Friday, December 28, 2007

Medical uses of honey in the news

A number of Witches and other Pagans have used honey for a long time for an assortment of ailments, from helping to heal cuts/scratches/lacerations, to soothing coughs and sore throats, to supporting and stimulating the immune system.

Honey is in the news again for its use for medical purposes. Two main items: the FDA recently approved Medihoney products for the use in the US, and recent studies and articles indicate that honey is better than over-the-counter cough meds -- which are being investigated for safety issues -- for kids' coughs.

Go, Mother Nature.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Financial assistance for MWG

A message from one of our (FLGBTQC's) co-Clerks to the listserv:

Please send your requests for travel assistance for midwinter gathering to the co-clerks by January 10th. That way we can let you know the amount you will receive before the registration deadline of January 15th.

Please ask for a specific amount. We encourage folks to also ask their local meeting and/or yearly meeting for funds, although we know that those funds are not always available. Don't let financial concerns keep you away. There is money in the budget for travel and we love to give it away. While we give first preference to folks serving the community and first-time attenders, there is enough $ to go around, so please ask!
If we don't receive your request by Jan 10th, we can't guarantee there will be funds left. So don't delay!
Love and Light,
Karen


To email the FLGBTQC Co-Clerks, please visit this link. For registration information, click here.

I am looking forward to time with our blessed FLGBTQC community!

Friday, December 21, 2007

FLGBTQC Mid-Winter Gathering 2008!

Hurrah! Complete information (including registration forms) is now available for the 2008 Mid-Winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns.

Mid-Winter Gathering is a wonderful, magical experience, and I encourage LGBTQ and allied Friends to attend.

A number of my F/friends who are in mixed-gender relationships have expressed concern about coming. Please don't worry: you are welcome, and there will be other mixed-gender couples there. You will not feel awkward.

If accessibility is a concern, please do not let that concern prevent you from coming -- including financial accessibility. We are committed to making it possible for all members of our community to attend our Gatherings. (If you've ever been to any of our events, including at FGC Summer Gathering, if you're on our mailing list or email listserv, etc, if you feel like you are part of our community, you are.) For more information, see our philosophy of full accessibility.

I look forward to seeing Friends there!

What is FLGBTQC?

Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns is a Quaker faith community within the Religious Society of Friends. FLGBTQC deeply honors, affirms, and upholds that of God in all people.

We seek to know that of God within ourselves and others. We seek to express God's truth in the Quaker and in the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual/transgender communities, as it is made known to us.

It is our hope to offer an oasis to those who have been spurned by the world at large. We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life. Our experience with oppression in our own lives leads us to seek ways to bring our witness to bear in the struggles of other oppressed peoples.

We gather twice a year, at our Mid-Winter gathering and at the Friends General Conference Annual Gathering of Friends in the summer. At these times we worship together, discern our corporate witness through Meeting for Worship with attention to business, share our individual journeys, celebrate our lives, heal old wounds, and draw sustenance from the Spirit for our work and life in the world. After almost thirty years, we are still learning to spread love in the face of rejection and hostility and to embrace new friends. We have found faith and voice to speak truth to power and the courage to be open to new revelation.

(adapted from a minute approved 15 Second Month 1999)

Besides looking forward to the chance to worship in wonderful community and spend time with neat people, I am looking forward to things like sledding down that "wicked sledding hill." And I'm thinking about taking my snowshoes. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This is so cool!

This year, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore (NJ) had a Winter Solstice Celebration based on A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual for the first time. They've been emailing me and Julie, and it sounds like it went really, really well.

In addition, they had some good coverage from their local newspaper, which you can read here.

Is that too cool or what?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eight nights!

For the first time -- in my life, I think -- I have actually lit candles for all eight nights of Chanuka.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Snow and birds...

We went back East for Thanksgiving, and returned to a confectioner's sugar dusting of snow on the ground here. Then over this weekend, a major storm came through the Midwest which started with snow, progressed to ice, and ended with rain. We had lots, and lots, and lots of rain.

This morning, we've had about an inch of snow, and it's quite lovely. (I confess that I like snow.) We have several bird feeders in front of our place, and the bird community is a lively place this morning.









from the top: dark-eyed juncos; mourning dove; fox squirrel; wren?; downy woodpecker.

First night





















In my window
Where You can send Your glow
From my menorah
On newly-fallen snow
I will set You
One little candle
On this the first night
Of Chanuka.

- from Chanuka Chase (traditional? I find different sources for this)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Workshop evaluations summary

General feedback:
  1. Did the workshop cover the topics you expected? 7 yes; 2 no.
  2. Did the workshop stick to the subject? 9 yes; 0 no.
  3. Was the workshop a safe place for you to share? 9 yes; 0 no.
  4. Was the workshop spiritually nurturing? 9 yes; 0 no.
  5. Was the workshop fun and/or interesting? 9 yes; 0 no.
  6. Was the Advance Program description accurate? 6 yes; 2 no.
  7. Did you use the information posted on the website in making a workshop selection? 7 yes; 2 no.
  8. If you used the website, was the information helpful? 7 yes; 2 n/a.
  9. Was the quality of worship within the workshop appropriate? 9 always; 0 sometimes; 0 not at all.
  10. Was the leader prepared and knowledgeable? 9 always; 0 sometimes; 0 not at all.
  11. Was the leader appropriately flexible? 8 always; 1 sometimes; 0 not at all.
  12. Did the leader interact appropriately with the group? 9 always; 0 sometimes; 0 not at all.
  13. Did the material presented speak to your condition? 8 always; 1 sometimes; 0 not at all.
  14. To what extent was the amount of worship and/or worship-sharing in the workshop appropriate for you? 0 not enough; 8 about right; 1 too much.
  15. How much daily worship and/or worship-sharing do you expect in a workshop? 1, less than 20 minutes; 7, 20-40 minutes; 1, more than 40 minutes.
  16. Would you recommend this workshop to a Friend if it was offered at a future Gathering? 9 yes; 0 no.
  17. Is this leader skilled enough so that would take another workshop offered by him/her, if the topic were of interest? 9 yes; 0 no.
19. Comments on the workshop leader:
  • Stasa was a well-versed leader with a lot of knowledge in the subject area. She was flexible, encouraged participation, and adjusted plans based on interest.
  • Great caring, understanding.
  • This dear Friend I miss from my meeting, so one of the reasons I took this workshop was to spend time with her.
  • I appreciate her capacity for discernment, her wide, deep experience, her honesty.
  • Stasa was well prepared and capable, worship felt safe. Very capable and trustworthy.
  • Stasa was very loving and nurturing, fun, light hearted, thoughtful, and a great leader. She was very kind and motherly to me which was exactly what I needed, being the youngest, sickest (germ wise) participant.
  • Well informed and ready to go as the group led her.
20. Best things that happened during the workshop:
  • Connections and exploring how Quakers can function with ritual.
  • Conversation and growing closer to people in the workshop worship sharing was meaningful and powerful.
  • Lots of good singing.
  • Ritual, ceremony.
  • Gathering of Friends. Getting to know the other people and having shared experiences and being safe.
  • The closing ritual was wonderful. Sharing.
  • Our final worship-ritual on healing.
  • Community, education.
  • Cleansing ritual was not only beneficial for the experience of being in a circle of other Pagans, but for emotional healing as well. I felt renewed, refreshed and loved. It was wonderful.
21. Troubling things about the workshop:
  • I was nervous about the age difference between me and the other members, but that cleared up quickly.
22. Ways that the workshop did not meet expectations:
  • I had hoped for more discussion. We did this on Wednesday. I would have liked every day.
  • I thought we would be outside more. Wanted to be involved in nature more.
  • Wednesday was a long discussion about common elements of religions that did not feel like it fit the rest of the workshop. Discussion felt dry, not experiential, then again I was very sleepy.
  • I was not used to being in a Pagan group but after the first hour was glad they were there. As an academic, I am curious about history and the connection to ancient spiritual practice. More of this would enhance the program.
23. Comments on guest speaker, field trip, video, or other "special event":
  • Ritual is a special event, wonderful.
  • Both of our rituals were extraordinary, though the first was more powerful for me.
24. New skills, knowledge, or understanding taken from the workshop:
  • I feel more balanced and solid in my own leadings. Leading ceremony.
  • I will take the experience of being in a circle with other more knowledgeable Pagans and seeing how and why they do things.
  • Acceptance of support of Pagan Friends.
  • Diversity in spirituality.
  • Some new songs and connections with like minded Friends.
  • Circle casting, chants and other music.
25. How the workshop affected participants as a Friend:
  • Deepened my practice. I value procedures more, understand clearness committees better.
  • Deep worship, healing, validation of my spirituality.
  • I feel more convicted in my beliefs as a Pagan Quaker. The community gave me strength and courage.
  • Deepened my spiritual experience. Further broadened my spiritual basis.
26. Other comments for the workshop leader:
  • Just what I wanted was different. I felt the workshop did go in the direction the group wanted. I held aside my direction other than small notices that would have been heard if that was what others wanted.
  • Definitely do it again. This was amazing.
  • Thank you.
  • Thanks for your courage.
  • Do some stuff outside. Very important to be in nature.
  • I hope she receives the appreciation that she is worthy of.
  • Hugs and blessings.
  • Some history, druidry, celtic philosophy, perhaps to give context to temporal worship.
27. Other comments for the Workshops Committee:
  • I don't think the Gathering mission statement correctly reflects the gathering mission. It should include the explorative edge processing nature of the workshops. This is a think/feeling tank for Quakerism. Not only inward growth but outward growth.
  • I appreciate space at Gathering for Quaker Pagans to get together.
  • I wonder if a workshop could be developed to form a Pagan-Quaker section for Junior Gathering.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crocheting the Goddess

There's an expression my colleague Julie Middleton came up with in consultation with me as a workshop title, and which she has freely allowed me to use: Singing the Goddess.

This comes to mind about a crochet pattern I've been working out.

A few nights ago night, I think I successfully completed designing a crochet pattern for a project that's been in my head for quite a while. It's a triple moon (triple Goddess) in white on the midnight-blue background of a triangular shawl.

I've crocheted a number of triangular shawls over this last year. The first one I ever made was for the wedding of two F/friends in 2005 (of white Egyptian cotton yarn).



And then I made a shawl for myself, to help me settle into, and stay warm during, Meeting -- candy apple red, acrylic and polyester, and another one that was in my head for a long time first.


But this last year, I started making rainbow prayer/comfort/Meeting shawls for the silent auction at FLGBTQC Gatherings. So far, I've made three, and I'm most of the way through a fourth. Two are in good homes, one's waiting for me to make arrangements with the woman who bought it, and the fourth one is also already spoken for. It's very gratifying.


For my shawl and for the rainbow shawls, I've been using Lion Brand Homespun, an acrylic and polyester yarn that's sometimes a pain to work with, but that's soft and cozy, machine washes well, works up quickly, and that I'm not allergic to. (I don't think I've worked in any wool in the last year, since my asthma was so bad last fall.)

Just like the Candy Apple caught my imagination -- it reminded me of an old blanket we'd had once, where the color just made me want to wrap myself up in it; and when I saw the yarn, I knew I wanted to wrap myself up in something I made of it -- one of the blues I've used for the rainbow shawls has also inspired me. I couldn't find the bright blue I'd been using, so I ended up with Colonial instead, and it caught my imagination.


So I think this is the color I'll use for this shawl, with white for the moons (intarsia, or crocheting them in, rather than embroidering them on after).

The design works in theory. But as my acquaintance Nancy says, "I want to move to theory. Everything works in theory." So, we shall see what happens when I actually try to work it. This'll be a neat learning experience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"what i want"

In 2000, the choir I was singing with recorded "what i want," a song based on part of a poem by Pat Lowther, with music by Stephen Smith.

This was hard for me, but a good experience. I am a survivor of domestic violence, both as a child and an adult, and Pat was murdered in 1975 by her violent and abusive husband. We'd sung the piece several times in concert, but recording produces its own additional tension. At the end of the final take of the song, I burst into tears -- relief? pain? My friend Laurie put her arms around me, and other friends, including Jen, a Coven-mate, and Mo, whom I was dating at the time, and other women in my choir also comforted me. I was okay; I had just needed to cry. I had good support and good community from women who understood, who got it.

I've had parts of the song stuck in my head today, because I'm participating in a research project at the University of Michigan on trauma and recovery, and I filled out detailed questionnaires this morning about scary things I've experienced. I feel good about the research project: the project's head researcher is very good, the project is well-designed, and it's really important to get good research on trauma recovery. But participating in the project itself is not fun.

I didn't space out about the difficult, scary, or life-threatening things I've chosen to do as an adult. Funny how choice and being an adult help. And so does support. I chose to go to a war zone to do humanitarian work (even if I didn't choose to be left there by my first team; thank the Goddess for the other folks I knew in the region); I chose to be on the Gulf Coast after a major hurricane, even if I didn't know I was going to go through another one while I was down there; I even chose to respond to the shooting in front of my house, although I sure didn't choose the shooting. I was an adult, and I took good care of myself, during all of those; and I also had good support from other people. Those experiences have had after-effects, but not like the violence I lived through as a kid and a teenager.
...to breathe
continuously the sources of sky,
a veined sail moving,
my love never setting
foot to the dark
anvil of earth
The earth has always been a source of comfort for me. It's sad for me that it doesn't seem to have been for Lowther. But that yearning for expansion of soul is something that resonates with me; it's something I've definitely experienced. I was writing about that last night: the ways in which that expansion of soul -- the opposite of constriction -- has marked both the recovery work I've done, and opportunities for more growth in front of me.

There's more... but that's a different piece of writing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cerridwen's Cauldron/the Cauldron of Hecate

Samhain is fast approaching. For me, it's the Third Harvest (after Lammas and Mabon), the Feast of the Beloved Dead, and the Witches' New Year. It's the time when I recognize and honor those who have gone before, mourn deaths and endings from this last year, welcome new babies born this year, and celebrate other new beginnings of the year.

In my old Coven, at Samhain, we would go around the circle, usually counter-clockwise, and take turns naming our dead and our losses. For each of those, we would put a memento into the cauldron, bowl, paper bag, or origami box that we had in the center of the circle. The year my grandfather died, for example, I saved my boarding passes from the flights to and from Florida, as well as an extra copy of the funeral program, and put them into the bowl. We would always have a supply of paper to write things on as other losses came up, and dried leaves, dried flowers, and pine needles to burn as well.

After we'd finished going around the circle, we would take our mementos to the fireplace, or take them outside, to burn -- to return those mementos to the elements, and symbolically return our losses to the Goddess, to the Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. We would sing while burning -- Breaths; Hecate, Cerridwen; more. Often, we would cry.

Then we would come back, and go around the circle again, usually clock-wise, naming the babies and other new beginnings born that year. We would name each as we put a corresponding birthday candle on the birthday cake made especially for circle; some years, we would also light tea lights (a staple in Roses, Too! Coven) for each birth or new beginning and place them around the room. Then we'd light the birthday candles and sing -- Happy Birthday, of course; We Are; others. There might be more tears, the joyful kind, at this point.

(Yes, we had a serious fondness for Ysaye Barnwell and Sweet Honey in the Rock.)

Then we would feast. (Important aspects of Feast Food in Roses, Too!: chocolate, bread, cheese, fruit, tea or clear water. Variations depended on the season. At Samhain, apples, and birthday cake, always. Challah, often.)

This year, for the first time in many years, I am celebrating Samhain by myself. So after all the trick-or-treaters have gone home (or after we're out of candy), I will take the names I've been writing on pieces of paper and putting into my little cauldron, and the pine needles and dried leaves I've collected, and burn them in our charcoal grill. The names of friends and acquaintances and family who have died this year, or in years past but are still with me; the names of my grandparents and other family members; my beloved and not-so-beloved dead. The endings from this year; the losses that have come through ways other than death, but that cause mourning -- the end of my brother and sister-in-law's marriage; the attrition of volunteer and paid staff colleagues. The losses that cause relief and joy as well, such as the healing of illness or injury. And then I'll welcome the new beginnings and new babies from this year. I haven't entirely decided how yet, but it will involve something sweet, likely chocolate, and a birthday candle.

So, as Samhain approaches, I ask folks who read this:

  • Who are you mourning?
  • Who are your ancestors, known and unknown?
  • What losses are you grieving?
  • What babies do you welcome this year?
  • What new beginnings are you celebrating?

Who and what would you put into the Cauldron of Cerridwen, into Hecate's Cauldron, the place of death and birth and change and transformation, to recognize this Samhain?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grief and mourning and loss

Beloved Wife found out Sunday, when delivering a home-cooked meal, that the husband of a faculty member friend is about to start hospice. Not altogether unexpected, but still hard.

I find myself thinking of other friends whose partners have died, remembering being with them before or after. Bearing witness to the grief of losing a partner.

I find myself remembering their spouses, some of whom were also dear friends of mine...

I find those are a number of the names I've put into my cauldron this week, for Samhain.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stone Circles

This was in my head most of Saturday.

Stone Circles
words & music by Anne Lister
arranged by Connie North for Sound Circle

nobody is an island
there's no way you can cut free
nobody is an island
there's no way you can be cut off by sea

and everything I do
touches you
and everything I am
you hold in your hand

and it seems to me that we are standing stones
there's no way that we can ever be on our own
and even if at times it seems that we are all alone
we're in stone circles marking time
with standing stones

no one is an outsider
there's no way you can cut loose
no one is an outsider
there's always some way to pay your dues

and everything I do
touches you
and everything I am
you hold in your hand

and it seems to me that we are standing stones
there's no way that we can ever be on our own
and even if at times it seems that we are all alone
we're in stone circles marking time
with standing stones

the circle stands forever
there's no angle there to chip or break
the circle stands forever
there's no straight line to show a slight mistake

and everything I do
touches you
and everything I am
you hold in your hand

and it seems to me that we are standing stones
there's no way that we can ever be on our own
and even if at times it seems that we are all alone
we're in stone circles marking time
with standing stones

the wind blows from the hillside
but we stand firm, and we do not bend
the wind blows from the hillside
the circle is a pattern with no end

and everything I do
touches you
and everything I am
you hold in your hand

and it seems to me that we are standing stones
there's no way that we can ever be on our own
and even if at times it seems that we are all alone
we're in stone circles marking time
with standing stones

you musn't break the circle
there's no easy way to be released
you musn't break the circle
and if we stand together, we'll find peace

and everything I do
touches you
and everything I am
you hold in your hand

and it seems to me that we are standing stones
there's no way that we can ever be on our own
and even if at times it seems that we are all alone
we're in stone circles marking time
with standing stones.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Workshop evaluations

I received in the mail from FGC this week the summary of the evaluations for the workshop I facilitated at Gathering this summer.

It seems to me that in the interests of my accountability, I ought to post that summary here.

What I am uncertain about is the comments. There were nine questions that asked for answers in words rather than in check-boxes. Readers who were also participants in the workshop might be able to discern the identity of the writers of two or three of the comments. (And, of course, if you wrote a comment, you may well recognize your own comment/s.)

So, here are my questions:
  • Post just the statistical summary?
  • Post the comments, but remove any identifiable comments?
  • Post both the statistical summary and the comments as they are, since there are no names on anything?
I would appreciate feedback on this one.

Thanks!

Meeting for Worship for Healing and Laughter

I spent a lovely day at Michigan Friends Center today. I went for Richard Lee's workshop, Meeting for Worship for Healing and Laughter. The morning was given over to discussion, the afternoon, to Meeting for Worship for Healing and Laughter itself.

I feel so much more relaxed in my spirit -- all sorts of parts of me are back in expansion instead of contraction. This is a Good Thing.

I am deeply grateful to everyone there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Samhain approaching

Some years, as Samhain approaches, I don't have time to think about it until it's here, and I find myself breathlessly writing down the names of deaths I want to recognize and births I want to welcome.

Some years, I find myself thinking about death, birth, celebration, and mourning in the weeks leading to Samhain.

This is one of the more-aware-of-loss years. Perhaps because some of the personal work I'm doing is around freeing up my mourning, perhaps because this is a year with a number of significant anniversaries this fall. Probably many things.

Last week, I started collecting dried pine needles for burning at Samhain.

I have a small cast-iron cauldron -- maybe 5 inches in diameter -- which I bought many years ago (at, perhaps predictably, an SCA event, Pennsic). My former partner, Teddy, and I were still together. Both Pennsic, and allowing myself outward expression of my Witchcraft, are intertwined with her memory.

This year, I've found myself wanting to start putting names in a container on my altar -- the cauldron, or perhaps an origami box like the ones my former co-Priestess Laura researched and designed for Coven Samhains.

Friday, October 5, 2007

An interesting experience

My wife and I have been house- and car-sitting for some friends who are away for a few months.

Our car is a 1992 Honda Civic hatchback. I was in an accident this spring -- slightly more than a fender-bender -- and fixing the car completely would take more money than the car is worth. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be an issue -- I am of the "drive it til it's really dead" school -- so we don't usually look at how much a car is worth when we repair it; we look at how much it's worth to us to repair it. And, sadly, it does not make sense to fix this car back up, especially since it still runs okay. If we ever move back to a state with annual inspection, though -- which could easily be next summer, when my wife finishes her PhD -- there's also no point in taking the car with us, because then we'd have to spend $1500-$1800 fixing it; it would be time to sell and replace. (One advantage of living in a state without annual inspection: a market for used "junkers." One advantage of living in a state with annual inspection: it forces you to do decent maintenance on your car.)

But, ever since the accident, I've been pining for a new-to-us car. Our car is old. It was already a little battered; now it's visibly a lot battered. It has no pick-up. The seats are ripped. The paint is fading in places. It doesn't have a cd player (we use a portable with a tape adapter). The a/c, which I wouldn't care about except that I have asthma, works intermittently. My boss' patients, who routinely see it in her parking lot, ask me about it anxiously if they don't see it. Etc.

Worst of all... we have friends with hybrids.

Yes, I have car envy.

So, car-sitting seemed like a good opportunity to both spare our car some wear-and-tear before we sell it this winter or spring and to drive something with more... zing.

The car we're sitting is a Subaru Legacy. Hmmmm.

At first, I thought this car was much more fun to drive. It has pickup. It has a moonroof and a sunroof. It's shinier and newer. The a/c worked great on those rare occasions when I've needed to use it so I could breathe. We could take our own car in for an oil change without transportation gymnastics.

We decided we'd drive the Subaru for a tank of gas, check the mileage, and decide how often to drive it vs the Honda.

I routinely get 40 mpg in my little, old, battered Honda Civic.

We got 20 mpg in the nice, shiny, big, all-wheel drive Subaru Legacy.

The Subaru uses twice as much gas!!

Not only was that way too much money to pay for gas, there was just no way we could justify it environmentally.

So, I went back to driving my little old Honda every day.

Here's the interesting bit.

I thought going back to the Honda would feel like a sacrifice. You know what? It didn't. The Honda's not actually any less fun to drive than the Subaru. So it doesn't accelerate as fast from a dead stop. That is really about it. And swift acceleration burns more fuel. The stereo is nearly as good, and my portable cd player has lots more flexibility. (It plays cd-rw's. It has a shuffle option. Etc.) The Honda is more manouvreable, even though the Subaru has power steering. There's no difference in how much fun shifting is in one vs. the other. And so forth.

And while the Subaru has a bunch of conveniences on the interior, because I can easily reach the back seat floor in the Honda, that also doesn't make that much of a difference.

I thought I'd be cranky about going back to my old car. And I'm not. And that's what I find interesting, and rather nice.

Plus, since I can't get to my job on the bus, it makes me much happier to get 40 mpg.

Fall

Fall has started with, well... fall.

It seemed as if, pretty much literally, the leaves in our neighborhood started turning on Fall Equinox; and some of them started falling shortly thereafter.

looking up our street on our way home from the Farmers' Market last Saturday

The maple across the street from us has some leaves turning that bright, bright red, and has shed a number of them already. In the cemetery across the street, we can see bright tops of trees. One of the trees down the street has already shed most of its leaves, and in the parking lot of my boss' home and office, the oak has started shedding both brown leaves and acorns.


All the pines in our front yard seemed to drop their old needles in the same three days. I swept our porch yesterday, garnering my supply of pine needles to burn at Samhain with my mementos for my beloved dead. I now have an entire paper sack full.


And, of course, everywhere in Ann Arbor, there are that other tree-related marker of fall: black walnuts.

Up through July, our summer was very dry. Then a front stalled out over Michigan, and for two solid weeks we had multiple thunderstorms every day. It's interesting to see what effects the early dryness and then abundance of rain have had on our fall foliage -- colors, and leaf-shedding, especially.

One of the ways my wife and I mark the changing of the seasons is by watching the changing colors on a particular lovely, long, tree-covered hill near where we live. When we're walking/biking/driving home from "downtown," and we come over the Broadway Bridge, this hill stretches out in front of us. In earliest spring, we see the first bits of green appearing on the trees. In deep summer, that hill has every hue of summer tree-green. And it's one of the first places, besides our street, where we start to see the fall colors of the leaves.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I read banned books!

I'm a little late starting, but I definitely wanted to point out that it's Banned Books Week! Click here to read about the American Library Association's "celebration of the freedom to read."

According to the ALA, these were the top ten banned or challenged books of 2006:
  • "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Gossip Girls" series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;

  • "Alice" series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;

  • "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Scary Stories" series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;

  • "Athletic Shorts" by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.

  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

  • "Beloved" by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.

Off the list this year, but on for several years past, are the "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger, "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.

I invite you to celebrate the First Amendment, and your intellectual and political freedom, by reading a banned book this week. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sick kitty doing better

I wrote in late August about one of our cats being quite sick. We've spent the last five weeks managing this. For the first two weeks, it meant force-feeding her four times a day (ie, putting food into her mouth and persuading her to swallow), pilling her twice a day, and giving her subcu fluids every night. After the first week, she started eating some on her own, but we were still pilling her and doing fluids. She was getting bloodwork done every two weeks, and gradually improving, so we progressed to doing fluids every other night, then twice a week.

Kiri had repeat bloodwork on Monday, and I'm very happy to report her liver enzymes are normal. No matter how long or stressful these five weeks have felt to us, it's really an amazingly short turnaround time for hepatic lipidosis. Her vet and we are all quite happy about this.

Hurray!

Best of all, she's supremely perky again. It's disgustingly cute. :)

Friends Hospice Opens!

I received the following email from F/friend TylaAnn Burger, the Director of Friends Hospice of Philadelphia. I've been peripherally involved with Friends Hospice from the beginning, and have been really excited about it from the beginning; if we'd continued to live in Philadelphia, I would have put considerable time and energy into it. They are now going live -- how wonderful! - Stasa

Friends,

It is my privilege to announce that Friends Hospice is fully licensed and ready to open. A considerable number of people have contributed to our reaching this important moment. They have contributed time, energy, prayers, expertise, resources and funds. I want to express my gratitude to everyone who helped bring us to this moment.

Some of our volunteers spent this weekend finishing painting, setting up supply shelves and cleaning the office. Our computer systems are in place and going through final preparations. Our staff is completing their training and we will be ready to accept referrals that have an immediate need for care as of October 1st.

Please continue to keep Friends Hospice in your hearts and prayers as we start care.

TylaAnn Burger,
Executive Director
Friends Hospice
706 W. Girard Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19123-1313
(215) 925-6848

For more information on Friends Hospice, click here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mabon

A good Fall Equinox to you!

Mabon, or Fall Equinox, is the Second Harvest, the Witches' Thanksgiving, the Descent of Inanna, one of the two days of the year when dark and light are in balance, the beginning of the part of the year when each day has more hours of darkness than light...

(More when our internet technical difficulties have been resolved...)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shana Tova

If you were here, I would feed you apples and honey.

Actually, I would also attempt to feed you kugel.

Every so often, in late September, I get the urge to make kugel. Apple kugel. When I check the calendar, it's invariably in or near the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar. (Early this year by the Gregorian calendar.)

I am used to my Jewish cultural roots coming out in the Spring, at Pesach. It somewhat takes me by surprise when it happens in the fall, since I didn't grow up celebrating Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

But, every so often, in late September, I get the urge to make kugel.

As a Witch, this doesn't surprise me too much. Apples are such a fall food, and the early local apples are starting to arrive at the Farmer's Market. Kugel is comfort food, and it's noticeably darker, earlier; the days are getting shorter, more quickly, these days; and over the last few days here in southeastern Michigan, it's also gotten chilly, with lows in the 40s F at night, and highs in the 60s F during the day. And the urge to cook also makes sense to me from both a Pagan and a Jewish perspective.

And so I have been craving kugel.

I've had a music-filled evening while cooking: Broadside Electric, disappear fear, Juliet Spitzer, Hugh Blumenfeld, music from our wedding. There's a an apple-noodle kugel in the oven, with traditionally mishmash ingredients and spices: apples, egg noodles, cottage cheese, dried apricots, sugar, pecans, ginger, cloves, lemon juice, etc.

So I wish you shana tova, a good new year, a sweet new year; and if you were here, I would offer you kugel.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Kiri and Shadow

Here's Kiri, feeling enough better that she wanted to help me on the computer (the computer being one of her favorite things).


Kitties in the sunshine (Shadow, then Kiri):



Someone may still be in guarded condition, but she's clearly feeling better:


:)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Good news from Iowa!

An Iowa court ruled yesterday that same-gender couples in Iowa must be allowed to marry.
  • News results, click here.
  • News release from Lambda Legal, click here.

FLGBTQC Epistle from MWG '07

An Epistle from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns
The Summit Conference Center at Haw River State Park
Greensboro, North Carolina
February 18, 2007

To All Friends Everywhere;

Once again, we are called to testify to the love we find moving among us. It is a testimony of radical inclusion. It is a cause of great pain to our corporate body to know that there are some Friends for whom our message is deeply disturbing; indeed, apparently, in contravention of their strongly held beliefs. It would gladden our hearts if Friends could soften their hearts to hear us out.

We met here in Greensboro, North Carolina, in this land rich in Friends’ history, hoping to forge new connections across the spectrum of Quakers practicing a living faith tradition, a tradition with currents in the history of the civil rights movements and the movement for religious freedom. We numbered over 100 adults and a rich and lively mix of “little Friends,” “young Friends” and “young adult Friends” as well. In the midst of winter, we noticed the beginning shoots of the crocus outside our plenary building, a sign of the promise of New Life and continued growth. Friends with histories in programmed, un-programmed, and semi-programmed branches of Quakerism came together to share our faith in continuing revelation and our desire to go beyond our separateness into the fullness of our communion.

After dinner together on Friday evening, we were welcomed by the planning committee of North Carolina Friends who had invited us here to experience the diversity of Friends in this region. After the welcoming, we watched a video titled, “Can We All Be Friends?” a question many of us had on our minds coming to this weekend. Are the differences between Friends so deep we cannot talk with each other, learn from each other? Are we willing to be in communion with each other, open to our differences yet secure in the one Spirit that calls us all to be Friends?

After our opening worship together on Saturday morning, we heard a talk by Max Carter, Director of both Friends Center and Quaker studies at Guilford College. Max spoke of the rich heritage of five different branches of Quakerism in this region. With humor, Max pointed out some of the differences within Friends, today and throughout history. As he talked, many of us began to smile at the differences between us Friends. We marveled at learning a history of Friends that some of us were unaware of (Fighting Quakers and Quaker General Nathaniel Greene!), and began to sense some of what unites us as Friends, but also to acknowledge some of the real differences we have as Friends. We were reminded that to reach real unity of Spirit requires an acknowledgement of our differences before we attempt to seek a Way beyond our differences.

We began each day, as is our practice, with worship. For many of us, our First Day worship was the first time we had experienced the richness of semi-programmed worship, in a worship service led by retired pastor Willie Frye. Willie and his wife Agnes Frye are old friends and allies of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns. Willie thanked us for being here and reaching out, and called on us to continue to reach out by sharing our light with the world. He pointed out what we all know because we have grown up as different: It is easier to demonize those you do not know. Bigotry requires ignorance and thrives on separateness. The process of coming out, no matter how painful—for ourselves, for our families, for those around us—is an essential witness to the truth of our lives, and our love.

Some of our first messages in worship were about fear, our own fears and the fears others have of us. In his prepared message, “How To Love In A World of Hate,” Willie pointed out that it is so much easier to understand our own fear of others than it is for us to understand their fear of us. He also urged us to seek for the “third way” that Jesus talked about, the way that goes beyond our differences and into an area to which Spirit is calling us all. By getting beyond our differences, we dare to believe that we can bring about a Kingdom of God on earth, where we transcend our differences, not ignoring our disagreements, but finding a way to go through them and beyond our fears. We recognize that this is not easy work, but have faith that this is our work, and it is work that we cannot rightly lay down.

On Saturday night we joined for a Fireside Chat, a panel of Friends from different branches of Quakerism talking of their history and movement through the different kinds of Friends. We were especially moved to hear from a North Carolina Friend who talked of her struggle to reconcile Jesus’ radical love with a history of Friends’ participation in discrimination and oppression. One Friend from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) talked of her struggles with marriage equality, but more importantly shared with us her personal journey, begun when an Epistle Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns (then called Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns) came to her Yearly Meeting. We had wondered those many years ago when we drafted our epistle whether conservative yearly meetings would even read our epistle. It seems our prayers had been answered. A third Friend shared his experiences of discovering he was gay, though married with children, as both he and his wife sought support from their Meeting, as many other divorced Friends had done. A fourth Friend shared her history with evangelical churches and her experience in Oregon where she helped folks get beyond hurtful language so that they could talk with each other. She spoke of living in a world so violent that even our speech is militarized and of trying to overcome that violence by “Opening Hearts and Minds.” She urged us in a talk the next day to “Listen, Affirm, Respond, and Add to the discussion.”

On Sunday night we had another Fireside Chat around the past, present and future of equality struggles. We heard about historical struggles and personal history. Willie and Agnes Frye spoke in moving terms of their deep, painful struggle around their support of FLGBTQC and their gay son. Also, a young adult Friend spoke of the struggle of being faithful to God’s call and the emerging ministry she carries. Their words gave us a glimpse of the power of living Truth and were followed a lesbian Friend who spoke of her struggle to answer her deeply felt call to ministry within North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM). This was followed by a presentation by Peterson Toscano, “Queer 101.” With laughter, we were brought back to the importance and the radical idea that being who we are called to be can change the world!

At the end of our brief time together, we have discerned a deep truth: that we have been given a taste of being called to table, a table to which Jesus called all people -- including the despised: prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, priests, women and children--people who somehow would find the faith that love is stronger than hatred and would learn that non-violence must be practiced in deed, as well as word.

We go forth from this weekend with the joy of having spent time with many different kinds of Friends. We also carry with us the pain of knowing that other Friends who were invited either could not or would not join us. We acknowledge our own responsibility for some of this, and for the fact that our community does not seem theologically “safe” to some Christians. We continue to struggle as a community with radical inclusiveness and our own continuing-to-be-revealed form of Quakerism. We continue to commit ourselves to not to let our language, our ignorance, or our own unconscious racism separate us from each other and commit ourselves to seek for deeper unity.

We also share with Friends everywhere the irony of this weekend, that our desire to experience One Spirit was first met with exclusion. When we sought for this gathering to use Quaker Lake Camp here in North Carolina, owned by North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM), we were denied the use of the camp. We do not respond with rage or anger, but with deep sadness. Who knows how deep our wounding? We acknowledge our sadness that in many respects it feels like 35 years ago when lesbian and gay Friends first came together to show a presence in the Friends community and to say, “We are your brothers, your sisters, your husbands, your wives, your pastors, your sons, your daughters, and your Friends. Let us rejoice in our diversity!” Friends, there is much work yet to be done to bring us all to Jesus’ table.

And we conclude by acknowledging our deep appreciation of the gifts of support by those North Carolina Monthly Meetings who were able to be with us in love and support and who helped to make this gathering so spiritually rich and deep! You have given us your gift of love and we send love in return! Please consider joining us for worship and fellowship when we next gather as a part of Friends General Conference Summer Gathering in River Falls, Wisconsin, June 30 – July 7, 2007.

Joann Neuroth
Recording Clerk

Quaker Pagan anthology

From Jen Chapin-Smith:

Friends- I've talked with Quaker Universalist Fellowship about an idea I've had for nearly a year of putting together an anthology of essays on Quaker Paganism. QUF is interested in discussing publishing such as book (it would be similar to the nontheist Friends' "Godless for God's Sake") but want a preliminary table of contents. If you are interested in contributing a chapter of any length, please let me know a preliminary title/subject. I'm working on one about how I define Quaker Paganism and how I see it fitting into the larger Society of Friends and Quaker history.

Please then send the essay as soon as you can. As editor, I reserve the right to actually edit all submissions.


If you're interested, you can contact Jen at jench1977 at hotmail dot com.

For more information on Godless for God's Sake: Nontheism in Contemporary Quakerism, click here.

"Journeying in Darkness"

Back in March, I read Melody Brazo's article "Journeying in Darkness" in Friends Journal. As a Quaker Witch, I find her article speaks to me in many ways.

One of the things that has always appealed to me about both Quakerism and Witchcraft is an emphasis on moving away from either/or, black/white, dualistic thinking; an understanding of the importance of both/and thinking; and an understanding of how both/and actually reflects the reality of the world more accurately. As part of my own healing from violence, and in order to grow spiritually, I had to learn to move away from either/or, black/white thinking into the realm of both/and.

I revel in my experience of the Divine Dark. Melody's article brought to mind three pieces from A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual: Judith Laura's "Hear Our Great Mother," Julie Middleton's "What Is This Night?," and John Schrag and Sabina Becker's Kore Evohe (click "Play MP3" to listen).

Hear our Great Mother, robed in midnight,
around whose head shines
all the suns and moons of the universe,
As She speaks to us, saying:

Blessed is the darkness
for in the darkness we conceive.
Blessed is the light
for in the light we give birth.

As conception is to birth,
So darkness is to light.
Know that both the darkness and the light,
The sound and the silence,
Are sacred unto me
Who is all creation.

(c) 1989, 1999 Judith Laura; reprinted with permission

What is this night?
It is the night of the Midwinter Solstice.

What is the meaning of this night?
It is a peak of power.

What is the element that rules this night?
Tonight darkness reaches the limit of its power over light.

What do we do in the dark?
We go deep within ourselves in the dark.
We look at our lives in the dark.
We look at our paths in the dark.
We look at our hopes and fears in the dark.

What happens in the dark?
Seeds grow in the dark.
Babies grow in the dark.
We rest in the dark.
We get ready.

Do we fear the darkness?
No! We glory in the darkness.
We dream in the darkness.
We are made whole in the darkness.

Half of day is dark. Half of night is light.

Julie Middleton, used with permission.




Fragrance-free Gathering

I just wanted to take a minute to mention that while in many ways it was a challenge to be fragrance-free at FGC's Summer Gathering -- even for me, and I am sensitive to certain chemicals -- it was a really positive experience. Not only wasn't it as difficult as I expected, but it made the Gathering better for me. I didn't expect having a more fragrance-free to have a noticeable impact on me personally, but it did, making Gathering as a whole much more accessible to me.
No pain! No chemically-induced migraines or breathing problems! It was very cool. So I am grateful to everyone who worked towards this goal.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sick kitty

My wife and I are the live-in staff for two wonderful cats, Kiri and Shadow. One of these avatars of Bast is in guarded condition right now with hepatic lipidosis. She was diagnosed early last week. So far, persuading her to eat high-calorie food four times a day, giving her subcutaneous fluids, and medicating her with antibiotics, an appetite stimulant, and liver support, seem to be helping. She had repeat bloodwork yesterday, and her liver enzymes are looking better, though they're still not normal (and she's still visibly jaundiced). But her energy and attitude are also better. I am extremely grateful. We're hopeful that she might yet recover.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Great Waters Epistle

To Friends Everywhere,

Greetings! Great Waters Pagan Friends Gathering occurred 25-28 Fifth Month 2007 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. This is the first of these Gatherings in answer to a prompt to bring Pagan Quakers together physically and spiritually, particularly in the Great Lakes region of America but spreading wherever the spirit of great waters touches. We come from many traditions and experiences which could be categorized under the broad umbrella of Pagan, and primarily from yearly meetings associated with Friends General Conference.

Though we desired in part to spend time alone with each other in the woods, Spirit called us to meet in an established meetinghouse. It is clear we are called to name ourselves and publish our Truth to Friends and Pagans everywhere with great joy. We have felt challenged in being so open and others have felt challenged by our witness. As in all true ministry, Spirit has been with us and made Its Presence known, with strength and Grace. We are grateful to It, to each other, and to friends who have labored with us in openness and obedience to the Divine. We have felt deeply held by the spirit of Friends not able to be with us physically, and give thanks for the resources that many have brought forward. We note that several Friends came forward in response to the Jewish tradition of Tzedek or justice and to their experience as Jewish Friends.

Ann Arbor Friends Meeting held "the organizers and attenders of Great Waters Pagan Friends Gathering in the Light with love." It was a pleasure and a challenge to experience the energies of the Gathering and this Meeting blend during this weekend. We felt ourselves reaching up from deep roots and planting a seed, grateful to Spirit for helping us. We are clear that this was the right place to be.

We are very aware that putting the words Pagan and Quaker next to each other brings up deep spiritual issues. Conflict may distract from these deep spiritual issues. We are grateful to Quaker process which slows down the process so that these deeper issues can rise to the surface and helps us stay in and attend to the Light. Being faithful to this process allows us to come to know who we are in relation to these issues and the Light, and come to know our work in the world.

As George Fox and many other Quakers have said, "What canst thou say?" As one Friend here said, both Quakers and Pagans honor true listening and deep consideration, allowing Spirit to speak through us, ministering to and receiving ministry from each other in our diversity, including those with diagnosed mental illness. It has been and is deeply healing for us to be our spiritually whole selves here.

We had unprogrammed and semi-programmed worship together, both indoors and out, as well as Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. We ate together. We sang together We walked in the rain together, past the gardens of Ann Arbor. We shared our knowledge from our studies with each other of how Spirit, Goddess, the Gods, Christ, and the Light and dark of the Divine Spirit have been moving in our individual lives. We had fun and we look forward to gathering again. Some of us will meet at Friends General Conference Summer Gathering 2007 in River Falls, Wisconsin, on the south fork of the Kinnickkinnick River.

Yours in Friendship,
Blessed Be,

Daniel Hall
Honour Horne-Jaruk
Jen Chapin-Smith
Katy Kola
Lisa Bashert
Stasa Morgan-Appel
Zhanya (JoAnn) Poske

Monday, August 27, 2007

Total lunar eclipse

There's a total lunar eclipse early tomorrow morning (August 28, 2007), which should be visible from most of North America. For more information:

  • For NASA's web page for the August 28th eclipse, click here. (Includes diagrams of the eclipse for different time zones!)
  • For NASA's lunar eclipse web page, click here.

Blessed be!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Some good environmental news

I currently live in southeastern Michigan, a Midwestern state considered part of the Great Lakes system. (In the satellite picture below, the Lower Peninsula of Michigan is the part that looks like a green mitten surrounded by blue water. The Upper Peninsula is the part north of that, with more water north of it.)

NOAA satellite image of the Great Lakes

Michigan has shoreline on four of the five Great Lakes -- Lake Huron to the northeast, Lake Michigan to the west, Lake Erie to the southeast, and Lake Superior above the Upper Peninsula -- and southeastern Michigan is within driving distance of Lake Ontario (just above the east end of Lake Erie).

While Lake Erie is probably the closest to where we live, and all the Great Lakes I've encountered are magical, Lake Michigan has a special place in my heart.


Lake Michigan at Sunset, August, 2006, Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
(c) Stasa Morgan-Appel

Lake Michigan and British Petroleum have been in the local news quite a bit lately. BP recently secured a permit from the state of Indiana allowing it to dump more ammonia and suspended solids into Lake Michigan.

BP's new permit prompted public outcry in several states.

There's a fair amount of tension between different Great Lakes states, as well as between those states and Canada, regarding who makes decisions about pollution and cleanup in the Great Lakes. There's also a lot of grassroots, and even some government, work to clean up the Great Lakes and honor them for the national and international treasure that they are.

For example:
  • The Great Lakes -- Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario -- and their connecting channels form the largest fresh surface water system on earth.
  • If you stood on the moon, you could see the lakes and recognize the familiar wolf head shape of Lake Superior, or the mitten bounded by lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie.
  • Covering more than 94,000 square miles and draining more than twice as much land, these Freshwater Seas hold an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of water, about one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water supply and nine-tenths of the U.S. supply.
  • Spread evenly across the contiguous 48 states, the lakes' water would be about 9.5 feet deep.

(Wow.)

The good news is this: BP has announced that it will not take advantage of the permit, but has pledged to operate under the restrictions of its previous permit. There is at least one lawsuit pending to make that pledge legally binding, but at the moment, a lot of us are cautiously optimistic.

And if nothing else, the outcry did prompt BP to publicly back down.

Good news!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gathering report to Ann Arbor Friends Meeting

I feel like I've been very bad about getting anything posted about Gathering, especially about the workshop, so I thought I'd share this as a start. Ann Arbor Friends Meeting asks those who attend Gathering to share their experiences at a special session of Reading & Reflection which is set aside for that purpose. We were visiting F/friends in Ontario this weekend, so I couldn't be there, and sent a written report, which I'm posting here. - sm

Dear Friends,

Since I can’t be at Meeting this First Day when those who attended Summer Gathering this year are talking about their experiences, I am sending a written report instead.

I’d like to start with the Gathering Mission Statement, which was new to me this year:

“It is the purpose of the Gathering of Friends to help Friends know and deepen their relationship with the Spirit and with each other; to strengthen their identification as Friends among other Friends; and to testify to the continued presence of unprogrammed Friends as a vital and unique faith community.”
- approved by Long-Range Conference Planning Committee, 2 November, 2002


I first read the Gathering Mission Statement at the final meeting of the Gathering Planning Committee in May, which I attended as one of the Healing Center Coordinators. The Mission Statement resonates deeply with my experiences of Gathering, and, since I’ve discovered a fair amount of confusion among Friends about the point and purpose of Gathering, I decided to make it available in the Healing Center and my workshop room. It became an important framework for my work at Gathering.

This year was the seventh time that I’ve attended FGC’s Summer Gathering, the seventh year I’ve been involved with the Healing Center, the fourth or fifth I’ve co-Coordinated the Healing Center, and the seventh I’ve been involved in Pagan Quaker ministry. It was the first year I facilitated a workshop or performed in a formal concert.

The Healing Center

The Healing Center “provides a space for Spirit-led Friends to explore, practice, and experience healing modalities from many traditions.” My work with the Healing Center has been a deep gift in my life. I became involved during my very first Gathering, in Blacksburg in 2001. I had no idea why I was drawn to be there, and at first felt very much out of place. That feeling didn’t last an hour; not only was everyone very welcoming, but to my surprise and delight, the Goddess had plenty of work there for me to do. My experience that year led me to discern a leading to become a chiropractor. Within two months, I’d returned to school to begin my pre-medical coursework. Being part of the Healing Center each year helps keep me grounded in my leading and in the spiritual nature of the healing work I’m called to do. It also gives me the chance to work with other Spirit-led Friends in healing, and to experience the immense amount of Grace with which we are gifted every summer. The Healing Center is an amazing experience for practitioners, seekers, and coordinators alike. Our experiences this year filled us with awe and gratitude.

Workshop

Another ministry which has been part of Gathering for me from my first year there is among Pagan Friends. One way to think of Pagan Friends is as Friends to whom the Divine makes Itself known most clearly through nature, the seasons, the Earth, the Goddess, the God, and/or the Old Gods, as well as the Divine-Within and community. This is a fairly approximate “definition,” as no two Friends, Christian, Pagan, or otherwise, experience the Divine in exactly the same way, or use the exact same language to describe that experience. During my first Gathering, members of the Women’s Center, who knew I had experience facilitating public ritual, asked me to facilitate their Full Moon ritual; in subsequent years, at the request of other Pagan Friends, I facilitated Tuesday night interest groups on Pagan Quakerism. And for several years now, Friends have been asking me to facilitate a week-long worskhop at Gathering. I did feel that leading; but for many reasons, and in spite of having facilitated many shorter workshops, I did not feel ready to meet it. During the 2006 Gathering, I did a lot of discernment around the issue of a workshop and my not feeling ready, and finally concluded that while I had not, in fact, been ready in the past, my current hesitation was really just nerves. Last fall, with the support of Pagan Friends both locally and around the world, I submitted a workshop application, which was accepted by the Workshops Committee in their worship.

So this summer at Gathering, for the first time, I facilitated a week-long workshop. It’s very difficult to get workshop titles into the allotted five words, but I eventually came up with “A Neighborhood of Pagan Friends.” The theme of this year’s Gathering, “…but who is my neighbor?,” resonated deeply with many Pagan Friends, who too often feel belittled and treated as less-than in our Meetings. This echo was present throughout the week. We did deep healing work around this issue, helping us re-ground in our spiritual integrity, in our leadings to live our lives as Friends who experience the Divine in the ways each of us does. We noted that we have heard similar things from Friends who are radical Christians and non-theists, as well, and talked about how we might build bridges with other marginalized Friends.

Our workshop was primarily for Pagan Friends, a place where we could come together in a spiritually and emotionally safe space, experience the Divine together, build community, and be whole; and, from that grounding, be in a more integrated way in the larger community of Friends – Monthly Meetings, Yearly Meetings, FGC – and the even larger community of people of faith. In a way I hadn’t anticipated, workshop participants were challenged to do this each day right there at Gathering. One of the first questions Friends ask you at Gathering is, “Which workshop are you in?” The participants in my workshop had to “come out” again and again during the week when they answered this question. Some had positive experiences; some described discriminatory reactions similar to those which they had faced as LGBTQ or Native people. These were painful. Nonetheless, our overall experience together was one of joy, community, deep spiritual groundedness, and gratitude for the opportunity to share this workshop with each other. The Spirit moved among us, gathered us tenderly, nourished us, and challenged us. Our time together refreshed and recharged us for our work in the world.

Singing the Goddess

At the last pre-Gathering meeting of the Planning Committee in May, during our final worship, someone sang one of the songs she’d learned from A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual. Several Friends who’ve been involved in Threshold Choirs and other forms of music ministry were moved by it, and asked that we find a way to present live music from the book at Gathering. So a group of six of us who’ve been involved with SpiralSong Feminist Spirituality Vocal Ensemble gave an hour concert at the Limeade Cabaret. Singing together at Gathering was a blessing, both nourishing and fun, and we very much enjoyed performing in a F/friendly, supportive, enthusiastic environment. Most of all, we enjoyed singing worshipfully together; it was a delight.



I am grateful to the Meeting for providing financial support which helped me attend Gathering. [note: I received financial support from Friends General Conference, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, and Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns.]


Yours in Friendship,
Blessed be,
Staśa Morgan-Appel

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Red Cross response to Minneapolis bridge collapse

I know that before I became a volunteer for the American Red Cross, I really didn't have a good grasp of what the Red Cross does. So I wanted to share with you some of the ways the Red Cross provides a humanitarian service -- and what I consider a real ministry of presence -- after a disaster; and specifically, what the Twin Cities Area Chapter (MN) has been doing in response to the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

Volunteers from the local Chapter responded immediately, and have been active round-the-clock since Thursday:
  • Providing warm meals, hot and cold drinks, and snacks to emergency services workers, families, and clergy members at the scene. When you're a first responder in a situation like this one, you don't get to leave when you're hungry. Families don't want to leave, either, and neither do those supporting them. Mass Care volunteers feed them.
  • Establishing and staffing a Family Assistance Center at a nearby hotel. Families can gather here, be together, meet with counselors, and have privacy from the media and well-wishers, while waiting on news of missing loved ones. Red Cross volunteers -- Family & Individual Client Services caseworkers, and Disaster Mental Health workers -- meet with families and individuals to ensure they are receiving needed Red Cross services.
  • Providing counseling on-site and at the Chapter. Volunteer counselors are mental health professionals and are trained in disaster mental health.
  • Connecting people via the Safe and Well List on the web. People can use the website either to list themselves as safe and well, or to search for someone they're concerned about.
Who pays for all this?

All Red Cross disaster relief services are gifts from the American people.

A couple of important points:
  • The Red Cross does not receive government funding.
  • The National organization does not pay for local disaster response unless it reaches a certain magnitude. Chapters must raise funds in their local communities.
  • Volunteers do not get paid -- they donate their time.
Here's some really good news about people's hearts -- the Twin Cities Area Chapter states on its website:
Due to the extraordinary generosity of the public, the financial donations and pledges received to date will cover the estimated cost for the Red Cross response to the I-35 W bridge collapse on August 1, 2007. Thousands of donors rushed to meet the needs of those who were involved in this tragic accident and their families, and because of their quick action the Red Cross was able to provide a safe place to rest, hot meals, basic first aid and mental health counseling to the survivors of this catastrophe.
This is one of those times I actually am proud to be an American. :)

__________________
  • For more information about the Twin Cities Area Chapter's response, click here and here.
  • Click here for official information about what the American Red Cross does after a disaster.
  • To find your local chapter or blood region, click here, enter your zip code, and click "find."
  • To learn more about how to donate your time to help the Red Cross meet its mission to "help people prevent, prepare, and respond to emergencies," click here.
__________________

p.s. I need to be clear that I do not speak on behalf of the American Red Cross, but simply and solely for myself. Thanks.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Boy, two women carried away by bald eagle

Ham Lake, WI -- July 10, 2007

Two women and a boy were carried away by a bald eagle while canoeing on Ham Lake in Sawyer County today.

Carrie G-----, of Philadelphia, PA, and Sue S-----, of Ann Arbor, MI, were canoeing with G-----'s son, Timothy K------- - G-----, also of Philadelphia, when the trio spotted a bald eagle.

Upon returning to the cabin where they were spending their vacation, G----- and S----- urged K------- - G----- to tell the other members of their party what they'd experienced.

"We saw bald eagle!" cried K------- - G----- over and over.

His statement was repeated, with only slightly less enthusiasm, by G----- and S-----, who added, "It must have circled above us for five minutes!," and, "Wow -- we saw a bald eagle!"

The other members of their party confirmed that the canoeists were carried away.

"They were pretty clearly carried away by the bald eagle," stated Stasa M----- - A----, of Ann Arbor, and Kathleen K------, of Philadelphia, K------- - G-----'s mother. "We were very excited for them."

M----- - A---- added, wistfully, "And slightly envious."

K------- - G----- added, "We saw bald eagle!"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where'd she go?

It's been nearly a month since I posted, I know. First we were away at Friends General Conference Gathering, then we actually spent a week on vacation in a cabin in the woods, on a lake, in northwest Wisconsin. It may well have been the first vacation I've gone on as an adult where the object was actually to rest. :) What a thought! It was delightful.

I've been asked to post at length about Gathering, which I will.

Blessings,
Staśa

p.s. Check out FGC's new web page!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer Solstice at Camp Grayling

Yesterday was Litha, Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.

(How can any day be longer than any other? They all have 24 hours, right? Summer Solstice is the day with the most hours of sunlight in the northern hemisphere, because of the tilt of the Earth on its axis.)

Here at Camp Grayling, it was a beautiful, breezy, sun-drenched day. I could only get on the internet by sitting out front of my building (wireless access has its limitations), and I delighted in spending lots of time with the sun, the moon, the oak and maple trees near the door, and the wind dancing through them. Just down the hill is Lake Margrethe, sparkling in the sun.

And it was, in fact, a day with loooong sunshine: nearly 15 1/2 hours of light. According to the US Naval Observatory, the data for Grayling, MI for yesterday are:

Begin civil twilight       5:16 a.m.                
Sunrise 5:53 a.m.
Sun transit 1:41 p.m.
Sunset 9:28 p.m.
End civil twilight 10:05 p.m.

I walked a case over to admin at 10:30 pm last night, and the sky was still not completely dark. It was a lovely, luminous blue, with the moon, nearly half-full, sailing high.