Please Stop Perpetuating a non-existent Tacoma Inferiority Complex – An open letter to the Tacoma Wheelmen Bicycle Club

I woke up this morning to messages from cyclist friends of mine asking what in the hell is wrong with the Tacoma Wheelmen Bicycle Club (TWBC) and what their beef with the Cascade bicycle club is.

It didn’t take long to find a news article about the president of the TWBC, Darrell Eslinger, with all the civility and grace of a GOP presidential candidate on the debate platform throwing a tantrum because Cascade Bicycle Club is holding a ride on the new 520 bridge and he feels that he and everyone else should be able to ride it for free (which they can at any other time once the bridge is opened to the public for cycling)

As the alleged leader of an organization that hosts paid rides such as the Daffodil Classic which are also held on public roads, he of all people should understand the cost of liability insurance, port a potties, security and staffing for such an event. I don’t think he, or the Daffodil committee would appreciate someone from another bicycle club in another town demanding to be able to ride it for free.

Seriously? Are we in middle school?

This pathological need for the TWBC to perpetuate an inferiority complex in the name of Tacoma is embarrassing and insulting.

I’ve looked the other way for years as TWBC has hosted “anti Chilly Hilly” and “anti STP” events. Offering less expensive alternatives closer to home is a great idea, but does it have to come with such immature snark and intentionally creating animosity?

My membership is up for renewal, but I am not renewing it this year because I do not want to be associated with a group who promotes this sort of antagonistic agenda.

It’s time for the TWBC to grow up and focus on making positive contributions here in Tacoma, instead of worrying about what someone else is doing in another city and creating adolescent drama for no good reason.

Tacoma deserves better.

Tacoma is better than this.

 

Tantrum

 


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Happy Solstice – The Return of the Light

~

Up here in the North, the skies are dark even at mid day.  Clouds and rain add to the gloom. [update]  How dark is it?  My dusk to dawn lights came on before noon.

But that is all about to change (albeit slowly) for tonight is the longest darkest night, and the light will begin to return.

Happy Winter Solstice! (Of course, it is only Winter Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

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Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight, a group of friends and loved ones will gather in my back yard for a bonfire (we may need rain gear this year). We will write down what we want to leave in the darkness as well as what we want to bring with us into the light and put those into the fire (which was of course, the yule log) The smoke from that fire will send our wishes to the heavens. (in a wish lantern, weather permitting)  We will then, “pass the light”, candle to candle whilst listening to (and in many cases, signing) Dar Williams, “The Christians and the Pagans”. We then all sang along to “Here Comes The Sun” a Solstice classic. We will then share food, drink and merriment through the darkest night.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here’s one from two years ago, in my back yard. For the last several years, the weather has cooperated for a bonfire even when the forecast is for a 100% chance of rain. Last night, the howling winds stopped just before we were ready to move outside.

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

Just now, it just now… happened…

Blessed Solstice all, let’s look to the light.

~L



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Dia De Los Muertos in Tacoma

Dia De Los Muertos, translates to Day of the Dead.

Once a little known (to us) observance celebrated in Mexico and Latin America, it has become more prevalent in our society, the predominant culture of which is taught to fear death and the dead.

The closest festival that those of us with Northern European/Gaelic/Celtic ancestry once had is Samhain, which was eventually assimilated by our culture and turned into the modern Halloween which has nothing to do with honoring our ancestors and departed loved ones and everything to do with commercial profit.

Sadly, this is beginning to happen to Dia De Los Muertos as is evidenced by incredibly tacky Halloween costumes on sale, and other misappropriations.

Make no mistake, Dia De Los Muertos is not “Mexican Halloween” just like Cinco De Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day” (it commemorates the battle of Pueblo and achieving victory over French forces against all odds, but that’s a conversation for another day) nor is it about drinking tequila until you puke.

This Huffington Post article speaks to appropriation and misrepresentation of the observance, so rather than wax poetic from upon my soapbox, I shall link it here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-cubias/dia-de-los-muertos-is-not_b_6056734.html

While appropriation and colonization are very real and serious issues based in devaluing and disrespecting other cultures, the United States has always been known as the “Great American Melting Pot” in which many generations of immigrants from different cultures brought some of their own traditions.

We can learn a lot from other cultures and regain some of the connections to the earth and our ancestors we lost when we all melded into a homogenous culture if we approach it with respect and a desire to learn.

This short video explains the basics of the observance…

The Day of the Dead – A Lot More Than Skulls and Candy

It's definitely not the “Mexican Halloween.”

Posted by AJ+ on Saturday, October 31, 2015

Today, an example of respectful learning and celebration occurred at the Tacoma Art Museum for Dia De Los Muertos.

A colorful event that included education, entertainment, music, activities for children and sacred spaces created for departed loves ones drew people from all over Tacoma and beyond in the spirit of community.

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Offerendas (altars built to honor departed loves ones and ancestors) lined hallways on multiple levels of the museum. Filled with photographs, decorations, memorabilia and often, written explanations about the symbolism and people involved were lovingly built by individuals, families and community groups who took workshops to understand their significance so that they could be created out of love and respect.

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I spoke with a Latina woman who was laying out a lovely offerenda she was decorating with feather headdresses, photographs and items of significance or that were favorite things of her departed loved ones. She told me about her father who had passed only one year ago, and her grandmother and aunt. She sadly told of how quickly “the cancer” took one of her relatives and smiled sharing fond memories others.

I then spoke with a Chinese American woman who wanted to take my photograph since I was in costume and we shared stories of observances in our own pre-United States cultures (in my case, Irish) that were similar to Dia De Los Muertos,

I saw people of all ages, classes, cultures and ethnicities come together to learn, share and remember their departed loves one who live in our hearts and stories. I watched people of diverse political leanings learn about another culture at a deeper and more personal level than before. I witnessed healing.

If you didn’t make it this year, you need to put it on your calendar for next year. I certainly hope that the museum will continue to provide this amazing, free event to the community.

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There is still time to “get your dead on”. Tonight, on 6th Avenue there is a Dia De Los Muertos

Doors will open at the Studio 6 Ballroom Event space, 2610 6th Avenue, at 4:00 PM for face painting, creating and local vendor setup.

At 6:00 PM a procession will move down 6th Ave, many participants carrying paper mache figures they created in workshops.

At 7:00 PM, there will be live music, celebration and activities back at the event space lasting until 9:00 PM.

Come join your community and departed loves ones, for death is not to be feared, it is part of life and the end, is just the beginning.

I leave you with a charming short film showing a little girl discovering Dia De Los Muertos

Family, Love, Loss and Magic at Christmas

Tis the season.

The season of love, joy and family.

It is the season of shared traditions.

For many, it is the season of melancholy.

Many (far too many this year) are spending their first holiday without a parent, loved one, beloved pet or child who has passed from this earth (losing a child to an early, unfair death or suicide… I can’t even imagine)

I was reading a Facebook post of a friend of mine today who asked if she was the only one who felt melancholy at this time of year.

She mentioned that she wished she had known as a child how precious those holidays with family were despite the fact that even though they were Jewish, they gathered at Christmas when they were free from work and school obligations and spent quality time together.

As many of us are wont to say, “Hug your loved ones; tell them that you love them, for you never know when it will be the very last time.”

Truer words were never spoken.

I do my best to distract myself from the fact that I have no immediate family (I do have some cousins in other states) and that due to my own abusive, dysfunctional, upbringing in an alcoholic household, I have been unable, as an adult to form a lasting functional romantic relationship/partnership (Wow, do I ever “pick wrong”)

I host holiday gatherings with chosen family (which in cases of severe dysfunction, neglect or abuse can be preferable to and healthier/safer than blood family)

I try to make sure that anyone who finds themselves alone at this often emotionally challenging time of year for whatever reason, knows that they have somewhere to go.

I cook, bake, decorate, send out cards and letters and try to give back to my community.

But in the end, there is still, always, that sense of aloneness, of being different-not in that cool, quirky, creative way, but in that “there is something wrong with me kind of way”.

Tonight, I will be cooking a holiday feast for friends/chosen from all walks of life, relationship statuses and faiths (or lack thereof)

I am going to hug them and let them know that I love and appreciate them, because we never know what someone else may be going through inside and because we never know when it will be the last time we have the chance.

I encourage everyone to do the same.

Family eating Christmas dinner

And just to end this rather serious reflection on a positive note, I offer up one of my favorite, past Christmas experiences.

“One Perfect Christmas Moment in Tacoma”

~
Sometimes when we least expect it, something amazing and profound hits us out of the blue, more often than not, it comes from a source that we least expect.

I am one of “those people” who prefers to use the words “Happy Holidays” to greet people during the winter holiday season in order to respect and acknowledge the fact that the season is shared by many faiths and traditions. It’s not a “war on Christmas”, it’s merely being inclusive and respectful.
I am not a Christian, but I do celebrate Christmas as a holiday of shared seasonal traditions. I celebrate it as a season of light, hope and ideally, peace on earth. To me, rebirth and renewal is a universal concept.

One Christmas morning, many years ago whilst living in Tacoma’s Stadium District, I walked to my neighborhood corner market to pick up something for a celebration that I was going to attend later in the day.  The weather was beautiful, the air was crisp and clean, and I was still enjoying fond memories of a celebration with good friends the night before.

As I looked out on to the deep blue waters of Commencement Bay, I also contemplated all the stress and depression that many people feel at this time of year, and how truly sad that is. I thought of all the pressure that our society puts on people to be happy and have the “perfect” holiday, and how many end up disappointed and frustrated. I thought of those who have lost loved ones, and for whom this time of year brings only painful memories of loss.; and as I watched a homeless man digging in the trash, I thought sadly of those who don’t even have a home and a hot meal. It seemed so wrong to me that a season that is supposed to be about happiness and joy brings stress, depression and sadness to so many. I was feeling pretty darn jaded.

I was distracted from my train of thought when I stopped to chat with a friend from work at the little coffee shop on the corner, and was then greeted by familiar faces and smiles at our little neighborhood market. I made my purchases and began my walk back home, my mind drifting back to the sadness I was thinking about earlier..

And then, I heard it on the air.

At first it was faint and distant; then it began go gain strength and seemed to be coming from all around me.
Music, bells, magic.

Stadium is an historic neighborhood where most of the buildings are at least 100 years old. It contains several beautiful old churches.

Resounding across the waters of Commencement Bay, the castle that is now Stadium High School and the old brick buildings filled with history, was “Gloria, In Excelious Deo…” coming from real bells in an old church (I don’t know which one) that has an organ controlling the bells. Next I heard, “Joy to the World” and was reminded that this indeed is a season of hope for many traditions.

I stopped walking and just stood there to listen, appreciate the world around me and experience something that was very powerful. It was then that I noticed other people stopped on the streets, also mesmerized by the magical sounds. They came out of their businesses and homes to sit on the stoops and listen, some even pulled their cars to the side of the road and turned off their engines.  Everyone, regardless of their religious upbringing, traditions or even current life circumstances was smiling in shared joy for the beauty in the air surrounding us. Most of us did not know nor had even seen each other before that moment; yet we felt an undeniable connection of the spirit.

For one brief moment, the world stood still, filled with peace, love and joy.

It doesn’t matter which church, religion, tradition or building that joyful sound came from. There are certain messages in this world that are universal.

If only we could all share more moments like the one I experienced Christmas morning in a tiny Tacoma neighborhood.

The world would be a better place.

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One Perfect Christmas Moment

~
Sometimes when we least expect it, something amazing and profound hits us out of the blue, more often than not, it comes from a source that we least expect.

I am one of “those people” who prefers to use the words “Happy Holidays” to greet people during the winter holiday season in order to respect and acknowledge the fact that the season is shared by many faiths and traditions. It’s not a “war on Christmas”, it’s merely being inclusive and respectful.

I am not a Christian, but I do celebrate Christmas as a holiday of shared seasonal traditions. I celebrate it as a season of light, hope and ideally, peace on earth. To me, rebirth and renewal is a universal concept.

On Christmas morning, I walked to my neighborhood corner market to pick up something for a celebration that I was going to attend later in the day.  The weather was beautiful, the air was crisp and clean, and I was still enjoying fond memories of a celebration with good friends the night before.

As I looked out on to the deep blue waters of Commencement Bay, I also contemplated all the stress and depression that many people feel at this time of year, and how truly sad that is. I thought of all the pressure that our society puts on people to be happy and have the “perfect” holiday, and how many end up disappointed and frustrated. I thought of those who have lost loved ones, and for whom this time of year brings only painful memories of loss.; and as I watched a homeless man digging in the trash, I thought sadly of those who don’t even have a home and a hot meal. It seemed so wrong to me that a season that is supposed to be about happiness and joy brings stress, depression and sadness to so many. I was feeling pretty darn jaded.

I was distracted from my train of thought when I stopped to chat with a friend from work at the little coffee shop on the corner, and was then greeted by familiar faces and smiles at our little neighborhood market. I made my purchases and began my walk back home, my mind drifting back to the sadness I was thinking about earlier..

And then, I heard it on the air.

At first it was faint and distant; then it began go gain strength and seemed to be coming from all around me.

Music, bells, magic.

I live in an old, historic neighborhood where most of the buildings are at least 100 years old. It contains several beautiful old churches.

Resounding across the waters of Commencement Bay, the castle that is now Stadium High School and the old brick buildings filled with history, was “Gloria, In Excelious Deo…” coming from real bells in an old church (I don’t know which one) that has an organ controlling the bells. Next I heard, “Joy to the World” and was reminded that this indeed is a season of hope for many traditions.

I stopped walking and just stood there to listen, appreciate the world around me and experience something that was very powerful. It was then that I noticed other people stopped on the streets, also mesmerized by the magical sounds. They came out of their businesses and homes to sit on the stoops and listen, some even pulled their cars to the side of the road and turned off their engines.  Everyone, regardless of their religious upbringing, traditions or even current life circumstances was smiling in shared joy for the beauty in the air surrounding us. Most of us did not know nor had even seen each other before that moment; yet we felt an undeniable connection of the spirit.

For one brief moment, the world stood still, filled with peace, love and joy.

It doesn’t matter which church, religion, tradition or building that joyful sound came from. There are certain messages in this world that are universal.

If only we could all share more moments like the one I experienced Christmas morning in a tiny Tacoma neighborhood.

The world would be a better place.

~L



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Winter Solstice Dreams – 2013

~
Happy Winter Solstice! (Of course, it is only Winter Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

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The days will slowly get longer again. For those of us in the far dark, frozen North, this is a big BIG deal!

Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Last night, a group of friends gathered in my back yard for a bonfire. We wrote down what we want to leave in the darkness as well as what we want to bring with us into the light and put those into the fire (which was of course, the yule log) The smoke from that fire filled a wish lantern, which sent our wishes to the heavens. We then, passed the light, candle to candle whilst listening to (and in many cases, signing) Dar Williams, “The Christians and the Pagans”. We then all sang along to “Here Comes The Sun” a Solstice classic.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here’s one from two years ago, in my back yard. For the last several years, the weather has cooperated for a bonfire even when the forecast is for a 100% chance of rain. Last night, the howling winds stopped just before we were ready to move outside.

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

Just now, it just now… happened…

Blessed Solstice all, let’s look to the light.

~L



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Things it took me 50 years to learn

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A few weeks ago it arrived.

I knew it was coming, but nothing prepares you for the day you open your mail box and…

BAM!!!

There it is, your AARP card.

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“Stuff” just got real.

Prior to this in your face reality check, I’d already been doing some serious reevaluating of my life after all of the stress, life circumstances, female issues, cancer scare and recovery from surgeries that slowly drew me away from the things that were important to me.

When faced with the possibility of ovarian cancer, my priorities became extremely clear to me. (honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me)

Some things would need to wait until I had recovered from surgery such as backpacking, hiking, cycling, running, etc…

Others, were easy fixes (OK, quitting my lousy, unfulfilling, high stress job working with miserable people when I thought I might have cancer was anything but easy, but I took the risk anyway) getting away from people with unhealthy habits/too much drama who had somehow migrated into my life when I became less physically active and getting serious again about what I was eating and drinking. (my forced sedentary lifestyle and inattention to my dietary habits whilst super stressed out and associating with those who ate like pigs and drank like fish on a daily basis created some weight gain which I worked really hard to get rid of)

I made art a priority in my life again and when I was physically able, dance… (dance, a life long love and art form for me, had been gone from my life since the marriage due to an extremely jealous husband)

The ceramics studio I’ve wanted my whole life… is now almost completely set up in the basement. I also found a new love of glass blowing (its’ a gritty Tacoma thing) and I’ve recently been considering singing again.

I’ve reclaimed virtually everything that was important to me sans one thing, my music-my fiddle and guitar. I learned late in life, despite the fact that everyone told me you can’t learn to play an instrument as difficult as the violin as an adult (I was 41) It was the instrument I was drawn to, I always picked that part out when listening to a musical selection, once I finally picked it up, it made sense (bonus, I actually have good intonation)

I was just moving to an intermediate level where I was beginning to perform. Then one of my band mates died tragically and I almost died in a car accident a few days later. Due to the fractured shoulder I sustained in that accident, I could not place the instrument on my shoulder (I did force myself through one final performance at Summer Solstice in honor of Michelle whilst heavily drugged on pain killers and grief).

Once the shoulder healed, I still had nerve damage and my fingers would not work correctly. Soon, I lost the muscle memory and then I lost the music in my head and the fiddle remained on the wall, a sad reminder of something I lost/gave up on.

The next time I started back up (even went back and took lessons) all the drama with my mothers illnesses, surgeries and suicide along with some bad work drama shut me down just as I was beginning to make progress. Then came buying, moving into and restoring the house, then came the health issues and cancer scare then recovering from all of that.

My last step of this process, the last stage is reclaiming my music and I will do it this time.

As 50 approached, I’d been talking to two of my dearest “biker scum” (aka cyclist) friends, Julie (just turned 53) and Leo (just turned 60) about a discussion they’d recently had about how you enter your 50’s sets the tone for the 2nd half of your life.

Their assertion is that the physical shape and mindset in which you enter your 50s sets the tone for the rest of your life.

I think they’re right.

In honor of turning 50, some good friends and I went on a hike. My first official act as a 50 year old was to climb a tree. (to those who know me well, this makes perfect sense)

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Part of the week long Lisa turns 50 celebration also involved running (the streets of Tacoma, in costume) with the Tacoma Runners, attending and throwing a Halloween party wearing an age inappropriate red riding hood costume with a very short skirt, and a 50 for 50 bike ride from Golden Gardens to the RedHook Brewery which still needs to be rescheduled due to weather.

Why yes, I am planning on being an extremely eccentric old lady, and I’m starting now. I come by it honesty enough, I like to joke that my maternal grandmother ran with wolves before it was fashionable to do so. Well into her 70’s she consorted with artists, writers and bohemians, keeping a sleeping bag in the back of her car for spontaneous trips to Baja; she lived alone in the desert collecting glass and digging for gemstones which she turned into works of art/jewelry.

One of the many joys of being 50 is that I don’t have to care as much about what people think I should be and do; I don’t have to worry so much about appearance. I know who I am and what I want.

Some people dread turning 50 (or 40 or 30) but for me, it’s freeing and empowering. It’s a time in my life where I can concentrate on things that are important to me.

Having been 50 for a few weeks now, I’ve had opportunity to look back at what I’ve learned (especially over the last year) and to honestly say that I think I’m in a pretty good place in my life. Yes, I’m damaged, a bit rough around the edges and will always be a work in progress (aren’t we all?) but I’m pretty happy with where I am and more importantly who I am right now.

So what has it taken me 50 years to learn? Way more than I could ever cover in a blog post or even a book, but I’m going to try to summarize some general highlights here:

Challenge yourself, try something new; step outside your comfort zone.

Take risks, big risks, small risks, take them; they help you feel alive! So what if you fail? you will have learned something and will not have those “what if” regrets (for me, stagnating and being unhappy is a much bigger failure than not trying)

Learn something. Read a book, sign up for a class, take up a new hobby, be interested in the world.

Don’t live in the past. Your past does not define you, it merely strengthens you. Learn from it, then move on and live in and enjoy the present.

LOVE, love freely. It does not have to be romantic love; there are all kinds of love; love for friends, family, pets, community…

If you are not happy with/by yourself, you won’t be happy in a relationship.

The saying that you “are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with” is true. Seek out those who are filled with passion, joy, inspiration and energy; those things are contagious (so are yucky things like negativity, jealousy, gossip, drama and being a perpetual victim)

If you don’t feel valued in a relationship, be it personal, romantic or business, it is not where you belong.

If you feel that you need to change to be loved/accepted, you are in the wrong place/situation/relationship.

If someone continually makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s not you, it’s them. RUN do not walk away.

Your body is your temple, treat it as such fill it with good food, regular exercise and adventure.

Be grateful. Every day, especially when you are sad. Think of at least one thing a day you are grateful for and say it out loud. You’d be amazed how this practice can change/improve your sense of well being.

Art, books and music are important to our sense of self, well being and the world around us.

Find some way to “give back” to the world; it doesn’t have to be an expensive or grand gesture. Sometimes the smallest kindness makes the biggest impact on someone’s life and world.

On a more personal note:

It is not my job to “fix” people. Yes, I grew up in an abusive alcoholic home and am a classic “care taker”. Put a fork in me, I’m done. Yes, I’m happy to help people in need and everyone has their bad times and needs support, but I’m done allowing myself to be treated badly/putting up with bad behavior because I somehow tied my self worth to taking care of others to my own detriment.

Being a martyr does not make me a better person. I’d like to think that I do at least one thing a day that in some way makes the world a better place or makes someone’s day a bit brighter. I don’t have to sacrifice myself and my happiness to be a good person. I deserve my own happiness and maybe, just maybe to have someone support my hopes/dreams/needs once in a while.

I am an artist, a bohemian I don’t necessarily think and act the same way everyone else in our society does (or has been told they are supposed to) and that’s OK. People can appreciate that, or they can go along their merry way. Trying to dress me up in high heels (ridiculous things for anything other than costuming) and makeup (which is fine for performances and special occasions, but really? Since when is it required to paint ones’ face in order to be able to be seen in public on a daily basis?) manicures, expensive hair treatments every two weeks, or stick me in a cubicle in the corporate world is like putting a wild creature in a small cage. Yes, I work hard, function in society and pay my mortgage, but that doesn’t make me the same as everyone else. I’m not only OK with that, I’m learning to embrace it.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention as of late to the people I am drawn to and why…

I was asking myself just the other day why I was not attracted in a romantic way to a gentleman who was a perfect match “on paper” but have found myself attracted to someone else who might fall outside of one or two of my self imposed “parameters”.

When I really cut it down to bare essence, there is a certain “spark” in a person that draws me to them… passion, joy, zest for living… a light in their eyes and on their face.

The people I want to be around (in all areas of my life), are those with that “spark”.

I hope to kindle that same spark within myself.

~L



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Light, Love and Hope

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Last night, a group of friends came over to celebrate Solstice.

These friends were from a wide variety of backgrounds: Unitarian, First Nations, Eclectic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, and those just seeking; all of us drawn together by the season.

We gathered around the bonfire in my back yard to celebrate the shared theme of the season: Light, Love and Hope.

We burned what we wanted to leave behind in the dark, and offered up what we wanted to bring with us into the light.

We passed the light, sang a rousing rendition of “Here come’s the Sun” and set our hopes and dreams afloat on a Wish Lantern.

After that, we went back into the house where I cooked up my infamous once a year, Solstice only treats, Crab Rangoons and stuffed mushrooms. (which were devoured in short order)

We had music (guitar and song), food, drink, friendship and a wonderful start to the season of light.

I posted video of the observance (even edited down, it’s long, so you might want to get a snack or beverage)

Tonight after doggie class, I need to get my fire stuff together and head over to another solstice observance and spin some fire! (in sub freezing temps, so much fun!)

How wonderful is it, that so many traditions gather at this sacred time of year to celebrate Life, Love and Hope?

~L



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Here Comes the Sun! Winter Solstice 2011

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Happy Winter Solstice (to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

It’s only Solstice today for those of us in the US Central Time Zone and West. It will be at 9:30 PM tonight West Coast Time and it is 5:30 AM GMT/UTC).

Winter Solstice 039

The days will slowly get longer again. For those of us in the far dark, frozen North, this is a big BIG deal!

Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight I will gather with a group of friends to celebrate the solstice. There will be food, drink and friendship as part of our annual observance. (the cool thing is, the event will occur while we are gathered 🙂

We will burn the Yule log (log from my friend Patricia’s yard, a bit of last year’s tree, boughs from this year’s tree and herbs from my garden) in the fire pit outside and pass the light from that fire to a circle of friends, we will put our wishes for the new season into a wish lantern and then we’ll return inside for more food, fun and drink.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

In a little under thirteen hours, the world is reborn again and will be filled with exciting possibilities!

~L

Mood: Here Comes the Sun!!!



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One Year Ago Today – The Evolution of a Hilltop Home

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In the interest of providing a bit of background, this is a blog entry from April 17tn 2010

I can’t rant today.

I can only Do the Happy Dance!!!

I am approved for a modest home loan to buy a modest house in a gritty Tacoma neighborhood.

Ideally, it will be a cute little craftsman fixer upper.

I will have a garden and a greenhouse again.

I will have bird feeders so that BadKitty (an indoor cat) will again be able to watch birds (her favorite activity), chatter and run around like a maniac. (maybe she’ll drop some of her “small apartment pudge”)

I will have a guest room so my friends can have a comfortable place to sleep when they come visit.

I will have a real dining room in which to serve my (day after) Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve meals to friends.

I will have a hot tub and a BBQ grill (I have budgeted for these)

I will no longer share walls (or ceilings or floors) with people not of my choosing.

At this time last year, I could not even imagine this.

I am going house shopping today after work.

One year ago today, the plan dream I laid out here came true (and then some).

One year ago today, I closed escrow on my gritty little house on Tacoma’s hilltop.

Not only do I have the old house with the original wood floors, dining room for entertaining, fabulous garden and a kitty who is happy, healthy and fit, I have found a wonderful community up here.

Words can’t do the last year justice, so I put it to music in a slide show…

In a weak attempt at words, I wrote this last June

house

This old house has stood for nearly 100 years
It was occupied by Italian immigrants in 1917
It housed families during the great depression
It has seen troops return from two world wars

This old house was built from the forests of the Pacific Northwest
Its beams are thick and sturdy
Its floors are old growth Douglas Fir
Its roof grows moss if not well maintained

This old house is in a historic neighborhood
It has been the home of the Crips gang
It has fallen into disrepair
It has been lovingly restored

This old house is guarded by lion statues in the front
Its old Bay Laurel tree in the back is home to a nest of crows
It is in a vibrant, revitalized community
It is surrounded by friendly, caring, proactive neighbors

This old house will be warm and welcoming
it will host many holiday gatherings
it will offer hospitality to friends, family and neighbors
it will be filled with love

This old house is flawed
This old house is beautiful
This house is a work in progress
This old house is loved

If only this old house could talk

~L

Mood: Happy



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