Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Familiar Sight No More...

For nearly three years, a familiar sight on my route to class has been the Gallatin Tobacco Warehouse. The Warehouse is a huge barn-like structure, covered in corrugated tin. Now that the quota and support system is gone, there is no reason for these places to exist anymore and last week, the new owners - the concrete company across the street - began stripping the tin off the sides. Somehow, it seemed fundamentally wrong to see the building like this. It wasn’t being given the dignity it deserved, being stripped in this way after so many years of service. Then today, on my way home, I was sad to see that the ceiling had fallen in where they had begun to knock down the cinderblock offices in the center of the building.

Not only that, although this building didn’t look like much, with its tin sides and utilitarian structure, we’ve lost another piece of our collective history. Not only did several generations of local farmers made the trip to Gallatin to sell their crops in this cavernous warehouse but we’ve lost one of our last remaining links to our agrarian past. How many folks realize that the quota and price support system wasn’t just extra money coming in every year, but a product of the hard work done by a bunch of midwestern farmers who worked to create a cooperative for their crops in the late 1800’s because the prices of those crops had dropped so low? Would anyone realize that this was one of the main roots of the Populist party, which is still influencing our political outlook today?

As a collective whole, it seems that we are in such a hurry to get rid of all signs of our past. “We Must Have Progress!” is the battle cry, although it appears to me more like we’re trying to hide the embarrassing and thoroughly uncool fact that our forebears actually got their hands dirty and had to live without antimicrobial soap.

The question is, if we try so hard to get rid of the foundation that is our past...what are we going to use to support the structure that will be our future?

Ask and Receive...

(Gee - could this computer get any slower? Looks like it's time to get Ad-Aware and SpyBot on this thing.)

Do you ever get the feeling the Guys In Charge (Wherever that May Be) are sending you a message? Forget the pastel colored messages of Love and LightTM. Many times, I feel the message is either "IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU ASKED, DUMBASS!!" or "OH BOO HOO! GET OVER YOUR WHINEY SELF AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!"

Case in point: The day after the last post, I found a book at Barnes & Noble about ways Pagans can deepen and expand their faith beyond the '101' phase called The Enchanted Life by Patricia Telesco. Not only was it on topic but it was also hidden away on a remainder table and priced at $3.99. I guess it's no secret that one sure way to get my attention with a book is to put a cheap price on it.

I also found Raven Kaldera’s article about the non-existence of community in Paganism. He said it better than I ever could. The rest of the website is also a wealth of information, especially on their take on Pagan monasticism – an idea I find very appealing, at least in a theoretical sense anyway.

Ach - it's after midnight and I have a long day tomorrow. I've got two zinc plates ready to put in the acid after a test in printmaking. It shouldn't be too hard - I just have to know the difference between relief and intaglio printing (relief printing has the ink resting on top of the plate where intaglio has the ink below the surface) and a few things like "bon tiere" - which I think is the print pulled from a plate and used as a master when printing an edition of the image.

More later - thanks for reading this hooey.


Saturday, March 26, 2005


I’ve been Pagan since 1988. During that time, I have done a lot of reading, studying, watching, and practicing. It wasn’t until I reached my late twenties that I started seriously questioning the “whys” and “whats” of my being Pagan. I’m in my middle thirties and am just now coming up with satisfactory answers.

One of the big things I miss in being Pagan is the sense of community. I remember when I used to attend church (I claim the Cumberland Presbyterian but I’ve experienced Southern Baptist too) a sense of community is something that came automatically since the churches I’ve attended had usually been in place for many, many years with the same families attending for as nearly as long as the church has been there.

The pagan paths don’t have that yet. They’re too new – the oldest being only about fifty or so years old. On top of it all, even though I am a solitary, we Pagans are still battling the collective “New Kid” perception – we’re weird; we’re different and nobody wants to play with us on the playground.

That "New Kid" thing is part of what originally drew me to the Pagan paths. It was different, new, “spooky” and exciting – and I was also the weird kid on the playground. It felt like I had come home. Perhaps it is as the saying goes, Pagans don’t proselytize, the gods themselves call their own to the path.

So here I am now. My reasons for being Pagan have changed. I'm still the weird kid but I want an even deeper understanding of and connection with myself and the divine.

…and so we finally get to the crux of the matter: what now? Where do I go from here?

Maybe I don't have any answers after all.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


You know, a person could learn to hate Tuesdays and Thursdays at this rate. Since I got myself up insanely early to work on that woodcut, I’ve been waking up on class days around 4 A.M. – until tonight. I dozed off for a few minutes around midnight and been awake ever since.

“Tomorrow” (considering it’s 3:35 A.M., it already is tomorrow) is going to be pure hell. I have to take notes in a 9:35 class for someone who is going out of town. The only consolation I have is the documentary on Frida Kahlo showing in overnight repeat on PBS.

Sweet Epona, I would gratefully welcome one of your nightmares if it meant getting some sleep!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Contributing to the delinquency...

Gee – it’s been so long since the last entry. I’m sorry for not writing. My sinuses decided to go on the offensive and I’m going through the after-effects now – the itchy ears and throat, coughing, sneezing and the like.

You know what? Despite what people say, sometimes happiness can be found in a bottle, especially if that bottle is filled with syrup designed to take care of the itchiness, coughing and all the rest.

This whole sinus thing did make me slow down for a while, though. I sat outside and watched the birds at the feeders. So far, I’ve seen golden finches, chickadees, titmice, cowbirds, cardinals, eastern towhees, blue jays, house wrens, nuthatches and a few I still can’t identify. I even saw two species of woodpecker yesterday. Oh yeah, the gangs of the bird world – grackles - have found the feeders as well. They eat everything but the smallest millet.

A little while ago, Wil Wheaton mentioned that he put up a feeder filled with Nyjer (a type of thistle) seed, which was “like crack for finches.” Well, I can tell you that it’s true – I keep thinking that I’m going to get busted for aiding and abetting avian delinquency.

I can see it now:

Headline: Local Woman Busted for Dealing
Byline: Joanie Snigglebottom, Staff writer

A local woman was arrested this morning and charged with Possession with the Intent to Distribute. Police raided the home of Azra about 4 A.M. this morning and found several pounds of Nyjer seed. Some of the seed had already been processed into feeders hidden in a nearby tree and the rest was found stored in plastic bags. The street value of the seed had not been determined at press time.

Nyjer seed is available over the counter in many stores that cater to birds. Finches seem especially vulnerable to the effects of the seed and often exhibit symptoms of severe addiction. However, this addiction is not limited to finches - other species use this seed as well. While police were collecting evidence at the Azra home, several Eastern Towhees and House Wrens were observed scratching on the ground below the hidden feeders for discarded seed. Currently, the Senate and House are pondering new legislations in an attempt to keep this addictive drug out the beaks of innocent birds.

When asked about the case, Police Chief John Farthington said, “Ms. Azra continues to claim that she has done nothing wrong. However, Ms. Azra has also implicated herself in this matter when she gave very detailed information on how the victims acted while under the influence of the seed – the multiple fights over a limited quantities, the cussing and other disruptive behavior. We are confident that a major player in the Nyjer distribution ring has been taken out of the game.”

Azra was released later in the morning after making the bail, which had been set at $5.97. She did not return this reporter’s phone calls for comment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Destiny averted...

The annual shoot-out is on! Spring is five days away and Winter Spirit is determined to stick around for a while longer. In the last three hours, the ground has gone from a fresh green to nearly solid white. There is an inch or so of big, wet, gloppy snow (you know - the kind that's perfect for building snowcritters with!) on the grass.

Sometimes I do wish Winter could stick around a while longer, especially in the lean snow years. (Granted, that does seem to be every year now.) I miss the deep - well, for this area anyway - snows. I remember we used to have snow a foot or two deep at least once a year. Oh well, I'll try to enjoy this snow while it lasts - or I do.

I'm exhausted. I've been taking a printmaking class at a local community college and we're at mid-term. This morning, I got up at three thirty so I could work on this woodcut that had been giving me fits all week. It is an oversized playing card showing the King of Cats (I had read a Scottish folktale about the King of Cats and the idea stuck.) I also had some written work on the history of monoprints, woodcuts and intaglio due - turns out, no one else had done theirs either. Our instructor gave us another week and a half to finish that up.

Seriously, though, I wish I could tell just how much this woodcut has bothered me. I have cut the thing from scratch three times. Lines disappeared when I cut a line too thin and it popped off the board. Stop cuts didn't do their jobs and the blade bit into wood behind them. Lines went every which way but straight - or went straight when they should have curved. My tools got the blood sacrifice they have been demanding when I cut my fingers. It seems that almost everything possible has happened with this woodcut, short of the board itself splitting on me.

Sunday, things got so bad with this project that it brought out the drama queen in me. I stood in the middle of my studio, looking at this damn piece of poplar that had haunted me all during my spring break, certain that this was it. My career as an artist was over. I had found my Waterloo and it was sitting on my drawing table. This piece of wood had rendered me utterly useless and it had also revealed me as the uncreative, delusional dumbass people probably have suspected me to be all long. The jig was up. I was done. I may as well head immediately to Mickey D's and learn not to hate the phrase, "You want fries with that?" because it was clearly my destiny from now on.

So this morning, I headed to the printmaking studio early with an impending sense of doom. I wanted to make a test print without too many people seeing the catastrophe that was my woodcut. Still, there were a few people there and we got into a discussion of how the semester was going and I discovered I wasn't alone. We all felt that we had built up this great momentum at the beginning of the semester but were dead in the water now. None of us were feeling particularly great about the work review we were having at the beginning of class.

It went better than expected - it was only to show that we had actually been doing the work, although some critique given as well. I got brave and put the test print of the King of Cats up with other woodcuts I had done earlier.

Oh, you want to know what was said about this woodcut, this thorn in my side?

The instructor said that although it clearly needed more cutting to be done to it, it was the one project that looked the most like a true woodcut. It clearly used all kinds of different strokes to create various textures and the image was balanced between light and dark, solid color and texture, etc.

I was truly shocked. It got a good initial critique - nay, it got a great critique!

It looks like Mickey D's may have to wait - I may have a future with this art thing after all.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Marigolds and celebration

I had a hard time in trying not to giggle maniacally in Wally World this morning. They had put out all kinds of seeds at either four for a dollar or ten for a dollar – including several different varieties of marigolds. I ended up with fourteen packs: two of calendula, three (or four?) cosmos, and the rest marigolds. It was a good start.

In Mexico, during the Day of the Dead (celebrated somewhere between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31), marigold petals cover the paths from the cemetery to the family altar so the deceased loved ones can find their way home, as well as back to their resting place at the end of the festival. Those petals also serve to show that, although they may have passed on, the deceased are still very much remembered and loved.

It would seem to me that the sight of all those marigolds growing throughout the year would be a constant reminder of how much we owe to our ancestors, even though we may not even know some of their names, instead of remembering them only on Samhain.

(Samhain: pronounced ‘sow-in’ in Irish traditions, ‘sa-veen’ in Scottish. It is celebrated around Oct. 31, although some may celebrate it on Nov. 2. Some consider it the last of three harvest festivals, because the last of the crops are usually brought in by this time. Others consider it the beginning of a new year. Since it is a time that the Earth is “gearing down,” and many of the deciduous plants are going dormant, it is also a time to reminisce about those who have gone before us.)

Here I am, doing the usual for me: the Vernal Equinox is coming up on the twentieth and my head is in my “other” favorite time of the year.

I refuse to call the Equinox anything other than what it is for me. I will not call it Ostara, or Eostre, or whatever other holiday it is called. I don’t follow any of those paths. They don’t mean much to me. It’s not that I haven’t tried. They just don’t fit.

The Equinox signals the beginning of Spring. A time where the Earth is waking up from her winter sleep. All kinds of new beings are showing their faces. Daffodils are smiling at the sun, the herbs are beginning to peek out of the ground and all kinds of little critters are seeing the world for the first time.

Isn’t that special enough?

Thanks for reading - until next time...


Sunday, March 13, 2005


“Either you look at the universe as a very poor creation out of which no one can make anything or you look at your own life and your own part in the universe as infinitely rich, full of inexhaustible interest opening out into the infinite further possibilities for study and contemplation and interest and praise. Beyond all and in all is God.”
-Thomas Merton, _The Intimate Merton_
July 17, 1956 entry, p. 113

This was not the quote I had in mind when I picked up that book. That quote was about the wind, trees and earth. It appears I was destined to find this one instead.

I suppose some folks would think it strange that a Pagan would find wisdom in the writings of a Trappist monk. I think this is the only way to explore and strengthen one’s own faith – not by isolating yourself within the confines of your own spiritual path but by seeing others have to say as well. Holding that information up to your own beliefs and questioning what you read, hear and think.

How else are you going to know if your faith is going to hold up if you are surrounded by nothing but spiritual “yes men”?

This quote also comes after a day of what I could call "ordinary wonder." I went out to a nearby state park with some friends and three does grazed close to our picnic table. They eventually wandered farther away but one felt safe enough to lie down and nap within sight of us. After we had lunch, several titmice and a crow came within ten feet or so to eat some bread we had dropped. I'd never been so close to a wild crow before. (On a totally unrelated note: I wish I could find the URL of that British birding society that specialized in titmice. They had T-Shirts for sale with a picture of a titmouse on it, with the caption "I Love..." well, you figure it out. *wide grin*)

Crows are usually seen as wise but having a trickster side. This crow circled us a few times before we actually dropped the bread - perhaps the message here is watch for some of that inexhaustible and infinite opportunity and dare to venture near enough to grab it.

That’s it for now – I’m tired. Thanks for reading.


Friday, March 11, 2005

Greetings from a Dreamer...

Ooo - the possibilities hidden in the virgin entry of my blog! I will try, as Hank Hill would say, "not to squeal like a girl." (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Who knows what I'll end up talking about on this thing, although I'd like to focus on two things: art (be it visual or written) and issues of faith. Don't worry, "faith" will be from my own confused, pagan perspective.

Speaking about art, Michael Zulli is doing one last painting based on Neil Gaiman's Morpheus. The painting is four by two feet and will be a formal court painting, based on the Rococo style in France and Britain. The underpainting is being done and it's already awesome! I only wish I could afford what I know it'll go for when it's sold.

Morpheus is one of my favorite characters of all time, mainly because Neil succeeded in making him (Him?) and the worlds he inhabited seem so "real." That is the mark of a true artist, in my book, when you can take a story and make the reader believe it is an accounting of a real being's life for a time as well as make the reader truly care what happens during the time "they" share.

Well, that's it for now. I wouldn't want to bore you on the first post. Thanks for reading and hopefully, I'll see you again.