Tag Archives: Weather

Spring Back • Fall Forward

I am currently somewhere just over the horizon from tired.

In the last two weeks the weather has shifted repeatedly from arctic, to mild, and back again.  I was, for the most part, scheduled off from work on the days when the glaciers advanced, meaning I was trapped inside a house without a working furnace, and with no easy way to restock dwindling provisions.  Starvation, I am happy to say, was mostly avoided.

Conversely, on the days when the glaciers receded and warmer temperatures took hold, I was scheduled odd work hours, making it quite impossible to clean up all the woolly mammoth carcasses that were left strewn about the landscape.

Weekend plans, involved the arrival of company, and a manic cleaning of my home.  This, in a desperate attempt to disguise the fact that I’d been living like a cave dweller these last few weeks.

And finally, after a number of false starts, due mostly to a 10-day weather forecast that couldn’t remain consistent for more than a few hours at a stretch, Saturday was spent, with the aforementioned company, wandering around Fair Park in Dallas for the 33rd Annual North Texas Irish Festival.

It was a great day, full of food, shopping, and wonderful music, capped off by a rousing performance from the always amazing Eileen Ivers.

It was a great day – and exhausting.

Then, to top it all off, Daylight Savings Time went into effect on Sunday morning.

And I think that was the last straw.

I’m done in.

Finished.

I could rattle on about the futility of rolling the clock forward and back in some misguided attempt to match the numbers on the clock to the position of the sun in the sky…, I could wonder why we do not simply allow businesses to adjust their hours of operation (should they so choose), rather then screwing up the sleep-cycles of an entire population…, I could…, but I won’t.  Because I simply haven’t got the energy.

Metropolis Clock

“Spring Forward,” they tell us, “and Fall Back.”

The madness must end!

Which is why, every year, I say something just a little bit different.

Spring Back • Fall Forward.

I just slip it into conversation without calling attention to it.  It sounds familiar and plausible enough, to pass without noticing.  Once you’re used to it, it rolls right off the tongue.  Which is exactly what I want it to do.

I want to make it subliminal.  I want to sow doubt, and maybe, just a little chaos.

I want to muck up the works of the big imaginary clock which they, whoever ‘they’ are, keep messing with.

So far…, the results are less than hopeful.  Which is why I could use your help.

Spring Back • Fall Forward.

Tell a friend.  Remind a stranger.

Spring Back • Fall Forward.

Yes, it’s too late for us right now, but November will be here sooner than you think (we’ve already lost an hour).  We still have plenty of time to spread the word.

For now, I think I’m going to fall forward, into bed.

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Filed under Culture, Holidays, Modern Life

Sacred Space: By Design

I suppose one would have to say that the most important thing about progress reports is that there BE some progress to report.

In the case of my backyard shrine project, there has been precious little progress of any kind in these last couple months.  I had intended, by now, to have cleared away the space around the central tree trunk, to have mapped out the area, drawn up detailed layout designs, and to have at least begin the process of removing the excess limbs from the upper reaches of the tree.

However, it seems as if every time I set some time aside to work on this project, something else comes up to distract me, or the weather turns against me.  Just recently we had a nasty winds storm down here.  A straight-line wind, preceding a storm cell, blew through my neighborhood at speeds in excess of 80mph, felling entire trees in its wake.  The streets here are still lined with shattered limb and bough.  Several modest sized trees on my own property came down in the storm, and now I’ll have to find the time to clear them out of the way before I can even think about starting new projects.

It is disheartening, but I knew this project might prove itself beyond me.  I knew also that my own motivation would likely prove my greatest obstacle.

I have not given up yet.  Far from it!

Below you will see some preliminary sketch-work I’ve done, showing the dead tree as it currently stands and then some of my thoughts about how it ‘might’ look in the future.

Tree Concept Sketch

My current thinking has a raised, circular platform, around the trunk of the carved tree.  Immediately to the east of that circle and intersecting with it, a second circle, containing a reflecting pool and a raised fire bowl.  In this incarnation the whole thing lines up with sunrise on Samhain.

I am not even close to a final design for this yet.  Another idea incorporates the Celtic Triple-Spiral with three platforms of varied height providing which tie into the three realms (land, sea, sky).  A third (mostly rejected) idea involves a long arbor-like processional that spirals around the central carved tree trunk, which itself rises up from a circular pool of water.

None of these designs do a very good job of interacting with the other features of the yard and house, and it is important to me that the entire space seems to flow, rather than feeling forced.

And so more time at the drawing board is called for.  As is more time in the space itself, wandering around, feeling for the natural ebb and flow that has not quite vanished under the surface.

Time and attention are what this project needs, and both have been in short supply, with many other projects clamoring for attention.

And speaking of…,

You may remember, several weeks back now, that I mentioned a particularly powerful meditation experience, involving a certain sacred well, and Nuada of the Silver Hand.

Since awakening from the vision, I have been looking for a token to place on my home altar, to stand for the ‘fallen king’ who seems to have unexpectedly entered into my personal pantheon.  Thus far, I have found nothing that seems appropriate to the task, but a friend suggested to me that I should perhaps make my own, perhaps casting it out of pewter or some similar metal.

I have very limited experience in metal casting, but I am actually very excited by this idea and have been putting time into researching the methods, tools and materials involved.  I have also been working, in clay, on a preliminary sculpture that may form the basis of a mold in the future.

Nuada Hand Sculpt

It’s a tad crude as of yet.  I’m still trying to decide if I want to stick with just the symbolic silver hand, or work in a more anthropomorphic rendering of the deity himself, but it feels good to be sculpting something again.  When I work on things like this it feels as if something is waking up in me, some part of my inner landscape comes alive, which I have not wandered in what seems like ages.

Maybe these feelings are nothing more than happy accidents, or perhaps that comes to me by design.  In either case, the more I push back against the work-a-day existence that threatens to drown me in needless tedium, the more I try to shape the world around me into something better, the more human and alive I begin to feel.

****

This is the fifth post in a series following my progress in the planning and construction of a small temple space on my property.  If you wish to follow along with my progress you may see other posts in this series by clicking here.

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Filed under Art, Modern Life, Nature, Religion, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey

When it rains at Lughnasadh

We have come to that time of year when I would usually avoid even thinking about the weather forecast.  It’s the height of Summer in Texas and that usually means a long blistering stretch of 100° days.  I find that looking at “cheery” graphics of big yellow suns and triple digit numbers spilling out into the foreseeable future, is an exhausting exercise and should be avoided.

Texas Summer Forecast

And yet, so far, this summer has been refreshingly mild, with some days in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s breaking up the usual summer tedium.  And so, I have been a bit more willing to look at those 10-day weather forecasts, than is my habit.

And that’s how I came to see this…,

Lughnasadh Forcast

 

Oh, sweet mercy, the weather people are calling for cooling temperatures and a reasonable chance of showers at the turn of the month.  There could actually be rain at Lughnasadh!

Okay, I’m not going to hold my breath – it’s a 10-day forecast in Texas where you are lucky to be able to predict what the weather will be like minutes, much less days ahead of time.

But still, just that slim chance has given me something to look forward to.

I am NOT a Summer person.  At least, not the way we do summers around here.

I don’t like the heat.

I don’t like the glare of that wretched fireball hovering in a cloudless sky.

For all my love of the natural world, this time of year usually makes me want to shut myself away someplace cool and dark.  My door is closed, the window shades are drawn down.  If possible, I’ll avoid going outside, or even looking outside, until the sun has dipped below the horizon.

It’s not a very Pagan attitude, I know.  It’s not “nature friendly”.

-shrug-

At this time of year I don’t feel that ‘nature’ is very friendly towards me.

I need a place that is both natural and sheltered from the Texas heat.

Maybe a cave!

Caves are natural, and dark, and usually cool, and always great fun to explore.

We need more caves in North Texas.

I seem to recall reading about a few caves in Ireland that are important during the Lughnasadh season…, but I can’t seem to find the references I was looking for.

Hmmmm…,

What I do know is that rain on Lughnasadh, the ancient Irish celebration of the first harvest, is considered a good omen.

Maybe this is true, simply because drought seldom leads to bountiful harvests, and a little rain suggests that our crops will not “die on the vine”.

Or perhaps it is because Lugh (for whom the day is named), while often considered a solar deity, was likewise associated with storms, his “flashing light” being the variety that comes before the thunder.  As always, attempting to pigeonhole the Celtic gods into particular roles, is a dangerous business.

Whatever his nature, I am hopeful for a bit of rain, a freshening breeze, and a reprieve from the oppressive heat of the season.

Lughnasadh has always been that one holy day on the calendar that is most difficult for me to celebrate.  Everyone seems to be doing something else, and I don’t want to do anything at all.  It comes around again and again, like a spiritual flat spot in the great wheel of the year, a sudden jolt, shaking both my focus and dedication.

It is difficult even for me to write about.

I feel, at these times, as if I am incomplete.

Yet I love three out of the four seasons, is that not enough?!

Lugh,
If you hear me,
I seek no portents of gain.

Lugh,
Simply bless me,
And let me walk in the rain.

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Holidays, Nature, The Gods, Traditions

Dust in the Wind

You could usually count on the exercise coming before lunch.  Three short bursts of the school bell and we’d be up from our desks and filing into the hallway.  “Single file,” the teachers admonished repeatedly, while we formed a line in front of our lockers and then dropped to our knees like supplicants before the Ka’bah, foreheads to the floor and our fingers laced together over the backs of our heads.

—Tornado Drill—

What I never understood was why they always told us it was coming ahead of time.  There was never any surprise involved in the drills, nothing to simulate the confusion that would have undoubtedly run rampant in an actual emergency.  We just plodded into the hallway and knelt uncomfortably for several minutes, until the return bell sounded.

Some would try to pass the time with a muttered joke or two, while the teachers paced to and fro, checking the line.  One kid, I remember, would always sing the old Kansas song, ‘Dust in the Wind‘ just quietly enough to be heard by those immediately around him, but not so loud as to attract unwanted attention.

I suppose the little smart-ass thought the whole ordeal was a big joke.  At the very least, he doubted the obvious security provided by kneeling at the foot of heavy metal lockers, which were themselves inexpertly affixed to the crumbling walls of a poorly maintained WPA era school building.

Occasionally, one of the other kids would tell him to “shut up!”  I guess the song made them nervous.  People cling to the rituals that make them feel safer, even when they know better.  To challenge these illusions is to make oneself a target.

Perhaps they simply thought that I wasn’t taking the drill seriously enough.

Or they just didn’t like the song.

Dust in the Wind 01

I dream sometimes of tornados.

I have worked over the years to keep myself always open to what I call the “dreaming world” while going about my walk-a-day life.  The benefit of this, for me, is that I feel that I am better able to perceive the various layers of reality beyond the simply mundane.  On the flip side, however, I find that I do not dream as often as I did in my youth, or at least, I do not remember the dreams that I do have.

There are a handful of exceptions to this: a selection of recurring dreams that I have been visited by, again and again, since I was very young.

The tornado dreams are almost always the same.  I find myself in the house where I grew up.  It is a normal day, but there there is a feeling of expectation in the air.  I stop what I’m doing and go to a door or window where I see a column of greenish grey destruction snaking down from the clouds and pulverizing the earth, perhaps a mile away from where I stand.  At this point in the dream, I usually rush outside to get a better view, or perhaps to seek shelter.  There is no rain in these dreams, and the wind ahead of the funnel is perhaps lightly gusting and cool.

And now I am awake to the fact that I am dreaming.  You might think that this would improve the situation, that perhaps I would fully awaken, or realizing that it is a dream, bend it to my will and dissipate the approaching cyclone.  Instead, my subconscious simple decides to double-down and more funnels drop from the iron-clad sky, whirling ropes of destruction in every direction I turn.

Dust in the Wind 02

We have been sharing our “Tornado War Stories” lately.

It seems as if we all have them.  If you live in ‘tornado-alley’ long enough you are likely to collect a few.  We watch the news reports of Oklahoma City getting pounded again and again, not to mention the damage from storms closer to home.  The cleanup efforts stretch from days into weeks and you know that it could just as easily have been you, sifting through the rubble, looking for some fragment of the life you lived before.

And so we share our stories, and take comfort in the fact that we are here to tell them.

My own closest encounter took place when I was in my early twenties.  I was still in college but working summers with my father in residential construction south of the DFW metroplex.  I was driving home from a job-site in my ramshackle car and absolutely captivated by the scene in front of me.  The gravel road I was speeding along was bordered on both sides by low hills and trees so that my only view of the sky was an almost perfect ‘V’ rising up from the road in front of me.  That slice of sky contained one of the most beautiful sunset scenes I have ever witnessed.  A giant glowing orange anvil of cloud rising up and over my vehicle, peeking out from a lower layer of cloud which smoldered with an impossible shade of purple deepening to black.  If I’d had a camera with me I would certainly have stopped to take a picture of that sky.  Also, I might easily have died.

Instead, I kept driving and as the road turned and dipped down into a little valley, suddenly everything changed.  My car skidded to a stop on the wet gravel as I was assaulted by a wall of water mixed with light hail, plummeting from the sky.  I flipped on the headlights and pulled as far into the ditch as was possible, wrenching the hand-break up as far as it would go.

Within moments, in the dim glow of my headlights, I watched as the pelting rain shifted from vertical to horizontal.  And then I couldn’t see anything at all.  The world beyond my windshield was reduced to pitch.  There was only the roar, and the rocking of the car on it’s springs, and lost beneath it all the sound of a young man singing “Dust in the Wind”.

And then it was over.  The darkness, the noise, it all abated almost as quickly as it had begun.  I stayed there, parked at an angle, canted between road and ditch, for several minutes.  I rolled down my window in the light rain and was amazed to discover that there was very little damage immediately around me.  I think the storm skipped over the top of the small valley in which I had been forced to stop.  Further up the hillside, the trees had not faired so well.

As I put the car into gear and began to pull back onto the road, I was nearly sideswiped by a number of vehicles racing down the road in the direction of the retreating storm.  It was the first time I had ever seen storm-chasers doing their thing.  Their small convoy of two black cars and a van looked a lot like the rival team from the movie ‘Twister’, except of course, that movie was still several years away from release at that point in time.

Over the years, when I have shared that story, some have wondered if a prayer wouldn’t have been more appropriate in what could have been my final moments.

To them I say, “Just read the lyrics.”  If ‘Dust in the Wind’ isn’t a prayer, I don’t know what is.

Dust in the Wind 03

When disasters happen, it’s not uncommon to hear questions like “Where is God?” or “Why does he allow these terrible things to happen?”  Sometimes there is even some strange variety of blame involved, as this or that theologian choses to blame the victims for being unrighteous or sinful, and bringing down the wrath of their deity.

People always ask “why” when presented with forces over which they have no control.

The “why’s” are much simpler than most people care to think.

Tornados form because warm and cold air masses sometimes collide in areas where the barometric pressure is low enough to allow their formation.  They destroy our stuff and take our lives because we choose to build neighborhoods in the places where they traditionally form.

The storm was there first, has always been there.  We built in it’s path.  It’s what we do.

The monotheist (who believes that their God makes all the decisions as to who lives and who dies, and when) may be driven to question the storm, to look for a purpose.

I believe in many gods, some of which are manifest, possibly even incarnate within the power of the storm.  The gods I believe in may not decide the where or why of our living and dying, but they are there with us in the moment.  I have no reason to question the storm.  It simply is, and I embrace the power within it, for good or ill.

As many close encounters as I have had over the years, I am still energized and excited by the approach of a severe storm.  I’ll stand in my front yard until the rain begins in earnest, reaching out with my mind and drawing the energy of the tempest into myself.  Sometimes I can feel the electricity crackling between my fingers, feel the energy flowing out of the clouds and into the earth beneath me.  There is a deep spiritual power, a religious awe, inspired by the storm that I cannot deny.

We mourn the dead and we rebuild (hopefully learning along the way to build better shelters), but we need not ask why.  We live and eventually die with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, but the earth and sky.

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Filed under Nature, Prayer, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods