Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Collecting Dreams

"God said to Abraham 'kill me a son.'
Abe said 'man you must be puttin me on.'
God said 'no.' Abe said 'what?'
God said 'you can do what you want Abe but
next time you see me coming you better run.'"
   ~Bob Dylan

                     Continuing the discussion with Jenna St. Hilaire and Mr. Pond

Myths can be difficult to collect and to study. But to understand them we must collect, we must study, and we must immerse ourselves in the ever changing relationship between myth and culture. Because when a myth is living, it is in constant flux, and even within a culture, the relationship to the mythology is varied - Jenna rightly describes our own culture as "an enormous sampler platter both for use and study, not only of belief systems but of exaggerated tales" in which we search for things to believe in, and for fresh ways to experience what we do believe in.

Jenna writes that she loves fantasy fiction because it allows her to "take a night off" from the polarizing aspect of living mythology, from religious, social, and political conflicts and immerse herself in a comforting  mythology, one that lives, but that may not be so polarizing. Right now, as the discussions around me because increasingly full of conflict, it is refreshing to take refuge in soothing mythologies, both real and fictitious. I'm fortunate that my home is full of both - it's easy to feel healed in the mythology of living when surrounded by candle-light, reading about Long Meg and Her Daughters, standing stones which no man man can count, while coyotes howl in the night. My own collection of myths is full of tales of Christ coming hidden in the night, of saints who hide among the birches to keep the evil out, of feasts, and fasts, and reasons to avoid mirrors at night. Like Jenna's retreat into fiction, my mythology strengthens me, allowing me to resurface calmer, stronger, and kinder than I could be alone.

Understanding mythology is like collecting dreams, something is always left out, forgotten or misplaced. The essence of myth is not something that can be studied, it can only be experienced. The stories and characters can be written down, studied, and known, but the essence is elusive, like a half-remembered dream.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mythmaking: Beauty and the Boss

A discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

"Remember the morning we dug up your gun
the worms in the barrel, the hangin' sun"
 ~Bruce Springsteen

Every time and place needs it's own mythology, it's own prophets and poets and myth-makers, the "necessary other" as Kathleen Norris calls them. They create myth by being so much a part of the world they live in that they understand in an interior sense what drives their people. Myth-makers pull moments out of time to make them mean more than the moment could on it's own, and as Jenna reminds us in her post, "Myth is not made alone," it belongs to the whole culture. The myth-maker weaves the dreams of his society into realities that hover just out of sight, dreams that are sometimes joyful and sometimes nightmares.

When I think of our myth-makers, I think first of the Boss, whose lyrics make myth out of the mysteries of American life, out of factory work, long drives at night, out of trampled dreams and broken love. Like the character's Jenna so loves in her writing, it's " dear these people are" - unreal, imaginary, but "more true than if it had really happened" (Hemingway), the people of myth populate our souls, forcing us to grow into a muturity they can never reach. Myth-makers are artists, shaping the souls of those who fall into the myth, they offer each of us a chance to believe in beauty, to remember who we are, and to step out again into life, strengthened and renewed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


 In Icons of the Christ-child, his little feet are shown to remind us of his humanity - that he walked on the earth, with dirt between his toes and perhaps blisters where the sandal-strap rubbed. The feet in Icons are a constant reminder of God-made-man, his physicality and his life in the world.

It's amazing to see the newness of baby feet, with none of the signs of use they'll pick up soon enough. They remind us of Christ, who makes all things new - baby feet and spring blossoms - all in the proper time and place, all with the joy of freshness and love - just to watch them grow old and rich and full of stories.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn Cleaning

"The materiality of the writer's life cannot be exaggerated."

After college I pared down to what could fit between the doors of my green Focus with the racing tires and opinionated bumper. I had my little kiln, my wheel, and 100 pounds of clay. The spaces between were crammed with books, silks, scarves, pots I loved, and a Rubber Tree Plant that grew in my grandparent's house on Telegraph sitting shot-gun beside me as I took off down the road.

Now, cleaning for three, things cannot be abandoned with such ease. My house is full: skirts, boots, diapers; Saints and feathers, books and herbs. I've set down roots and my life is spreading. Now the road is a pathway, not a destination. I'm a housewife with chickens to feed, a baby, a dog, and a to-do list that goes on until eternity. It's a comfort, direction is something I'd hoped to find driving mapless across the East. This year I scrub my floors and wash my walls under the gold of my maples and know where I'm headed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I'm thrilled with the responses I've gotten to my post on the words that define us: masculine, feminine, feminist, etc, and thrilled that the responses are so polite and so different. The most interesting part of the discussion for me is how varied the reactions to the word "feminist" are. In one of my discussions, a woman defined herself as a feminist because she expects her husband to work so that she can stay home with their children, do heavy work for her, and support her as she does "womanly things" which led me to post some thoughts on a woman's role "in the home" on Piekno. In the same discussion, another woman defined feminism as the desire for equality in work, wages, and education, and in our blog discussion, Laura, defined feminism as simply, "people are people, don't be a jerk" while both Jenna and an anonymous commenter considered feminism in a harsher light, as women who don't seem to like men and masculinity much. 

When I think of feminism, I think of Kathleen Norris, and because of her I also think of the Virgin Martyrs of early Christianity. I think of my sister and her husband - who makes every family gathering more peaceful and pleasant, of my grandmother, my great uncle, and of many good friends from school. I don't think of man-haters, in part because of the men I know who are non-self-loathing feminists. I also don't think of myself.  I can't get past the impression the word gives, of being in favor of one sex over another. Though the feminists I've known don't hold to that understanding, the basic definition is hard to ignore.  In practice, unfortunately, I see more man-bashing in non-feminist circles, which saddens me.  I also noticed that the sort of feminist I generally encounter is incredibly supportive of my life at home, I've never felt in any way dismissed by them for being "just a stay-at-home wife/mother/potter/writer" with no career goals whatsoever, though they are typically viewed as extremely against women in the home. I think though, feminists are primarily against women staying home because they believe it is the only way to be a good wife and mother. As I watch women I know work, raise children, and hold their homes together, I wonder how they do it (I can't even manage to finish my road) but when I see their children happy, healthy and well-loved, when I see their husbands supported and supportive, I can't fault them for adding a career to the mix and living at a faster pace than I choose to.

So what am I? A woman who stays home with her daughter and dog, lifting heavy things when life demands it, scrubbing floors, tending the fire, and drinking too much tea while pots dry. Staying far away from labels that can't quite fit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dreams for Night and Day

I've been looking for ways to make each day holy. Primarily by reducing the things that clutter, organizing what remains, and returning to some semblance of order. It's difficult to build a schedule for myself when my life lacks any formal organization, but because I'm attracted to order, in moderation, I continually pursue it.

Yarrow's tiny feet and hands are so clear, just a few little lines, and so long. She reminds me of an elf, or a little fairy child. We call her a changeling, when she sits in judgement on the people around her. So aware.

Autumn nights are my favorite. Chilly and bright, but not the frigid, snowy nights of winter. I like the smell of falling leaves and woodsmoke and the bright starry skies. I love the crunch of frost under my feet in the early morning, and the late pink dawns.

Our priest is a dual-rite Byzantine, hoping to start a small Eastern community up here. I'm hoping he will, I miss my Liturgy. The Latin Mass is lovely, but I would love to have a Byzantine parish again.  October brings to mind all manner of night-time traditions with candles and prayers and Icons. It feels magic, with the wind in the leaves and the living skies, a month when anything can happen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Imaginative Reality

Jenna and Mr. Pond are very patient with me. Yesterday I really should have gotten into town and written my post, but Matka is still up, the sun was out for a few hours, and Yarrow has been driving more than she'd like. Life is altogether a little more social than I'm used to and it takes it's toll on my writing, my mood, and apparently, my health - today I'm down with a wretched cold, and feel a bit guilty sitting in a corner of my least favorite cafe in town. Sorry for the delay!

“Scattering a thousand graces,

He passed through these groves in haste,
and looking upon them as He went,
left them, by His grace alone,
clothed in beauty.”
   ~St. John of the Cross

I highly recommend Jenna's post from Monday, which gives not only my favorite definition of myth, but a few of her thoughts about it, which are interesting and insightful. This week we're writing on myth in general, and since I can't add anything really to Jenna's defintion, I'll just add my own thoughts. Myth is too often assumed to be just classical mythology, primitive stories, and pagan beliefs. But the definition: "a traditional story, ..typically involving supernatural beings or events" is broad and includes many stories that we take for granted today. Christ is a mythological figure, as is St. Francis, and my daughter's patron, Paraskeva, who comes to stick the negectful mother with knitting needles, or spin the wool of the overburndened housewife. They are traditional stories, and the events fall within the realm of the supernatural, but the people themselves are real and living, and the stories continue to have meaning to those who know them, as do the smaller myths: the apple-tree man who keeps the last of the season's harvest for himself, the fern-flower that blooms among the faires once a year, and the belief that the surprise guest on Christmas Eve is Christ in disguise. Little myths, big Myth, weave in with reality as we know it to make the rich tapestry of reality, full of half-hidden truths and beautiful mistakes.