the curvature of our spines.  Some blows are so devastating that our speech transforms and our thinking must be rewired to survive.  Whether they are inflicted by the self or by others, whether by accident or intent or illness, injury has a common thread – it calls the Spirit to awaken and challenges it with the question: “How do you feel about me now?” Continue reading “How do you feel about me now? by Natalie Weaver”

Honoring the Earth in our Rituals of Well-Being by Elisabeth Schilling

plantsMuch of our lives lack the rich culture of ritual that I think would help us repair the relationships we have with our own bodies and with the earth. The Rg Veda is one of the oldest collection of hymns from India. In them, I find a playful and introspective expression of desires and fears that, at first, did not seem to me to hold much wisdom for a modern contemplative. But lately, I have been noticing how the speakers communicate to or about the earth, and how their lives seem centered around trying to take a part in creation. Mostly, these hymns are stories and supplications for rain, cows, victory in battle, and a long life. But there is a deep understanding of the power and divinity in the universe that is the very earth-based wisdom that our humanity-in- crisis needs. If the Qur’an is God calling for humanity to be grateful, the Rg Veda is a model of a humanity that could be nothing else.

I love one incantation, for instance, found in the tenth mandala, that seems to be from a compounding physician, praying to the healing herbs that might make her client well again. I imagine her alone, in a greenhouse pharmacy, on a damp late afternoon, fingering stems and leaves before crushing them with her mortar and pestle to make a bespoke tincture that holds a cure. She knows the plants intimately, and works as if she is on holy ground: Continue reading “Honoring the Earth in our Rituals of Well-Being by Elisabeth Schilling”

Kissing the Earth by Molly Remer

 “Let the beauty we love 
Be what we do
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the Earth.”


Introductory note: At the end of 2016, my parents purchased a piece of land about one mile from where I already live (they live one mile further away than that). In addition to woodland and meadow, this land has two springs, three creeks, a cave, and ¼ mile of river access. While I have been deeply connected to the land of my birth, the Missouri Ozarks, for a long time, and have written about that connection in multiple past posts for FAR, this new-to-us land has offered a new opportunity: the chance to get to know another section of land “from scratch,” deeply, wildly and well, and to become wise stewards of it for the time in which it is in our care. It is also the first time I have been able to so closely and intimately observe the origin source of a body of water. Previously not giving it much thought, I now have the daily privilege of observing the source of the flow as I watch water emerge directly from the ground. First, there is simply none and then, suddenly, a deep blue pool constantly bubbling as water rises to the surface and flows away on its long, long journey to the sea. This essay is a series of three vignettes as I spend this year immersing myself in relationship with this land.

We walk along the nearly vertical hillside hanging onto small trees for support. Finally, though we almost miss it, we spy the opening to the cave nestled behind several mossy stones. The sun is still on the rise above the tree line and the rays filter through the trees so one ray is pointing directly at the cave entrance. We crawl inside, bumping our heads and scraping our backs as we wiggle into this womb in the earth. Once inside, the chamber enlarges so we can stand up. Unlike other caves we have experienced in this area, the only human signs we find are a single bottle cap, a glass bottle, and two sets of initials carved into a rock. In the dark silence we hear the sound of water dripping steadily. I make my way further into the cave, acutely aware that this is living cave and being careful not to step on the fresh, wet, cervix-shaped beginnings of new stalagmites on the floor. At the back of the cave, I find her. A Madonna-like stone column, glistening with water. In the silence of the cave, I quietly sing Ancient Mother to her, as tears well in my own eyes.

I am of this earth
for this earth
and by this earth.

We skirt carefully along the bank of the creek, making our way to the largest spring. Over three million gallons of water a day flow effortlessly from this small, deep pool nestled quietly in the middle of the woods. I am stunned by the magnitude of this flow as I stand there with my husband, my head resting on his shoulder, hawks wheeling overhead, redbud trees in full bloom. It has never seemed more clear to me how very “small” we are, but a blink of an eye to this spring and its countless years and countless gallons of water, not caring whether it is witnessed in its work or not, but simply, continually, creating and producing. I try to explain this feeling aloud, but words fail me. It is a humbling sensation, not a depressing one. The actual emergence of the water at this origin point of the river is nearly invisible, the continuous gentle, small popping of bubbles on its surface, the only sign that something significant is happening here that distinguishes this body of water from a pond or pool. Yet, those never-ending bubbles rapidly expand to a wide, swift-moving creek, which joins the river and another smaller spring-fed creek to continue to make their way southward across the state. We smell something sharp and see a dead armadillo by the roots of a giant sycamore. We hear a shrill cry and look up to see two bald eagles riding the currents of air high above us. We are so small. So many thousands of years of water have passed, but we are here right now.

Unfathomable eons
Glacier time
I am just a blink of an eye
But I can sit, and watch, and wonder.

We scramble along the uneven terrain on the rocky and wooded hillside, slipping, laughing, and looking. I am exhilarated by the simple thrill of exploring the world right here in front of me. We find tiny flowers. I kneel by the roots of fallen trees. We stop to admire moss on stones. We find gigantic black snake napping in the sun. A complete turtle shell. A shed antler. Each moment feels like a new opportunity to “kiss the earth.” I sing Reclaiming’s song-version of the Rumi quote over and over and as I kneel in each spot to see what it has to show me, in each, I kiss my fingers and press them to the earth. I see all the kissing going on around me…the sun filtering through branches, the fiddlehead ferns kneeling to kiss the earth, the roots wound through rocks, the trillium and bloodroot blooms pushing up between leaves, the water seeping out of the ground and flowing down the hill, the dogwood blossoms opening to the sun, the moss covering stones, the fallen trees stretched along the slope.

“And that is just the point…how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’” 

–Mary Oliver

We emerge from our walk to find morels growing alongside the path (morels are wild, edible mushrooms found for about two weeks in Missouri each spring and considered a delicacy by many). The afternoon suddenly becomes even more rewarding and we stoop and peer through fallen oak, sycamore, and elm leaves looking for the telltale conical form of these forest treats. We quickly discover that we must tune in and “listen” for the mushrooms, so to speak, or we’ll walk right by them, none the wiser. The moment I start thinking about anything else, I stop finding any. Once I settle into my body and the moment and really look at the world again, there another morel will be.

 “I think this is how we’re supposed to be in the world … present and in awe.”

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove

Earth’s Mystery School by Molly Remer

“Earth is a mystery school complete with initiations and discoveries that you only experience by september-2015-123living with your feelings, touching the earth, and embracing the fullness of your humanity.”

–Queen Guenivere


On Samhain morning, I wake early and mist is rising out of the forest and dancing through the field and out of the trees. I have a moment of sheer awe to see it…the veil was literally thin.

Over the weekend, I visit the nearby river to connect in personal ceremony in appreciation before the park closes for the year and also symbolically to those at Standing Rock. This river eventually meets the Missouri River. I run my hands through the water. I anoint my brow, neck, and hands. I whisper my prayers into the ripples. I sing: “I am water. I am water…I am flowing like the water, like the water I am flowing, like the water.”october-2016-065

I am hurrying outside to get some work done. I feel tight and hurried with the length of my to-do list and my superhuman plans for the day. The bright red flame of a bloom on my pineapple sage plant catches my eye and then…the perfection of a bright yellow butterfly alighting on one slender stamen. My breath catches and I stop in wonder. I smell the flower and it smells of pineapple, just as the leaves do. I can hardly believe this treasure and the tightness melts into nothing. The rest of the day is full of joy.

I am once again healed by flowers.

About twenty feet outside my house, there is a small building with a little porch and a peaked roof. Inside, there is red carpet and a purple wall, goddess tapestries draped from floor to ceiling, and goddess sculptures in abundance. march-2016-002In this building I write, work, create, and hold small rituals with a circle of friends. I call it my Tiny Temple and it is the proverbial, “room of one’s own” described by Virginia Woolf in 1929. Having a dedicated work and ceremony space in the midst of a home-based life, which includes a home business shared with my husband, and four homeschooled children, has changed my life profoundly. In the tiny temple, I feel most wholly myself: connected, powerful, free, authentic, and completely alive.

One morning, as I walk to the temple, this beautiful rose makes me drop to my knees with delight. Yes. This right here. This is a beautiful moment. As I kneel beside the rose, the Body Prayer song* wells out of me until I have tears in my eyes.

september-2016-077  “We may need to be cured by flowers. 

We may need to strip naked and let the petals fall on our shoulders, down our bellies, against our thighs. We may need to lie naked in fields of wildflowers. We may need to walk naked through beauty. We may need to walk naked through color. We may need to walk naked through scent. We may need to walk naked through sex and death. We may need to feel beauty on our skin. We may need to walk the pollen path, among the flowers that are everywhere. 

We can still smell our grandmother’s garden. Our grandmother is still alive.”

–Sharman Apt Russell, in Sisters of the Earth

I create personal ritual almost every day in my tiny temple, sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate, sometimes tearful, sometimes joyful, sometimes hurried, sometimes leisurely, sometimes distracted, sometimes astonished at the wonder of it all. The week of my rose worship experience, I smudge the temple with sage I grew in the flowerboxes by my front porch. I ring my bell 13 times. I sing “I Am Fire.” I lay out cards and tiny goddesses and create a mandala out of fallen leaves. I leave an offering of flowers from the herbs and let rose petals drop from my fingers. Ritual captivates all the senses…in this sacred space, I invoke my own senses of smell, touch, sight, sound, and wonder and the result is magic.

“Through ceremony we learn how to give back. When we sing, we give energy through our voice; when we drum, we allow the earth’s heartbeat to join with our own; when we dance, we bring the energy of earth and sky together in our bodies and give it out; when we pray, we give energy through our hearts; when we look upon our relations, we give blessings through our eyes. When we put all these activities together, we have a ceremony, one of the most powerful forms of gift-giving we humans possess.”

–Sun Bear and Wabun Wind

May we each be healed by flowers, time to ourselves to sit on the earth and sing, and the simple, every day beauties and miracles that surround us each day.




Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Brigid’s Grove

Tailtiu, Celtic Earth Goddess of Endurance by Judith Shaw

Judith Shaw photoThe Celts were fascinated by the number three – triple designs, images and triadic ideas. The Goddesses and Gods who related to the mysterious rather than the mundane nature of life were always worshiped in threes. Unlike the Greek triple goddesses who represent the maiden, mother and crone, the Celtic triadic deities reveal the mysterious, unexplainable aspect of nature and human existence. These triple Goddesses are doorways into the unknown and unknowable.

A Celtic Triad, painting by Judith ShawGuardians of the Triad, painting by Judith Shaw

Tailtiu is part of one of the Celtic primary triads. This triad of Anu, Danu, and Tailtiu is one of sovereignty reminding us of the cyclical nature of reality and the mysteries of the deep heart which transforms the ordinary into bright gold. They represent three different aspects of theTialtiu, Celtic Earth Goddess painting by Judith Shaw cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Anu is the source, Danu is the movement and Tailtiu is the endurance inherent in this cycle. Continue reading “Tailtiu, Celtic Earth Goddess of Endurance by Judith Shaw”

Priestess as Shamanic Path – Part 2 by Molly Remer

This is a continuation of Molly’s piece from Wednesday, 10 August 2016. You can read Part 1 here.

After explaining that the homebirth of her second son was her, “first initiation into the Goddess…even though at that time I didn’t consciously know of Her,” Monica Sjoo writing in an anthology of priestess essays called Voices of the 567bGoddess, explains:

The Birthing Woman is the original shaman. She brings the ancestral spirit being into this realm while risking her life doing so. No wonder that the most ancient temples were the sacred birth places and that the priestesses of the Mother were also midwives, healers, astrologers and guides to the souls of the dying. Women bridge the borderline realms between life and death and in the past have therefore always been the oracles, sibyls, mediums and wise women…

…the power of original creation thinking is connected to the power of mothering. Motherhood is ritually powerful and of great spiritual and occult competence because bearing, like bleeding, is a transformative magical act. It is the power of ritual magic, the power of thought or mind, that gives rise to biological organisms as well as to social organizations, cultures and transformations of all kinds… (page unknown).

I have been a childbirth educator since 2006 and I have given birth five times. Each birth brought me the gift of a profound sense of my own inherent worth and value. It was the shamanic journey through the death-birth of my tiny third child, however, that ushered in a new sense of my own spirituality and that involved a profound almost near-death experience for me. After passing through this intense, initiatory crisis, the direction and focus of my life and work changed and deepened. Shortly after the death-birth of my third son, I wrote: Continue reading “Priestess as Shamanic Path – Part 2 by Molly Remer”

Priestess as Shamanic Path – Part 1 by Molly Remer

It is late autumn, 2009. I am 30 years old and pregnant with my third baby. He dies during the early Mollyblessingway 045part of my second trimester and I give birth to him in my bathroom, on my own with only my husband as witness. The blood comes, welling up over my fingers and spilling from my body in clots the size of grapefruits. I feel myself losing consciousness and am unable to distinguish whether I am fainting or dying. As my mom drives me to the emergency room, I lie on the back seat, humming: “Woman am I. spirit am I. I am the infinite within my soul. I have no beginning and I have no end. All this I am,” so that my husband and mother will know I am still alive.

I do not die.

This crisis in my life and the complicated and dark walk through grief is a spiritual catalyst for me. A turning point in my understanding of myself, my purpose, my identity, and my spirituality.

It is my 31st birthday. May 3rd. My baby’s due date. I go to the labyrinth in my front yard alone and walk through my labor with him, remembering, releasing, letting go of the stored up body memory of his pregnancy. I am not pregnant with him anymore. I have given birth. This pregnancy is over. I walk the labyrinth singing and when I emerge, I make a formal pledge, a dedication of service and commitment to the Goddess. I do not yet identify myself verbally as a priestess, but this is where the vow of my heart begins.

I do not know at the time, but less than two weeks later, I discover I am in fact pregnant with my daughter, my precious treasure of a rainbow baby girl who is born into my own hands on my living room floor the next winter. As I greet her, I cry, “you’re alive! You’re alive! There’s nothing wrong with me!” and feel a wild, sweet relief and painful joy like I have never experienced before.

Continue reading “Priestess as Shamanic Path – Part 1 by Molly Remer”

Gratitude by Esther Nelson

esther-nelsonI’ve been in the midst of moving for almost a year, yet am still not finished with that onerous task.  My youngest son and family recently moved into the place I’ve called home since 1980.  I bought a small house in the vicinity and have just settled in after spending four months painting, cleaning, and hauling box after box to my new dwelling.  At the same time, I’ve been traveling back and forth to New Mexico busy with painting, cleaning, and remodeling my “retirement house.”

I’m tired.  Am also experiencing emotions that I thought I was impervious to.  I never perceived myself as somebody having an attachment to place, but a month or so before moving out of my old home, I began to feel nostalgic.  There was so much I didn’t want to leave behind–the woods, birds nesting in bushes around the property as well as on top of the front porch light, the wildlife (deer, opossum, rabbits), and neighbors far enough away so I didn’t have to hang curtains at the windows.

Just days before the agreed-upon date to turn the old home over to my son and family, I became emotionally distraught.  A friend suggested I read Oliver Sacks’ book, Gratitude.  Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was a British neurologist who spent his professional life in the United States caring for people with brain “disorders” such as aphasia, Tourette Syndrome, amnesia, autism, and a host of other neurological diagnoses.

Gratitude is a slim volume featuring four essays written during the last few months of Dr. Sacks’ life.  In the second essay, “My Own Life,” he writes: “I cannot pretend I am without fear.  But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.  I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written.  I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”

I wanted to know more about Dr. Sacks’ life and promptly procured his memoir, On The Move  A Life, published just before he died in 2015.  I was struck by the apparent comfort he felt in his own skin as he went about living in the world.  He came from a fairly Orthodox Jewish family and realized during his teen years that he was gay.  When his mother discovered his homosexuality, she said, “You are an abomination. I wish you had never been born.”  He writes that she undoubtedly was referring to a text in Leviticus (Hebrew Bible) and although she never mentioned the incident again,” …her harsh words made me hate religion’s capacity for bigotry and cruelty.”

His mother’s view regarding his homosexuality didn’t seem to affect Dr. Sacks’ ability to get on with his adventures living on, what he calls, “this beautiful planet.”  He focused on his passions–medicine, literature, traveling, observing the natural world, swimming, lifting weights, and riding his motorcycle.  Along the way he met a wide variety of people (patients, colleagues, authors, and characters in books).  He squeezed gallons of nectar from those meaningful encounters.  Yet, I think his mother’s disgust regarding his sexual orientation must have cut him to the quick.  He included the incident in his last book, Gratitude.   Continue reading “Gratitude by Esther Nelson”

Finding Bavarian Ancestors by Carol P. Christ

Bavarian first communion
First communion, Bavaria 1800s

In the past month I have been on a spiritual journey seeking my German ancestors. Six of my 2x great-grandparents were born in Germany, which means I am 37 ½ percent German. Growing up, I was subjected to a form of patriarchal family disciple I came to identify as German, but I was told very little, positive or negative, about my German heritage.

Though I had been researching my family tree for five years when I began my trip to Germany, I had no clue about where in Bavaria the Thomas Christ-Anna Maria Hemmerlein branch of my family originated. While making final preparations before the trip, I learned that German church records are no longer kept in individual churches, but are grouped together in church archives. Some areas also have family records in state archives. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of German records were not destroyed  in the two World Wars. However, many of the German records are not online. Continue reading “Finding Bavarian Ancestors by Carol P. Christ”

#HillYes by John Erickson

I’m going to do something I’d never thought I’d do: fill your newsfeed with yet another article pertaining to the 2016 United States Presidential election and yes, I’m going to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (hint: I’m emphatically supporting her and I’m unapologetic about it.)

John Erickson, sports, coming out.I’m going to do something I’d never thought I’d do: fill your newsfeed with yet another article pertaining to the 2016 United States Presidential election and yes, I’m going to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (hint: I’m emphatically supporting her and I’m unapologetic about it.)

Let me start off with my central point: a vote for Hillary is a vote to change history and the world. No, not because she’ll hail in some type of new economic stimulus (although I’m sure she’ll do just fine with our economy #ThanksObama) or because she’ll save us all from the evils of the GOP (looking at you Trump/Cruz/and the “moderate” Kasich) but because she’ll do one thing that’s never been done before: become the first female President of the United States, ever.

While I have tried not to get into “it” (read: online trysts with my friends on social networks who are #FeelingtheBern) the question I beg to ask is: what’s so wrong with wanting the right woman to be the President? This is one, but not my only reason, I will cast my vote for her both in the Democratic Primary in California in June as well as in November (and, if you haven’t guessed, I do not believe or promulgate the reasoning or rhetoric that Bernie Sanders will come from behind and win the Democratic Party’s nomination because I passed 5th grade level Math.)

Hillary Clinton

Continue reading “#HillYes by John Erickson”

What Happens when Wonder Woman “Leans In” and Winds up in Traction? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

FreyhaufThey always say in writing – use a title and the first few sentences to grab attention and the reader will want to see what you have to say. By my title, you have probably ascertained that I have made reference to a couple things:  Wonder Woman, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” and traction.  While lately, I have suffered from writer’s block and lack of time to work on my writing, I have also found myself in another place of suffering that has me in traction at least thrice weekly.

It is in that spirit that I reflect on my former status as the infallible wonder woman – the mom of 4, who works full time, teaches, writes, supports her family, is in the middle of writing a dissertation and who started this new year as my year to “Lean In” and really excel in my career  – to the current status of fallible woman, mom of 4 trying to stay afloat in all of her obligations, dealing with difficult sibling and teenage bantering as well as (thanks to a begging daughter spouting promises of responsibility) a Siberian Husky puppy and a resident 10 year-old Boston Terrier who now demonstrates the IMG_3984epitome of love-hate relationships, to prioritizing projects in order to keep everyone happy while I try to heal, attend physical therapy, and manage newfound pain and limitations.

In this post,  I offer my [brief] thoughts about aging and struggles when a body, probably abused through pushing too hard, but also enduring the normal wear and tear of aging, begins to betray you while trying to come to terms with to a new normal of limitation within your own being  –  “adapting” if you will – a skill that I believe women have come to master well.

Throughout life, we all face our shares of limitations and encounters with mortality.  Lately, it seems like I have encountered one thing after another.  However, as these events arise, life must inevitably move on – but, moving on does not mean ignoring what just occurred.  Rather, time needs to be taken to understand and appreciate each of these things – even if things do not go our way. Continue reading “What Happens when Wonder Woman “Leans In” and Winds up in Traction? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Creating Families and Traditions of Choice—and Saving Your Life by Marie Cartier

thanksgiving 3Last week I went out to eat with a group of insightful scholars at the American Academy Religion 2015 Conference held in Atlanta, Georgia. We had just participated on a remarkable panel which was an “Author Meets Critic” session with Bernadette Barton, author of the book Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays. One of our panelists was in Georgia after years of estrangement, not only from his biological family, but also from the geography of his birth because of the biological familial estrangement. He was experiencing the geography of his hometown for the first time in many years. He spoke eloquently in the panel about how much being in the geography itself again was triggering, but also how somatically it was necessary for his own healing. He needed to revisit and be embodied on the actual land—which was very different than re-remembering the hurt from a geographical distance. Also, in order to fully participate in the life of a scholar, which he was now choosing, he had to reconcile being able to revisit this geography in order to attend this particular conference. And frankly, to be able to participate on the panel which was so close to his heart—being a person who was from the Bible Belt and had literally been “prayed” over so that his “gay would go away.”

I have moderated many panels, but this is the first one where I wrote “Congratulations!” on a piece of paper to one of the panelists and passed it to him after his reading. Overall it was a great session of papers and as mentioned we all adjourned for drinks and conviviality. And to celebrate that our gay had not been prayed away.

We began to discuss holiday plans. I said to the young man who had presented his paper so courageously that I was very proud of him not only for his work, but for his ability to return to the geography in which he had experienced so much harm. I said that I was from a very abusive biological home in New England and I had not been north of New York since leaving at age 30 (I am now 59); that for me, putting my embodied self into the actual geography where I had experienced so much harm had not been possible, except for attending my mother’s funeral- its own extreme event.

Some folks at the table expressed surprise and much sadness—how could those of us without biological ties to family handle the holidays? I realized that for me it has been almost thirty years since I began creating “alternatives” to the family I was born in—my biological family- and that I have successfully created chosen family and chosen traditions instead. One of the ways I first learned to deal with holidays which had expected traditions and attendance at biological family functions was to create alternate plans well before the expected day (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) and stick to that plan. I learned that once that day was “here,” I would be triggered and would not be able to create spur of the moment alternatives in the midst of those feelings.

thanksgiving 2One tradition I created 20 years ago was the tradition of “Pie Day” with a good friend of mine. We realized this year that we have been doing that for 20 years! Now that is my “tradition” and that is my “family.” We bake an inordinate amount of pies on Pie Day—a very specific recipe—green apple with golden raisin reduction— and people and friends come over. We celebrate. We eat pie with cheese (a New England tradition) and salad- I call it “a French meal” after my Canadian heritage. Whoever bakes or drops by, eats. Some folks walk away with a pie. We freeze a bunch and have “pie nights” throughout the year. Various girlfriends, friends and friends of friends have helped throughout the year make our estimated 15-20 pies per year, complete with hand rolled, all butter crusts every year.

Continue reading “Creating Families and Traditions of Choice—and Saving Your Life by Marie Cartier”

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