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Tomorrow, I will be leading a Summer Solstice Festival at the Somerville Growing Center, starting at 4 p.m. We’ll be doing sun-painting again if the weather is good.

Here’s the skinny on the overall project:
A series of family-friendly festivals celebrating the turning of the wheel of the year. Through song, story, art and play we will explore the changing seasons and our changing selves. You are encouraged to bring a potluck contribution and, if you are able, a small donation to help cover costs. Sponsored by Viriditas, a Boston-area Reclaiming group.

crystal-powered garlic, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

I planted some garlic bulbs last fall, and used this crystal to mark where I’d put them so I wouldn’t accidentally dig them up come spring.

No fear of that; they were the first thing to sprout in our garden after the snow melted. I have half a dozen, and they are all doing great. But the one that came up immediately next to the crystal is twice as big as all the others.

Coincidence? Probably. But I’m tempted to litter the garden with more quartz just in case.

Today at dinner, Rio wanted to know where we go when we die. She’s very interested in death lately. I keep telling myself, and all the other adults she’s freaking out with her questions about it, that this is a perfectly normal developmental stage for a kid her age (four going on thirty).

We had a long talk about the Summerlands, the fey island Reclaiming Witches tell stories about visiting between incarnations. We talked about what kind of fruit trees grow there, and the ancestors we can meet and talk with when we travel there at the end of our own lives.

Then Rio wanted to know if the Summerlands are Real. Not fairy-tale Real, but “really, really Real”. Normally I’d answer this with a standard line from my Waldorf training, “As real as real can be.”

But tonight she wanted more. She wanted an answer. I told her that I could tell her the stories about the Summerlands, but that she could only learn the truth about what happens after life by listening to her own spirit. We discussed some ways to do this: through music, dance, art, walking in nature.

Finally, she wanted to know where the Summerlands are. This whole conversation had the air of Mystery; one of those rare moments that get caught in the amber of memory when a kid asks an important question and listens with her whole self to the answers.

“The Summerlands are behind the Veil,” I said.

Rio laughed. “Pshaw, Mama. The Summerlands are in Outer Space! I know that!”

Rio had a very spirited day, by which I mean challenging, unhappy and somewhat violent. I take full responsibility for this: we’ve been going out all day almost every day since her birthday a week ago, and for the past day or two its been obvious she needed a break. Even to her; she’s been asking to stay home and have a “down day” where we do nothing alone together. But I pushed it because I had ‘important’ errands to do, people to see, etc. And today we paid the price in tantrums. To my credit, I never lost my cool, raised my voice or said an unkind word to her.

I also did something I have never done before, which was refuse to nurse her because she deliberately hurt my body. When she was at her peak of anger she dug all her fingernails into my chest and dragged them down my skin, leaving a trail of scratches. It hurt a lot. A few minutes later it was still hurting when she wanted to nurse. I surprised even myself by saying, “No, I don’t share my body with people who hurt me like that.” I’m sure it was the right call. I’m sure not all my gentle readers will agree, and I don’t fully understand *why* I said that, or *why* it was right, but it was true.

When she realized I meant it she ran upstairs like a flash of angry lightning and slammed a door. Silence followed. I went upstairs to look for her and she was nowhere to be found. Eventually I realized that she’d gone into my bedroom and dived headfirst under the comforter. The blanket looked a little mussed, but really there was a small girl fast asleep, submerged in down. I let her be.

She woke up later, had another big tantrum, and when she eventually calmed down we had a long cuddle in the rocker. We talked about how hard it is for her sometimes to feel tired and do too many fun things. We made some silly jokes about the things she likes or does not like. She invited me to eat her “no” all up, and I mimed chewing all that angry “no” energy. A few minutes later, she said no to something I asked her to do, and I laughed and said, “You can’t say no! I ate your no all up!”

And Rio, dead serious, said, “I had an extra No! I had it all along! I can always say no!”

Me, “Where did you keep it?”

Rio, pointing to her chest, “In my spirit. In a secret room, behind a locked door locked with a key so you can never take it. I keep my yes in there too. So I can always say yes and I can always say no.”

Me, “Yay! You can be your own authority!”

She then told me that she keeps a picture of me and a movie of Daddy in her secret room in her spirit, so we are always with her.

I’ve been feeling a little remiss in her spiritual education to date, but now I think my work here is done.

Rio has a plan for a community ritual. She just came in from playing in a thundershower and explained it to me thusly:

It will be a Cooperation Celebration. All the people will stand in a circle around the labyrinth, and dance and sing the cooperation song. Then we will put our stuff in a cooperation box at the center to share. When we are done, we will mail the stuff away in an envelope (I think this is her sense of how to give it away). She says the celebration will include a whole fan of people (by which I think she means a diverse gathering). By doing this ritual we will celebrate her birthday, the ocean, the earth and the state, she says.

I love my strange little girl, and I think this sounds like the perfect ritual for Mabon, when we celebrate the sharing of the Harvest.

I just read Michael Pollan’s amazing article in Sunday’s NYT. *

It’s a long article, mostly devoted to challenging what he calls the “cheap-energy mind”, and what Starhawk has called the politics of disconnection. Briefly, they are both talking about the tendency in our culture to seek answers outside of ourselves to the problems we create.

Most Witches embrace some version of the charge of the Goddess, which says “And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”

Pollan is basically saying this with less poetry and more facts. His point is that we cannot expect to change the world without changing our lives, and that many of the mechanisms for “going green” – buying carbon offsets or “green” gear, giving to environmental organizations, voting for “green” candidates – are fundamentally external solutions. We’re waiting for someone else to fix the problem of our consumption.

He offers up a frightening challenge: to make one change in each of our lives that does not involve giving, shopping or voting, and that reduces our impact on the planet.

His three wonderful suggestions:
– give up eating meat
– observe the Sabbath: take one day a week in which you do not drive, do not shop and do not use electronics
– plant a garden to produce some of your own food

personal thoughts

1. A week or so ago:
“Mama, will you take me to see patitos (spanish for ducklings)?”
“Sure sweetie. Just put your pants on.”
“No Pants!”

We repeated this chat every few minutes for hours. Finally, my mother called and said, “Maybe Rio would like to wear a skirt today?” When I suggested this to Rio, she ran upstairs as fast as her legs would carry her and came back promptly wearing a skirt and shoes. We’d found the Third Road.

2. Yesterday, in the car:
“Mama, are you a boy or a girl?”
“What do you think, Rio?”
“I think you’re a Witch!”

I think I’m a Witch too, and I think I’ll play with using that as my gender identity for a bit and see what happens.

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Holding hands

Emerson graduation smiles

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A little bird told me…

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