Whatever

flowerTo bask among your rays, lethal but diluted
Until my bones are baked and skin is scorched
Is to fall fully into temporary grace.

At times you are distant, I am beyond your reach
A fallow field is my heart and my garden
And it is a winter’s longing you teach.

How I love your gentle touch. Your kiss stirs us,
The woods hum with longing for themselves
You are the man of many lovers

One of many mistresses I am, unfolded
In a string of billions of years, I wither
In a blink of your own demise.

After you burn up and fade
Light the universe with a pale candle
To rest the soul of earth in a frosty memory.

For whatever lives forever.

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The Gods in the Garden

When we speak of Deity and the Divine there are many ways to perceive their energy. Do you identify Deity as archetypal energy, part of a larger Limitless Source, purely anthropomorphic or a synthesis of much more? 

I identify both God, who is to me a larger limitless Source, and closer Gods, energies of Beings that have chosen to engage themselves with us on our own plane of existence, the material world. Source cares for us all, but I find it hard to connect with that impersonal Energy. I guess some people can, but that I am just not enough of a mystic. I have always found it easier to relate to more personable Gods. And lately I have chosen to envision the hidden world much as my garden.

springflowers

My small suburban garden houses a myriad of species. Insects and other crawlers, tall trees and humble creeping plants. Glorious flowers and useful herbs. All have their uses, even if all they do is stand around being pretty. Some plants bloom in early spring, many flower in the summer, others in late autumn. And there are the rare species, who have their finest hour during the winter. In essence, all creatures in the garden are the same. They desire sun and rain, nourishment, all are tied to this one source, the One Garden. Yet for all their sameness, there is tremendous variety. Some are gentle and delicate, others are fierce and compete brutally with other beings. I do not have to wait on what the garden presents me. If I want something new to grow there, there is a lot I can do to make it grow and thrive. If I feel one Being gets the upper hand too much, I can prune it to my liking. I can sow new plants, combine and practice cross-pollination to create new Beings. And, if something does not thrive anymore or interferes too much with other Beings, it is possible that this Being disappears from the garden, either by my hand or by its own decision. It might withdraw itself, wither and fade. It may have left a seed though, which might sprout in an unexpected place and time.

I feel it is much the same with the Gods. They come in shapes, sizes, intentions and all in their own time. They are all connected to Source. They grow strong when they are served and acknowledged. Yet they are subjected to the seasons too. When no interest is being taken in them, they starve, or bide their time in the long, dark winter. The old Gods and Goddesses of Europe have lain dormant for many years, in the dried out soil below the towering monotheistic trees. Now that these trees are pruned, a multitude of them sees the sunlight once more. Properly tended, they are woken up and enrich the garden with their presence.

A Lady Who gives and takes

Hier gaan over het tij, de wind, de maan en wij

(“Here the tide is ruled by the wind, the moon and by us.)

Text on a plaque on the artificial island Neeltje Jans, at the storm surge barrier in Zeeland, the Netherlands.

Water, to me, is the fickle element. An element many properties dissolve in, it can embody life, but can also turn out to be the harbinger of death. To me, she is the Blue Lady, She gives and She takes.

My own relationship with the Lady of the Waters is coloured by my place in the world. In the Netherlands, water is abundant, good quality tap water is safe to drink and quite cheap here. Droughts are rare: they hardly ever become critical, there is usually plenty of rain. Yet, the water looms too. All my life, I have lived on stolen land, close to a river and the sea. It was claimed hundreds of years ago, but it lies below sea level. In my lifetime there has never been a real threat of flooding, thanks to an elaborate system of dams and surge barriers. But as sea levels are expected to rise, the threat is growing. It is possible that the larger part of my home country will cease to exist at some point.

Water is also paramount to my own family’s livelihood: our modest affluence comes from living next to Europe’s largest port. Our dealings with the water have been most profitable: the willingness to accept danger by living on lowlands close to the sea made the Netherlands a prosperous country early on in its history.

The Dutch have in the past often outsmarted the water, but there is hubris in this attitude as well. In recent years, instead of only fighting the water, it seems wise to give the water more leeway and create more room for inundation when water levels rise. The problem is that farmers who have worked this land for generations are forced to let go off their land in order to make this happen. I see both sides of this story, there are no easy solutions. In Dutch we have a term called ‘polderen’. We haggle with each other and the water, hopefully reaching a conclusion that is beneficial to all. In the end, though, I feel our future here will be decided by not underestimating the power of water. A healthy sense of awe will perhaps save us.

At one point, I would not mind moving elsewhere in Europe, to a more remote area, safe from the sea. Yet it remains to be seen, whether I would be able to live there permanently. I would miss connecting with Her: walking in the copse by the river, throwing a stone offering amongst the friendly waves. My fate, and especially that of my children, is tied to Her tides of benevolence.

Listening to the dream

Dreams come in all shapes and sizes. There is the garden variety of dreams, the kind you need to digest your daily life. They can be good or bad, but at least you usually know where they come from. Then there are rare, glorious dreams, in which you can fly, or feel very desired and loved. I feel these dreams offer a glimpse of another plane of existence.  Finally, there are the life dreams. These are the recurring kind of dreams that have a profound effect on you, without having any idea of what they are about. My life dream is a nightmare and it has been with me for as long as I can remember. It usually visits me in times of worry and turmoil. Sometimes, the dream itself seems to sleep. Months or even years can go by without this visitation, but sooner or later it always returns. The last few months, I have often had the dream, which is strange. I have been happy, my family is well, there is plenty to look forward too. Why does it haunt me now?

nightmare
It is always the same. I walk in the woods and everything looks lovely. All of a sudden, near a great tree, I become the tree and the roots start dragging me under. At first I feel safe in the earth, but then the roots keep pulling and tugging at me and I dissolve, in a dark, blood red earth with strangling black roots that mean me harm. I lose the struggle, and then I’m dead and buried at once.

After yet again a night of sleep without true rest, I decided to face this demon and tried to capture the dream in a drawing. What struck me first while I was drawing it, is the almost complete absence of green, even though I am supposedly in the woods. Then I finally heard it, as clear as a bell. The dream has nothing whatsoever to do with me personally. I’m fairly certain other people have had this dream too. It is a message.

Now I know, I feel obligated. It makes sense that the dream has returned now: for the last year or so I have had other little nudges that I myself, and we as a people, cannot expect to go about our business in this manner for much longer. But what to do? Where to start? I feel daunted, but awake.

Our home

What the earth means to me.. .
Earth is everything to me. It is our home, my mother. I came from the earth and I know I will return to her someday (hopefully not anytime soon). Earth and nature are at the very core of why I am drawn to spirituality and religion. The awe of its glory and harshness at once, inspired me to seek for a governing principle, only to discover there is none. There are many. As a human, we have to come to terms with the kaleidoscope of reality and the forces that shape it. The biggest task we humans have today, is to learn to live in a respectful equilibrium with the earth. A lesson that is mandatory for all humans, though I seriously doubt we will see the end of this in my lifetime.
On a slightly smaller scale my connection with the earth involves my corner of the world, western Europe. It is where I live and where my ancestors came from. It is the Netherlands, Belgium and France. I care about our way of life, our languages, which are under increasing pressure from both the inside and outside of the society. Our values of liberty, freedom of speech and compassion should not be taken for granted. No one who lives in a land where freedom was threatened severely only a lifetime away, should. Of course my love of my own corner of the world does not preclude my interest in people elsewhere, and the wider universe around us. We are more or less all interconnected by the bonds that link us to this planet in an other wise unknown universe.
Earth has an even more literal, narrow meaning to me. Earth is definitely my element. The trigger that put me back on some sort of spiritual path after I had become disillusioned with Christianity is my interest in gardening. I love getting my hands dirty. The garden is a great metaphor for human life. A garden is our natural habitat, nature plays its part, but so do we, does our culture, as co-creator. It is where both of these parts of the human experience meet. A garden will only work out if you respect the needs of the other living creatures, if you manage to listen to what is unspoken. You have to be ready to get your hands dirty and work in silence to hear the whispers of the other living things. They do whisper, after all, they have their own agendas. The earth is alive and alight with beings, seen and not seen.

The Pagan Experience: humanity

I have decided to join the Pagan Experience blog project. It will be a great way to keep blogging regularly and explore topics I would not have chosen to explore by myself. The theme of this week did not come easy to me though:
‘How do you define “humanity”? What is your contribution to the collective space of humanity? How does your spiritual path support this definition and contributions?’
Hard questions, if you want to truly address them. In short, I think humans live on a fault line. We came from and are still part of the natural world, but also have the means to dream, escape and transcend that world. My guess is our ancestors felt this fault line instinctively, and that is how they came to honour the seasons and practiced sacrifice. They lived in a fragile balance that needed regular adjustment.
Yesterday, I visited the International Film Festival in Rotterdam and saw the film Videophilia by Peruvian director Juan Daniel F. Molero. It was an uncomfortable and disturbing film about non existing barriers between the online and offline world, the real and the surreal. I’m not a regular arthouse cinema visitor. Not being used to films and imagery like this one, I was intrigued by the story. It was a blur of tribal motives in a society quite different from my own. It drew a bleak picture of humanity: completely devoid of value and a sense of community. Of course, it is just a film. Internet is a tool: it can either be a blessing or a curse. But it did make me realize my own generation will likely be the last that still remembers how it was before the internet opened up a world of omnipresent information and communication. I wonder how humanity will evolve under this influence. My personal belief is that a highly technological society will only manage to survive if we find our way back to respecting the earth we came from.
How do my spiritual beliefs align with my definition of what it means to be human?  Right now, my primary task is to raise my children as well as I can, and live in peace and modest prosperity with them and my husband. Maybe this is of little consequence to humanity as a whole. But how could I hope to make an impact later in life while neglecting those who are dear to me now? What’s more: a family is a microcosm of society. If things go well within our home, society will in small, but numerous ways benefit as well. Il faut cultiver notre jardin, the saying goes, we must tend our garden. Of course I hope writing, touching other people with my words, will take on a larger part in my life, but I feel that, like a tree, this will only grow if I take it slow.
My path sustains me, and therefore my family. By feeling connected to the spirits of the land, I have the power to give of myself in all those everyday ways. Postmodern life is troubling, but how comforting it is to know we may turn to ageless tradition and human experience, and connect with the earth once again.