Friday, May 1, 2020

Beltane during stay-at-home

Happy Beltane! 

When we gather in person for Beltane, we often weave ribbons around a May Pole as we weave intentions into our lives, and bless each other's creativity and pay specific attention to what we're experiencing with our senses, this sensuous time of year. 

Some queries for reflection this stay-at-home Beltane:
  • What are you weaving into your life? 
  • What are you doing here, now, today, that nurtures your senses?  

 [photo by Mike Goren (hi, Mike!), from Bryn Mawr College May Day 2005.  A stone building framed by trees in the background, with three white May Poles on green grass; to the left, the farthest has light blue ribbons, the middle one green ribbons, and the nearest, to the right, has red ribbons (you can see ribbons from the dark blue one to the right, but not the May Pole itself.)  There are many smiling people, mostly women, mostly but not all wearing white and many wearing matching sashes, holding ribbons to the May Poles and dancing around them, as well as spectators watching.]
Album here:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Pandemic post: Pesach and moving from "eternal now" back to being anchored in the cycle of the seasons

So... at the end of week four of stay-at-home for our family (end of week three for the UK), six weeks after the first covid-19 case in Scotland, part-way through Passover... here's my first pandemic-related post. 

(My Beloved Partner, inspired by Ada Palmer's #SomethingBeautiful hashtag on Twitter, has been blogging about being Present in Challenging Times for 23 days now:  There are some lovely and kind of eerie pictures of life in Edinburgh there.)    

Anyway.  On to me.  

Tonight we attended a Seder via Zoom, hosted by a long-time dear friend of mine, with whom I share some other long-time dear friends.  It was a marvelously multi-time zone event, filled with people I know and people I'd never met, in person or on-line, before -- family and friends of the host, spread from northern CA, to the next neighbourhood over from our old one in Seattle, to Twin Cities, to London, to us here in Edinburgh.  

It was kind of a last-minute decision.  I had thought I was fine with pretty much skipping Pesach this year for lack of spoons.  But then I realized I wasn't, and when I posted to Facebook about some of the things I was doing to observe Passover after all, my friend invited us to their Seder. 

So Beloved Partner and I spent the afternoon putting together a Seder plate with what we have on hand.  This was a little hilarious but mostly worked really well, and it was kind of fun and creative.  

So, we had a lovely, brief-ish Seder, and then a special dinner ourselves.  

I needed this.

I realized, as we were cleaning up, pausing to look out the dining room window to the growing green in the back garden: 


Most of my experience so far of stay-at-home has been sort of an "eternal now" -- for example, yes, I know it's spring, because there have been several days warm enough for me to sit outside and read or crochet, and I had a birthday, and we sprang forward, and the sunrise is much earlier and the sunset even more muchly later...

But it wasn't until the Seder tonight that I felt anchored in the past and future, in the *cycle* of the seasons.

I needed that.

And I'll have to have a think about how to do that with Beltane.


I feel like I ought to close with something pithy, or wise, or encouraging, or...

All I can say is what my therapist and I have been telling each other each week so far:  This shit is hard.  

I have a whole 'nother post about the Angel of Death that is still percolating, but for now my wish for us all is survival.  

Love and blessings,


[top picture:
an oval wooden table, with two places set with white dishes on the long side to the left, and along the edge clockwise from there: on the far short side of the table, two white square bowls with greens (parsley, and dandelion greens for maror / horseradish), and a flower-shaped bowl with charoset; on the other long side, a blue and white Palestinian-patterned bowl with matzoh buttercrunch, salt and pepper grinders, and a pitcher of home-made pomegranate soda; on the short side, two glasses. in the middle from in front of the plates: a Seder plate with parsley, a ramekin salt water, egg, radish for beet for shankbone, dandelion greens for maror / horseradish, and a ramekin with charoset; a plate of matzoh; two glasses; a small square bowl of radish slices; silver candlesticks, one with a purple candle and one with a blue; a ramekin with another egg; and the haggadah where the computer will go.]

[middle picture: close-up of a blue-patterned Palestinian pottery bowl with broken-up pieces of matzoh buttercrunch in it]

[bottom picture: close-up on the wooden table of the silver candlesticks, now lit, purple candle on the left and blue on the right, in front of a blue-patterned Palestinian pottery bowl with matzoh buttercrunch in it.]

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Blessed Brigid

Today is Brigid, the day on the Wheel of the Year half-way between Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day, and Spring Equinox, when night and day are nearly equal.

Brigid is the triple Goddess of smithcraft, healing, and poetry. Many years, right about now, I feel Her in my life woven/weaving through my creativity.

This year... This year, may I know Her in Her aspects as Smith and Healer. Worker of Justice.

And yes, also, Poet. May I be reminded, again, in my body, in my being, that creativity in the face of injustice is resistance, and necessary.

So mote it be. Blessed be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Handwork as Spiritual Practice: Ministry, Magic and Prayer" at 2019 FGC Gathering

I am so excited to announce that Katherine Spinner and I are co-leading a week-long workshop on handwork and spirituality this summer at Friends General Conference Gathering (annual Gathering of North American Quakers).

This has been years in the coming for both of us, and I am SO PLEASED we finally get to do this and that I get to work with Katherine this way.

Check it out!

[image description:

top picture: a pair of pale hands against a dark gray sweater, with a silver ring on the right hand showing moon phases, and two white gold rings on the left hand, one a plain band and the other a sapphire solitaire, holding a turquoise-blue crochet hook which is hooked through a turquoise stripe of a turquoise and purple striped work in progress.

bottom picture: a knitted half-circle shawl in reds, oranges, yellows, and blues, with a swirly/spirally edge, against a dark red background with some flowers]

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Victim-blaming and "Fear drives hate"

I loathe the phrase "Fear drives hate."

Fear is a normal human emotion. There is nothing wrong with being afraid.

Fear is a completely appropriate response to oppression and to danger. And since most oppressed people spend an awful lot of our lives afraid, and coping with danger from the dominant majority and society, "Fear leads to hate" sounds, and has always sounded, victim-blaming to me.

Telling people basically to suppress their feelings, or that their feelings are "wrong," does not help. I'd say, based on my personal and professional experience over the decades, that stifling feelings is a *lot* more likely to result in people acting into them without thinking about it.

What's more, telling people to stifle their fear sounds a lot like grooming to me. Yes, grooming, as in for abuse. "Don't listen to yourself; you'll just hate people" teaches people not to trust themselves and to ignore danger, and that makes abuse and oppression easier for those in positions of power-over. Saying "Fear leads to hate" in an era when we're supposedly teaching children, and adults who are targets, to listen to their discomfort for the cues it gives us about power-over, is *gaslighting* -- and that is in and of itself a form of oppression and abuse.

Damned right, I'm afraid. I have lived with the experience of violence, and the threat of violence, targeted at me for who I am, my entire fucking life. That violence is part of the edge-of-awareness, subconscious, calculations I make every time I answer the door or leave the house. I have lived with the effects of that violence my entire fucking life; I live with them every day. I am alive right now, and in the current political climate, damned right, I'm afraid, for myself, and for my siblings.

And yeah, that fear leads to anger.

But there's nothing wrong with anger, either. Anger is a normal human emotion. It's a signal.

Anger is a completely appropriate response to oppression and injustice. And yeah, oppressed people can spend an awful lot of our lives angry, coping with injustice from the dominant majority and in society -- so again, "Fear leads to hate" sounds, and has always sounded, victim-blaming to me.

And damned right I'm angry.

Anger can be born of love. I wouldn't be angry if I didn't love justice. If I didn't love my siblings. If I didn't perceive and love That-Which-Is-Sacred in other people and in this Earth.

Also, I can hate what other people do and still love That-Which-Is-Sacred in them. I can still recognize their humanity and their sacredness. *That* is what helps us retain our commitment to non-violence. Our experience -- and the research -- are really clear on this.

It's dehumanization, not fear, that leads to violence.

Fear, anger, and love are fuel for the fight for justice.

And without justice, there can be no peace.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Winter Solstice and A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual on The VUU!

On Winter Solstice -- at the moment of the Solstice, too! -- I had the pleasure and privilege of spending an hour in the on-line living room of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship, as a guest on The VUU. It was a lovely experience -- gift after gift during that hour.

Many thanks to everyone involved for our lovely conversation and experiential celebration of the Solstice, and especially to Lori Stone Sirtosky and Rina Jurceka, for much more than I can put into words in this space.

And just a reminder -- you don't have to have a group to do A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual.  You can do it by yourself in your living room, or with a small group of friends, or with 20 people in a friend's living room.   

Blessed Solstice and Happy 2018!


Watch the video on YouTube:

Watch the video here:

Listen to the podcast/audio:

Download podcast here:

More on A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual:

A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual on Facebook:

Erica Baron's wonderful Yule story, which she read on the program:

Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Deep in the dark..."

Deep in the dark of the longest night
We keep our vigil by candlelight
Waiting to sing to the newborn Sun
The Goddess will birth when the night is done
Raise your voices, sing on high!
Let all the Earth hear your joyful cry!
On this night we sing to Light
And the Goddess of all pleasure and delight
Raise your voices, sing your praise!
O'er all the Earth til the Darkness fades
On this night we sing to Light
And the Goddess of all pleasure and delight!

- (c) Anna Ophidia Alekner, "Winter Solstice Chant"

Blessed Winter Solstice!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

New shawl design

 I have been making this crocheted blanket:

...a lot for baby blankets over the last... (checks Ravelry) year and some.

I've also been modifying it for scarves, a rectangular blanket, and, most recently, a shawl.

For the shawl, it was a mash-up of this pattern with another pattern I'd developed myself, which creates a shawl in an equal-armed L, or right-angled V. 

The original shawl's dimensions are essentially five blocks of X" square each, so that it's three squares in each direction.  I tend to use 18" squares. 

I started in the corner, as for the blanket -- (1) on the diagram below. 

I continued until I'd reached the point where the sides of the triangle were each twice 18" (18" being my square size / basic unit of measure for this shawl) -- (2) on the diagram below.  

Then I determined where the half-way point of the long edge, or working edge, was, and put a stitch marker there.

I continued from where I was, stopping when I reached the stitch marker -- turning and decreasing on the "inside," and turning and increasing on the "outside."

When the "outside" / increase edge got to 3 x 18", I started decreasing on both sides.

Then I went back to the other arm, and did the same thing there. (No seams necessary!)

It was a lot of fun to make, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with this some more.  If you try this modification, I hope you have fun and like the resulting shawl!  Enjoy. 

Julie Passanante Elman’s Tips for Supporting Shy/Introverted Students

(c) Julie Passanante Elman; re-printed with permission. 

I have done a few things with success. On the first day of class, I talk about shyness and other communication differences in my discussion of accessibility. I talk about how gender, race, sexuality, age, etc. affect our capacities and confidence in entering a conversation, and then we talk about how discussion classes often favor chatty folks or assertive communicators smile emoticon. Then, I ask them to come meet with me in private, if they're introverted or have other access needs, and we talk about it. I suggest things that I've done in the past, but I tell them that the first thing is to figure out what is most intimidating about speaking in class (i.e. bad former experiences, fear of being called on unpredictably, fear that creeps in when your hand is raised for too long, or fear of being inarticulate, etc.). Then we tailor a solution (my class always includes nonverbal forms of participation too), and here are a few examples:

1) I will only call on you if you raise your hand.

2) Email me a question ahead of time. I'll ask it, and call on you. No one will know, and you'll have your response prepared so you can speak from notes.

3) I'll call on you immediately if your hand is raised, so you won't lose your nerve.

I tell them to observe my teaching style and build trust. I don't let people dangle smile emoticon. I can spin each comment into something useful. So, if it's a matter of trusting that a prof treats comments respectfully because you've had a negative experience, that trust can only be built with time. So I tell them we can meet in a month and reassess. I tell them that oral participation is important so that other students can gain access to their valuable thoughts. I give them the option of not speaking for the semester, because I give participation credit for visiting office hours, talking to me after class, and active listening, but I try to establish that their comments are vital to collective learning. I spent a lot of time neglecting introverts in my classroom because I misunderstood their lack of participation as a lack of care about the class. That was a shortcoming as a teacher that I've really worked on over the years. In my experience, many shy students don't take an accommodation, but they end up talking anyway, because all they needed was for someone to validate their intelligence and understand that it was more difficult for them than more extroverted students. Hope this helps!

Most importantly (and I didn't say this in the original post), I try to make it clear that the goal is NOT for them to work harder to be more like extroverts. In many ways, that is precisely the cure/rehabilitation model that I try to push against in my pedagogy (i.e. the problematic cultural idea that shyness or introversion is pathological or less valuable than extroversion). Rather, it's to strive for an accessible classroom and pedagogy that encourages students to claim their education (as Adrienne Rich would say!) by figuring out, with me, what they need to grow and flourish.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

NPYM Minute Welcoming Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People

NPYM Minute Welcoming Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People

North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, an organization of unprogrammed Quaker meetings and worship groups in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, seeks to be an open and affirming faith community. We welcome all to share in worship and the activities of our common life.

North Pacific Yearly Meeting understands that the Divine Source is leading our Meeting to honor the gender identity and expression of each person, as understood by that person. We affirm that gender expression and identity may be fluid and changeable. We recognize that when we embrace the Light within the full spectrum of gender identities in our Meeting, our worship deepens and our community is enriched.

As part of our evolving struggle to live our testimony of equality, North Pacific Yearly Meeting minutes our commitment to becoming an affirming, safe, and nurturing place for everyone to live fully that which the Spirit is leading them to be.

We extend our loving care to people of all genders, including, but not limited to, transgender, genderqueer, cisgender, gender fluid, agender, gender non-conforming and intersex persons, their families and friends. We will continue to educate ourselves and our communities and take appropriate action to bring about a more equal world.

29 July, 2017


I've copied and pasted this from someone who was present.  As soon as I have a link to an official announcement, I'll post it.  - sm

Monday, June 26, 2017

Making Ripples at FGC Gathering!

Photo from Flickr user gettheshot75

Hello, folks!

I wanted to let you know that I'm helping with the group creation of what looks to be a fabulous, experiential plenary at FGC Gathering this year, "Making Ripples," under the fabulous creative direction of Vonn New.

Currently I'm up to my eyebrows in collaborative labyrinth design.  *happy creative hum*

If you're in reach of Niagara University in NY state on Wednesday, 5 July, from 7:00-8:45 pm, you are invited!

Making Ripples:

Come listen, play, sing, move, dance, and make a joyful noise as we lift up the creative spirit of Friends young and old to perform an original spontaeous composition that reminds us that beauty, joy, peace, and love are the true antidotes to our turbulent times. Join us as we move into an evening of collaborative improvisation for all ages led by Vonn New and her team and, as we're led, by all of us!

 Call for volunteers:

Call for Volunteer Helpers & Collaborators

Contact: Vonn New, select "Making Ripples Wednesday Plenary" on the Gathering Contact Form.

Making Ripples, the program for the Wednesday evening plenary is a fully participatory evening of music, dance, reflection and community.  As Friends, we did away with the laity to lift up the ministry of all, during this program, we will eliminate the audience.

Folks who are into visual art, labyrinths, musical improvisation, herding cats, eldering, singing, dancing, helping make experiences accessible to all, and generally being helpful are all needed to pull this off. Please contact Vonn New if you want to help. (Select "Making Ripples Wednesday Plenary" on the Gathering Contact Form.)

Bellwethers - lead by example, assist in directing participants, deploying instruments and props during the event and attend a practice session beforehand, engage in fun artsy exercises in the weeks leading up to Gathering.

Manager - help coordinate the other teams, assist with problem-solving before, during, and after the event, stomp out procrastination.

Accessibility Team - advise me on how to best make the event accessible to everyone, help make that happen.

Set Up/Tear Down Team - set up chairs, props, and more before and after the event

Instrumental Musicians - participate in musical improvisation during the event and attend a practice session beforehand

Singers - participate in improvisation during the event and attend a practice session beforehand.

Dancers & Creative Movement Team - perform improvised dance as led, assist in creating and leading participant movement, attend a practice session beforehand

Visual Artists - assist in making performance space beautiful, help create beautiful instruction cards, assist in hosting participatory public art to make cards and props beforehand, help with costuming and other aesthetic ideas

Textile Artists - assist in making performance space beautiful, help create dance props, costuming ideas

Elders - provide spiritual grounding during the event, hold our preparations in the Light, provide accompaniment to this ministry

The contact form is here:


p.s  How could I leave these bits out???

Come join our Facebook group!

See the master plan here, with everything there is to know so far about what will happen Wednesday night: