Monday, March 31, 2008

Peeps... Passover... ow

While Peeps were originally an Easter candy, they've come to fill many other roles over the years. For example, they were often an important part of Roses, Too!'s Eostara and Samhain observances.

But it had never occurred to me that they could have such an educational role for

"Peeps for Passover"

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I am in the middle of a stressful, anxiety-producing couple of weeks -- a lot of life is happening in a short period. On the plus side, it's time-limited and is already in the process of resolving. But until more of it sorts itself out, I'm chewing my fingernails and not getting enough sleep.

But I am getting good support.

And in the middle of this, there are ways in which the Goddess is clearly dancing in my life.

Or, in Quakerspeak, there are ways in which the Spirit is clearly moving in my life.

This makes me happy.

And, all things considered, She's leading me pretty gently right now. I think this is what happens when I am able to listen better. (Less need to shout, perhaps?) :)

It's all right, it's all right
It's all right
She moves in mysterious ways...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Done is good

My final rainbow shawl commission is done! I just have to put it in the mail.


I have now done five of these -- the original one, two commissions from that same auction, plus two more in subsequent auctions. I am sooooo done. (At least, for now. If someone's heart is set on one, or on a rainbow throw, I would consider it.)

Now I can work on my first-ever sweater, a present for my beloved wife. :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What does a bunny have to do with Easter?

Here's a fairly good video -- "History of the Holidays: Easter" -- from, regarding how certain practices and customs from the Pagan festival of Eostara came to be associated with the Christian festival of Easter...

FGC Summer Gathering 2008: Courageously Faithful

This year's Friends General Conference Gathering will be held in Johnstown, PA, from 28 June through 5 July. Gathering can be a truly wonderful experience. Financial assistance is available, so don't let that be the thing that stops you. Click here for more information.

Hope to see many of you there!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Courageously Explicit

The theme for this year's Gathering of Friends General Conference is "Courageously Faithful."

Thanks to my Beloved Wife, I started attending Summer Gathering in 2001. And the Goddess made it clear right off the bat that She was calling me to active ministry among Pagan Friends, not just in my life in general, but at Summer Gathering: that year, I was asked to facilitate the Women's Center Full Moon Ritual; from 2002 to 2006, I facilitated evening interest groups for and about Pagan Quakers; and in 2007, I facilitated a week-long workshop for Pagan Friends.

This year, I am being led in an even broader, deeper direction.

For the last several years, I've been having conversations with Friends in different locales about who feels "most welcome" and "most at home" in our Meetings. I've talked with Pagan Friends, of course, but also Non-Theist Friends, Jewish Friends, Christian Friends, straight Friends, and queer Friends. These conversations have led me to conclusions I didn't necessarily expect, coming at first solely from my own experience and that of other Pagan Quakers.

It's never who we'd necessarily think.

Here's one example, from a large, East Coast Monthly Meeting:


In this Meeting, Pagan Friends feel that they are not welcome to give vocal ministry that's explicit -- that comes from their experience of the Divine, or comes in the language of how they experience the Divine. They feel that it's not okay for them to talk about the Goddess or the Gods, Samhain or Beltane, or the like. They've been eldered for it, they've been criticized for it, they've been told they have to give up the Goddess if they're going to be Quakers -- even though some of them are members of their Meeting.

These Pagan Friends have the impression it's okay for Christian Friends to give explicit ministry. They feel like it's okay for Christian Friends to talk about Jesus or Christ, Christmas or Easter, or the like.

I've heard from Christian Friends in this same Meeting, who were also told their vocal ministry wasn't welcome. I've heard from Friends -- including members of the Meeting -- who were asked not to return after giving explicitly Christian ministry during worship.

I felt an answering pain and anger.

But, they told me, Pagans can say whatever they want.

So, in this one example: The Christians think the Pagans are welcome to speak clearly and openly from their experience of the Divine, but not Christians. The Pagans think the Christians can speak clearly and openly from their experience of the Divine, but not Pagans.

And they've both got it wrong.


Here's my theory:

Friends who experience the Divine in explicit, specific ways rarely feel like we're the "most comfortable" or the "most welcome" in our Meetings.

Somehow, our explicitness is threatening. And folks have let us know that.

Now, I freely admit, when someone stands and speaks their truth, and makes it clear that theirs is "The One Right Way" and that they're prepared to act accordingly, that I feel threatened.

But all of the Pagan, Jewish, and Non-Theist Friends, and most of the Christian Friends, whom I've heard give ministry in the explicit language of their experience are not preaching theirs as "The One Right Way." Most of them are very clear: This is my experience. This is my facet of the whole.

A universal longing in spiritual/religious community is for a place where we can have these conversations about the Divine in our lives. "How fares the Truth with thee, Friend?"

It's time for explicit Friends -- and I'm using this term for lack of a better one, not because I think it's necessarily the best term -- it's time for explicit Friends to reach out to one another, talk with one another, support each other, lift each other up, help each other be faithful, have deep, chewy conversations with each other, build community together.

So, here's the beginning of the language I'm fantasizing about for the interest group proposal:

Title: Courageously Explicit.
Description: Three Friends walk into Meeting for Worship: a Christian, a Pagan, a Non-Theist, and a Jew.

What might the next sentences be?
They all give explicit ministry.
They all experience gathered worship.
Come help tell the rest of the story.
If you experience the Divine in a specific, explicit way, come build community and share fellowship.

I don't know yet what the rest of the language will be.

I welcome discussion on this.

(And yes, I know that's more than three: Jewish, Non-Theist, and Pagan, at least, are not mutually exclusive. *smile*)

Friday, March 21, 2008

England 6: Quaker Country

My final day visiting Beloved Wife in England, we headed further up north, into Quaker Country (also called "1652 Country").

(Two wonderful websites about walking tours of 1652 Quaker country: Bill Samuel's Quaker Tour of England, and Dai Williams' An Attender in Quaker Country.)

We were limited to places we could get to by the combination of public transit and our own two feet, and by the time of a dinner date in Manchester that evening. Beloved Wife did some on-line research, and we decided to visit Briggflatts Meeting House and hopefully Firbank Fell.

We took the train to Oxenholme, then the bus to Sedbergh. The bus ride was, um, dramatic: here we were on this big bus, in hilly country, on these very narrow lanes bordered by stone fences, going rather fast. (It didn't seem to bother any of the other passengers -- three elderly women -- at all.)

From the bus, we had a lovely view of Lambrigg Wind Farm. That was neat!

Here we are in Sedbergh:

(Don't ask me why there are palm trees in Sedbergh.) From Sedbergh, we walked to Briggflatts Meeting House and Burial Ground. (For the map, click here. Briggflatts is southwest of Sedbergh; Firbank Fell is northwest of Sedbergh.)

Walking along paths in this part of England involves some interesting customs regarding private property and public rights-of-way. And gates. As with our trip from Edale, we found ourselves walking along paths that bordered as well as cut through the middle of sheep pastures. (In Edale, there were some cattle, too.)

The customs seem pretty simple: don't scare the critters, keep your dog on a lead if you're walking with one, and make sure you close the gates behind you. Interestingly, as we approached Briggflatts, and saw there was repair work taking place on one of the buildings, we also saw signs for the re-routed footpath. Very neat.

So we walked out of town, through fields, over hills, along lanes, and under an abandoned railroad track, until we came to Briggflatts. First we visited the burial ground, then the meetinghouse itself.

The burial ground was beautiful.

The meetinghouse, which dates from 1678, was also beautiful. Even now, just looking at the picture and remembering the deep, deep sense of peace in the meeting room, I find myself with tears in my eyes.

Many of the folks who signed the guest register -- Friends and non-Friends alike -- commented on the simple beauty and the peace of the meetinghouse.

Perhaps, as Friends, we shouldn't care, or it shouldn't matter to us, what our Meetinghouses look like, if they're beautiful or not. But it does. And I don't think worse of us for it.

Briggflatts is in my absolute favorite style of meeting room. There's a meetinghouse in the midwest of the US, whose insides just look like a Methodist church to me: medium-blond wood paneling on the walls, the same shade of medium-blond wood in the benches, pale blue-green cushions, and very modern. Somehow, it just doesn't work for me. (I realize this sense of what's "right" in a meetinghouse is a distinct result of the East Coast Catholic portion of my upbringing.)

There is a small set of rooms in the same building, accessible from outside, that houses the Meeting's library, a bathroom, and even a small kitchen. There were mugs and tea placed out in the library, with a note that milk was in the fridge, and an invitation to eat one's lunch and have a hot cup of tea. Such lovely hospitality!

We had our lunch out in the garden, in spite of the chill, while consulting the map. We sadly concluded that we could not both walk to Fox's Pulpit on Firbank Fell and make our train, and prepared to leave. As we were walking up the lane towards the footpath, one of the wardens, Tess, appeared out of their house to talk with us, and offered to drive us up. This gave us a lovely chance to visit with her, and talk about the life of the Meeting, Quakerism in the US and Britain, her husband and children, and just to enjoy fellowship. It was a treat.

Tess told us how George Fox preached to 1,000 people here. We had heard this, but found ourselves in puzzlement. Firbank Fell is in the middle of nowhere, as you can see in this picture. Why did Fox decide to preach there, and why on earth were 1,000 people there, 350-odd years ago, to hear him?

According to Tess, the people of Kendal and Sedbergh couldn't decided which of the two towns should get the church, so the church was built on top of Firbank Fell, between them. When Fox came to preach, word spread, and so not only did the folk of both towns come to hear him, so also did all their friends and relatives from far away. When Fox was denied entry to the church, he chose this rock, next to the church, from which to preach.

(Evidently, he later took over the pulpit in the church, too.)

Tess offered to drive us to Sedbergh to catch our bus, but because of her help, we had plenty of time to walk back to town; so we asked her to drop us off back at her house and the meetinghouse. When we got there, a committee meeting was about to start, so we got to meet several folks from the Meeting. In spite of all the visitors they get every year, they welcomed us enthusiastically (in an understated British way). Like the warden in York, they seemed to feel some extra kinship on learning that the two of us are part of the unprogrammed tradition.

To walk back to Sedbergh, we cut along the old railway bed so we could walk along the Dales Way footpath.

We were in good time to catch our bus, and then our train, and then to have dinner with folks in Manchester.

The day was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

Click below for the full album.

2008-02 England 6: Quaker country

The Snow Bunny

The Ostara Bunny and the Snow Bunny announced together today that the Snow Bunny will distributing eggs to Pagan children for Ostara/Spring Equinox this year in Southeastern Michigan.

"With the National Weather Service and my own instincts calling for 5-8 inches of snow, the Snow Bunny is just much better-equipped to handle winter storm conditions while delivering eggs to the Pagan children of Southeastern Michigan," the Ostara Bunny stated.

The Snow Bunny added, "It's very important to both of us that children everywhere know how much they mean to us, and this means making sure there are eggs for them to find in the snow. I consider it an honor to accept this mission."

In addition to being better able to handle snowy conditions, the Snow Bunny's white fur will make it easier for her to remain hidden in plain view while she does her work.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Ostara Snow Bunny Cometh

There's a winter storm warning in effect, with 5-8 inches of snow predicted between Friday night and Saturday morning.

Happy Equinox/Ostara! ;-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"When Girls Will Be Boys"

This is a fascinating article on college students -- particularly at women's colleges -- who come to identify as transmen and genderqueer, and many, many of the issues this raises. (The NY Times requires free registration.)

"Rosa's Stew"

I love it when Ben calls me up and sings to me.

Before you go any further, please say the following two phrases out loud, one after the other:
  • Rosa's Stew
  • Roses, Too!

(Roses, Too! is the Coven my best friend and I co-founded in Philadelphia in 1993.)

Now you know all you need to know. Enjoy!

"Rosa's Stew"
lyrics by Benjamin Newman
ttto: "Bread and Roses" by James Oppenheim, set to music by Mimi Farina

/ G CG-- / C D / 1st / DA D /: G - / C(Am) D :/ G - /

As we go marching, marching
To fight the noble fight
A band of angry women
Can work up an appetite

All day we've walked together
Voices raised in songs of protest
And we sing a little louder
When the potluck is at Rosa's

As we go marching, marching
Singing songs of love and toil
In Rosa's cluttered kitchen
Something good is on the boil

When marching makes us hungry
There's one thought that sees us through
Yes, it is bread we fight for
What we crave is Rosa's stew

It's often said of Martha
That her sourdough never fails
But leave it out all April
And it gets a little stale

When bread and hearts have hardened
There is just one thing to do
There's no crust that will not soften
When it's dunked in Rosa's stew

Now, stew can be nutritious
But this is so much more
In it we have a foretaste
Of the world we're fighting for

At Jane's pie and Sarah's salad
We will not turn up our noses
But for hungry souls and bellies
There's no cooking quite like Rosa's

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring is on Her way!

Tuesday, I saw a white-breasted nuthatch at our suet feeder. It was -- predictably, celebratorily -- upside-down.

I love white-breasted nuthatches. :)

They supposedly do not migrate, but I've seen very few this winter at our feeders, and I've missed them.

Then yesterday, I saw the bird which is the true harbinger of spring in southeastern Michigan: the red-winged blackbird!

I was unloading the car after running errands, and heard a bird-sound I hadn't heard in months: it sounded a lot like the "clack" sound red-winged blackbirds make, one of two of their calls with which I'm familiar. (The other call sounds like the bird is caroling, "I'm heee-re!") (Or, "Mate with mee-eee!")

When I looked around, I saw three or so medium-sized black birds in the tree above me and at the neighbor's feeders. They looked a lot more like grackles at first glance, but they sounded wrong for grackles. And then I saw thin strips of pale yellow at the shoulders. A few moments later, the two at the feeder mantled, and I saw both the yellow and the red. Not as bright as it will be later in the year, but definitely there!

We're about three blocks from the river, and don't usually get red-wingeds this far away from the water. But I guess food is a good draw this time of year and at the end of a long migration!

The temperature hit about 55 F here yesterday. My driveway is no longer an ice rink or a pond, but getting fairly muddy; the top few inches of the ground are starting to thaw. It may be dipping into the 20s F at night, and we may well get more snow -- 5 more inches, I'm told, and we'll break our record -- but Spring is definitely on Her way.

Blessed be!

A cup of tea...

According to scientists at the University of Maryland and Cardiff University, via Environmental Graffiti: English Breakfast Tea can help inhibit anthrax. As long as you take your tea without milk.

Click here for the Cardiff press release.

Too funny!

Friday, March 14, 2008

City View Quaker Church in Asheville, NC

A Quaker Church in NC which was part of Friends United Meeting has withdrawn from FUM and lost their building after taking a united stance to support gay rights, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

The church is still meeting in the former minister's home.

Read the Citizen-Times story here.

According to the article, City View lost their building and were officially disbanded by FUM. In addition:

The Quarterly Meeting also told Vestal’s church they could no longer use the word Quaker in their name.

“They don’t have proprietary right to the name, so we kept it,” Vestal said.

Vestal has lost his pastoral salary and has gone to work at a bookstore. His church now meets in his home in North Asheville.

Blessed are these brave Friends.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The changing of the seasons...

The forecast is calling for overnight thunderstorms, sleet, and snow. There's still snow on the ground here.

Several of our patients at work have told me they've seen robins. I've heard birds who wintered over singing their spring songs -- especially chickadees! Yesterday, I saw a white-breasted nuthatch.

There is something pleasing about the relentlessness of spring's coming. It doesn't matter that there's snow on the ground, or what winter weather will happen this week.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Daylight Spending Time?

My understanding is that Benjamin Franklin was thinking about saving candles when he came up with daylight saving time. And while it turns out that nowadays we may be saving electricity by changing to DST, it also turns out we might be using more energy to heat and cool our homes. So yes, Daylight Saving Time saves daylight -- but not, necessarily, energy.


  • For the study itself, click here or here (home pages of co-authors, with links to study).
  • For a good summary, click here.
  • For the NPR story, click here.

England 5: York

Another of our day trips was to York, where there was lots to see and do.

When we got off the train, we walked up the hill to the Cathedral. It's a beautiful space. (What an understatement.) We appreciated the open spaces, the stained glass windows (many with notes regarding who took responsibility for their preservation during WWII, or for their restoration over hundreds of years), the organ, the fact that it's a working faith community, the atmosphere in general... I really liked the fact that there was an atmosphere of worship that nonetheless welcomed tourists; that combination felt really nice. And the docents were lovely to visitors.

I particularly noticed the stained-glass window "sacred to the memory of the women of the empire who gave their lives in the European war of 1914-1918."

In general, the mix of old and new, historical and present-day, was much less awkward in the parts of England I visited than what I've experienced in the US. (And -- aside from places like the pueblos in Frijoles Canyon in New Mexico -- "old things" in Europe are definitely older than "old things" in the States!)

We took the dare of climbing to the top of the tower. I like taking pictures of spiral staircases, but the two staircases to the tower are closed, not open, so I did not get any nautilus-type pictures of the spirals. Given just how long the climb is, it's probably better that way: I couldn't tell how much further we had to go up. Down, of course, took much less time and effort...

The stairs up the tower are so narrow that you can't pass while on them. Therefore, they only let people up every half hour. Everyone who's going in that time slot goes up, and nobody else goes up til they've all come down.

There's a lovely stop in the middle, where you walk along the outside edge of the roof, over to the second set of stairs. Also a nice place for a picture.

Happily, there are chairs at the top for wimps like me... Actually, I can't claim wimpdom on this one: the docents recognized us later as folks who'd made the climb. "Are we so memorable?" I asked. "No," one docent answered, "we just haven't had many people go up today," in a (Britishly understated) tone of admiration.

We had a lovely lunch of Cornish pasties, which we ate outside in St. Helen's Square. Then we wandered around the old part of the city, including the Shambles.

From the Shambles, we walked to the other side of the old part of town and visited Clifford's Tower, the remaining part of the Castle of York. More stairs -- first, up to the tower, then, in the tower. As my wife pointed out to me, there was a theme to our day... However, I did get a partial spiral stair picture out of the climb.

After Clifford's Tower, we crossed the River Foss, one of York's two rivers, and walked along most of the remaining city walls. This was fun.

And then we had afternoon tea in a Tea Room. Hee. Yum. We had lovely tea, accompanied by divine sultana scones and a Yorkshire curd tart. This made me happy.

We discovered mention of the Quaker Meetinghouse in a tourist map's list of "places to eat your lunch out of the rain." I insisted we go find it, and find it we did. Friargate Meeting is a lovely place, and visiting it -- especially so unexpectedly -- was one of the highlights of my day. The warden was also very hospitable, and we were very glad we stopped in. The Meetingroom itself is a place with a deep sense of peace, and it was a centering experience for me to spend a few minutes there. As I said, a highlight.

The warden showed us a picture of the interior of the old Meetingroom -- destroyed in WWII? I don't quite remember -- and Arch Street Meeting in Philadelphia is a spitting image of it.

I felt very welcomed and at home among British Friends, when we worshipped in Manchester, and when we visited Friargate and Briggflatts.

After visiting Friargate Meeting, we dashed back up the hill to the Minster for choral evensong, which was beautiful. (The organ was amazing!) Beloved Wife noted with amusement the addition of scripture regarding earthquakes. She also clearly found evensong a centering experience, a good end to our day in York.

(My reaction, particularly coming right after being in the Friargate Meetingroom, was, "Thank you, Goddess, for making me a Quaker!")

We crossed the River Ouse at sunset, on our way back down the hill to the train station.

For more pictures of our day in York:

2008-02 England 5: York

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

England 4: Manchester & Alan Turing

One of our days in Manchester, I briefly visited the new Alan Turing Building at the University of Manchester, as well as the memorial to Alan Turing in Sackville Gardens.

Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician, cryptologist, and computer scientist in the first half of the 20th century. When he was discovered to be gay, he was arrested and convicted; lost his security clearance, his livelihood, and much of his participation in the world of mathematics; and was forced to undergo hormone treatments. Turing eventually committed suicide.

The statue in Sackville Gardens was dedicated in 2001. Not one major computer company contributed towards this memorial to the father of the computer and computer science.

Yet, he is honored in many other ways.

Still, his story gives me the chills...

Monday, March 3, 2008

England 3: Edale and Mam Tor (Heights of the Mother)

One of the first things I noticed in Manchester is what birdsongs I was hearing, and what birds I was seeing. The first of these was definitely the magpie, who seems to be a cheerful and sociable bird.

Our first day trip outside Manchester was to the town of Edale, in Derbyshire. It's in the Peak District National Park, halfway between Manchester and Sheffield. (Click here for the Ordnance Survey Map.) We headed south from Edale, up to Hollins Cross, then headed east (and further up!) towards Mam Tor. It was quite a climb! At the top, it was very, very windy; the closer we got to Mam Tor, the more the wind tried to knock us over. (My wife compared it to Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the US.)

The weather ranged from bright and sunny to cold and very windy, and everything in between, including (of course) a little rain. Somewhat like Michigan in that respect. We saw lots of sheep, and even a few cows. We also saw lots of gorse, and even a little heather, although none was in bloom until we got back down into town.

It was an amazing day spent out of doors, doing lots of walking. Our mileage wasn't actually as high as one might expect, but I was pretty proud of myself for doing as much as I did and under such conditions. I might not be up to what I used to be able to do before my injury, and my improvement might still be long and slow, but I can keep reminding myself that I am definitely improving... :)

2008-02 England 3: Edale & Mam Tor

England 2: Manchester

I worshipped with Friends in Manchester on 24th February, at Mount Street Meeting (Central Manchester Quaker Meeting). On the whole, I found British Friends very hospitable, both in Manchester as well as in York and Cumbria (more on those visits later).

We didn't make it to Pendle Hill, but I was nonetheless entertained by the name of the bus service we'd have taken if we had gone.

Spring is definitely further along there than in this part of the US; I have some pictures of crocuses, daffodils, and snowdrops (and later, a cherry tree in bloom).

More pictures from Manchester:

2008-02 England 2: Manchester

A trip to England

I've just returned from spending a week in the north of England, where my wife and partner is spending the semester. We were based mostly in Manchester, but took several day trips -- Edale, York, Cumbria/"Quaker country." I have lots of outdoorsy, nature-worship things to share, and also lots of neat Quaker historical things to share. I'm in the process of uploading pictures, and will add posts as I get my thoughts together.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

More on the First Amendment

It continues to blow my mind how so many people understand so little about the basics of the Constitution of the United States. And it continues to anger and frighten me how intolerant so many Americans are of religion other than their own.

School Board to Pay in Jesus Suit

Reducing our carbon footprints

Here's an interesting article from the New Yorker on the complexities of reducing carbon footprints. Is it better to grow something locally if it actually uses more energy and produces more greenhouse gases than growing it further away and transporting it? And other questions.

"Big Foot: In measuring carbon emissions, it's easy to confuse morality and science," by Michael Specter.

Barriers to local foods

Here's an interesting Op-Ed in the NY Times regarding the legal barriers to increasing production of local fruits and vegetables: "My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables)."