Rediscovery

Spiritual journeys are not supposed to be quick, or easy. They should not be over in a year and a day, nor should they have only one clear path forward. The dirt roads we find ourselves on are supposed to confuse the hell out of us, mystify us with their ways, stun us with their beauty. We are supposed to get lost sometimes. And even when you feel as though you will never unravel all the mysteries, there’s still peace and learning to be had.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. One of the most important things Wicca taught me was that life, being and spirituality are fluid. You should expect them to change, because as surely as the seasons change, they will too. How well we respond to those changes is more a measure of our character than anything we’ve built or accomplished in any given single moment. Continue reading

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Off I go…

Photo credit

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Dirt, Sweat and Daisies

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. -Marcus Tullius Cicero

Gardening is an almost spiritual experience for me. The sun reddening my skin is my hymnal; my fingers in the dirt is my prayer; every carefully placed plant is a dream I leave in Mother Nature’s hands. To garden to believe in tomorrow.

I hadn’t realized until a few years ago, but I’ve always been rather attached to the land. Or at least as much as one can be, given our commercialized lifestyles. For a long time after I moved into Chicago, I sorely missed my parents’ country home – the quiet, the non-cultivated trees, being able to see the stars at night, and the mentality that we roll with the seasons instead of forcing heated or cooled air through our homes every time the temperature is less than perfect. I ached to go back to a place that didn’t feel contrived, that didn’t operate on concrete jungle rules. It took me a long time to realize that underneath that cold, carved stone was still the land that had nurtured me. It took a while for me to realize that even well-maintained sidewalks have weeds.

The first couple of years I spent out on my own were rough – I didn’t eat well, didn’t sleep enough and nearly crumpled under the real-word demands of bills and responsibility. And to a girl who’d helped her parents till long strips of family acreage for true gardens, growing single plants in pots out on the tiny apartment balcony seemed like a cheap counterfeit. I was disconnected from my earth mother, and suffered for it.

Fast forward a couple of years and a handful of moves later, and I was staring at a run down old house with a huge back deck and a fenced in backyard, hands cupping my pregnant belly and a grin on my face. We had turned the page to a new chapter, my new husband and I, and it was bright and full of flowery possibilities.

And then April came, and my visions of flowerbeds along the back fence shifted to precisely cut bouquets left at a marble stone with her name and one little date. Like any plant deprived of water and sunlight, I wilted. I wilted to the point of no return, hovering there for much longer than anyone ever should.

Until the morning I found daisies. As bittersweet as those beautiful little flowers were, I found enough air in my lungs to breathe again, and from there I was hooked. Carrot, zucchini, onion, kale – I grew them with the justification of lowering our grocery bill, but I didn’t stop there. I added raised vegetable beds, dozens and dozens of different pots and planting accessories. I added to the point of emptying our bank account more than once, and it was never enough.

When I finally reigned myself in I sat out on the back deck and surveyed my work. Some plants had been grown from seeds and others had been purchased as seedlings, but all of them were mine. Each one was full of words and tears I could never share, but planting each little bud made those pieces of myself real and gave me a chance to be free.

I might not be able to grow another baby, but I can grow plants. And in this imperfect world, that’s as close as I’m likely to get.

 

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“Life”

Life can be the sunshine,

On peaceful days with bright blue skies,

Or life can be the raindrops,

That fall like tears squeezed from your eyes,

Life can be the heaven,

That you’ll only reach through hell,

Since you won’t know that you’re happy,

If you’ve not been sad as well,

Life can teach hard lessons,

But you’ll be wiser once you know,

That even roses need both sunshine,

And a touch of rain to grow.

~e.h

——-

Source

You can find more of Erin Hanson’s work here and her books of poetry here.

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A Return

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First sunflower of the season, 2016

~We are not human beings have a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.~

The last time I was here, I talked about how a lot of things have changed for me since I started Ayslyn’s Corner more than four years ago. Life has a way of beating us all up, making us question convictions we’d long ago thought pretty well set. For me, that translated to my world losing color and me losing interest, in everything.

I’ve thought a lot about my decision to put Ayslyn’s Corner on hiatus, wrestling with the Changing of Seasons post, wanting to take it down but still unable to address the concerns that were laid out within. My writing is real, and I want it to reflect an authentic life; I want to be true to myself as well as my readers. And that’s hard to do, harder still to do it consistently over years.

Ultimately though, a second decision needed to be made, and I’ve used the time away from writing here to thoroughly examine the options. Ayslyn’s Corner is returning from hiatus, and over the coming weeks will undergo a revamp. As I mentioned in my last post, many of my higher ideals still align with Wicca and Paganism and I’m not abandoning any of that, nor am I removing the accumulated Wiccan resources. Going forward, I’ll share more general spiritual-related experiences, crafts and recipes that have magickal connections, examinations of religion and spirituality in theory and practice, and likely Wiccan fiction and poetry.

Let’s continue growing and exploring, together. ❤

 

 

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A Mother’s Day Blessing


My stomach began to twist into knots as we tried to find parking. We live in the suburbs of a major city, and the often vicious hunt for parking is a mundane part of life. But the country girl in me always takes it as a bad omen for the coming event; what do these people have against parking lots? We had left with plenty of time to navigate the cramped little side streets without being late, but the hassle added to the quiet unease already bubbling under the surface.

I hate having to go to church.

We park a block away and walk. The sheer number of cars, and the fact that I don’t recognize any of the people making their way in the same direction tell me that this is not what we’ve been told it is. This is a normal mass (on Saturday?) and not a memorial service for Zio. I feel trapped and angry and I carry those emotions with me as we pass over the threshold. We loiter in the entryway, alternatively poking our heads around the ornate double doors that lead into the chapel proper and looking back outside, frantic for a familiar face to tell us that this is indeed what we were supposed to be expecting.

A cousin appears, ushering four kids from that side of the family into the chapel. He kisses me on the cheek in the very Italian gesture of greeting, and I smile, hiding my growing anger as my “This is normal” mask slides into place. “I go to mass all the time,” my dead eyes say. And inside I’m struggling not to laugh hysterically. There’s a witch in your congregation.

We find an empty pew, though others quickly fill in the spaces behind and in front of us. I curse silently because I know that when they go to kneel, and I remain sitting, the person who is behind me will be breathing their displeasure down my neck.

We sit, we stand, they sing. We sit, there is a reading, we stand, there is a chant, an affirmation from the gathered, we sit. There is another reading, we stand, they sing, we sit.

My mother-in-law, sister- and brother-in-law arrive, scooting in beside us. They are not the only ones trickling in. The elder priest reads a list of names: those who are to be honored during this everyday Saturday mass. He mispronounces Zio’s name.

I watch the children dressed in white move around the altar, bringing things to the priests and moving things out of sight with smooth efficiency. This church has a girl among their altar servants, and I think dejectedly how progressive they must feel.

We stand, they pray, they sing, we sit. Then they kneel and I keep my seat, crossing one leg over the opposite knee.

I watch the priests shallowly bend a knee on their side of the altar before pouring red liquid (do Catholics use actual wine for everyday services?) and a vial of what I assume is their holy water into an ornate chalice rimmed in gold leaf.

The younger priest sings his blessing on the little crackers and the cup, and row by row, the crowd reshapes itself, flowing toward the front to partake in one of their most sacred rites. They return to their seats more quickly than they left, going back to their knees. I sit. I wait.

They return to their seats, tilting the cushioned planks back into their tucked away position. We stand. I tap the back of the pew and study the stain glass windows on all sides of me, and the beautifully detailed statues of their saints and deities. I can only guess at the cost of the things around me, but their fineness tells me nothing was cheaply bought. Didn’t their prophet tell them that the poor and the meek shall inherit the earth…?

Then comes the part of the sermon that under any other circumstances I might not have a problem with. “Please turn to your neighbors and offer them peace.” A gentle and thoughtful gesture, with a brief touch of fingers and hastily broken eye contact. But under their vaulted church ceiling, there are words not spoken that are attached to the peace, making it conditional. Don’t touch me! I scream inwardly, as I accept tentative wishes.

And then, something that I did not expect. A Mother’s Day blessing. An invitation for all of the present mothers to stand, be recognized before their fellows and families, and come forward to be blessed. I hold my breath, watching as my mother-in-law and sister-in-law navigate legs to reach the center aisle along with some sixty other women. They mass in the front in an unorganized cluster, and the priest stands on the raised platform of the altar, mumbles into his microphone and makes the sign of the cross. They smile and mutter as they return to their seats.

I wonder at people so conditioned to find such an impersonal blessing something to smile about. It seems like mere lip service to me, that there was nothing more prepared for these women whom are supposedly so cherished. No roses, no cards, no anointment from their god’s little tools. And at the same time, my panic is growing, and it is a kind of panic I have not endured since that day.

People who had not earned the right to be present while she is laid to rest. People who expect this Catholic charade. The need to stand on shaky and drug-addled legs and yell at the priest to shut up, to stop, to summon lightning and fire and burn the entire world to the ground. I am an outsider at my daughter’s funeral. And I hate them all for it.

I draw in a deep breath, closing my eyes and taking several moments to push down the memories and the panic attack. A different time, I remind myself. A different place. A different girl. You are alright.

We are finally released. My smile remains in place, and I know that no one will notice how violently I am vibrating, as long as they don’t look too closely. It has only been an hour, but I am exhausted, carrying the weight of distrust and resentment, unable to leave them at the door. Parting kisses are exchanged, along with the chit chat that always prolongs goodbyes in large Italian families.

The parishioners disperse back down the shallow steps to street level, and my eyes-forward, no-nonsense stride away prevent any further conversations. My skin crawls with taint and I cannot get away quickly enough. The urge to cleanse both body and soul in a woodland stream somewhere flitters through me, and I am momentarily amused. Then the weight settles back into my chest and I have to wonder why these places fill me with such unreasonable hatred, especially knowing that the entire charade means nothing to me. Why can I not simply turn off this reaction? I always find so much disconnected symbolism and empty ritual within their ceremonies, but my anger goes far beyond such momentary observations.

Leaving is easier than arriving, and physical distance dulls the importance of these contemplations. They fade into shallow graves, waiting for the next time I will dig them back out. And the only thing that I am left with is uncomplicated sentiment.

I hate having to go to church.

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A Changing of Seasons


Last post, I confessed to having had a difficult time coming up with content for Ayslyn’s Corner and asked what kinds of things you would like to see here moving forward. It meant a lot to me that several of you took the time to like the post and/or answer the embedded poll – that feedback has given me a better feel for the audience here and the kind of content you all are looking for, and led me, finally, to a decision.

One of the things Wicca has taught me is that faith is fluid and changeable. Growing up in a conservative Christian household, I wasn’t offered the mental framework to understand that other spiritual concepts exist – what my parents believed was the only right and true religion and everyone else was misguided and pitiful. The idea that differing (even outright opposing) spiritual understandings could be equally valid without compromising each other was something that I had to learn on my own.

While I found my own kind of enlightenment moving from Christianity, through an agnostic/atheist time and into Wicca, I confess that I carried some of the Christian tendencies forward with me, without meaning to and without realizing it. Things like a superiority complex, the rigid inability to change over time, and hate. Most Christians would probably be aghast at the notion that Christianity taught me to hate, given that the overwhelming majority believe it to be a religion of love, but that’s a conversation for another time. I’ve done my best to combat these things as I encounter them, but undoing years of indoctrination is not an overnight process and there are times when I recognize that more than a cursory effort is needed.

This version of me now is fairly reluctant to change. The loss of a child shatters every single piece of your soul, and the painful changes that happen after, and continue to happen months and years out, make grief survivors want to lock down what little they can. I’ve created a quiet kind of order to my daily life, and have guarded it with vicious words, isolation and tears over the past almost two years. And when you’re aware of how devastatingly painful change can be, instinct is to hold out against it for as long as you can. And in that way, I have been lying to myself for a while now.

I’m not really Wiccan anymore, and while many of my higher ideologies still align well with Wiccan (and in general, Paganism as well) practice and beliefs, I don’t feel I can claim the name any longer. I haven’t observed the turning of the wheel in over a year, I rarely perform spells anymore and seldom think to address my concerns and problems in a witchy manner. I still stir my pots deosil; I will continue to be as green as possible in everything I do; and will still carry the respect for all living creatures that I learned within Wicca. But in terms of my own spirituality… I don’t much anymore. Big questions like, “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose here?” don’t interest me, probably because my answers would be depressingly pessimistic. And right now, that’s okay. If Wicca has taught me anything, it’s that I, in and of myself, am always enough. Right here, in this moment, I am no more or less than I need to be.

Ultimately, my inability to write authentic articles, and my growing dedication to my publishing career, have led to the decision to put Ayslyn’s Corner on hiatus. I have no idea how long this absence will last, and I do honestly hope to come back at some point, revitalize and become bigger and better than before. You guys have been so awesome – walking this path with me, exchanging stories and ideas in a way that was everything I hoped to accomplish when setting up this blog. I hope that that friendship has been as beneficial to you as it has been to me.

This isn’t an ultimate goodbye; I’m still going to be filtering over pieces from my writing blog, Invisible Ink, that you might find of interest, and of course if you’ve enjoyed my articles and want to keep following me and/or keep in touch, I’m much more active over there.

It has been an amazing adventure.

Blessed be, my friends. Until we meet again. ❤

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