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Arden Raine is an ex-theatrical making sense of life through many lenses.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Terrible Harvests

The cross quarter is almost upon us. Whilst most modern pagans celebrate the first of the harvests on August the first, I have always been moved to offer my first fruits on the actual cross quarter. Which this year is August 6th.

To be frank Lammas, Loafmas, PR Lughnassa has always been a nearly imperceptible blip on the calendar of life to me.

I always leave offerings but not much more than that. The core of the holiday has always been lost to me.

But in the last year my new practices and life's terribleness has brought the concepts at the heart of this day to crystal clarity.

I am currently living in an almost giddy place of reaping.

My oath of creation given in front of Kindred and Grove in Yule is in it's fullness.

Since December of last year I have created puppets and props for theatre, jewelry and dolls, this blog, a portfolio fat with photography, a lush garden grown for the first time from seed to fruits by my own hand, poetry, endless hours of imaginary play with the kidlet and I had the honor of working with a good friend in an art installation that paired the ideas of our children and the artistic skills of both kidlet and parent into summer joy.

That's a lot of creating.

By the way if you are in Pittsburgh and want to see the collaborative art piece my child and I added to it's called: What if airplanes were lawnmowers? And it opens tonight at 5031 Penn Avenue.
And the windows are going to be up until the end of August.

So thus far I have kept my oath and kept it well.

I didn't make the child we wanted though. We couldn't bring that bit of magic forth. Not because our bodies were fallow but because life couldn't be arranged to let my womb expand without shrinking our current state of prosperity into poverty once more. That sacrifice hurts beyond measure at times.

But that is part of the darker side of the cross quarter. The part we try to bury in the high energy of bringing in the first bumper crops of the year. Be those crops grain or tomato or umbrella fairies in mason jars.

There's a cost. The ferry man must be paid. This High Day requires sacrifice.

And this essay is about what I had to give away to gain this prosperity. And my thoughts on what I should offer up to Sovereignty this year to hold the place for next year's bounty.

Last August my Gram died. She was almost 85. She died as she wanted at home in her sleep.

My Gram was for most of my life my Mother. She was the once who watched me as a child. She shopped with me for prom. She helped me dress for my wedding.

But my relationship with her, the woman I loved best in this world, was strained. She was passive aggressive and manipulative. She gave me almost as many phobias as my mother.

She was harmful and hurtful and soul crushing in her guilt.

But I was denied all access to her in her last days by her children. Her selfish and cruel children. Who denied everyone's pain or claim to her as mother but their own.

Two days before she died my child asked to call her Grammy and sing to her. So we called and my three year old sweetly sang her ABC's to make her Grammy happy. As with all my calls it was unanswered and the song was sung to the voicemail. Which plays as it is recorded.

In a normal family such a thing is a treasure. A gift of sweet joy given in love for another's happiness. In my family I get a viciously aggressive call about how dare I upset my grandmother with such selfishness.

My gram and I had stopped having a relationship actually my whole family was cut off by me for a while at the behest of my therapist.

A perfect storm example of why: in 2006 I began the darkest part of my healing from childhood abuse. I almost lost my life to the PTSD and the reclaimed memories. As I desperately reached out to get support from those who failed me as a child I was met with "get over it " "why can't you move on" and "how dare you bother me with this? " so my therapist said cut your loses.

What I did do was face the honesty about who my family were. I had to strip the candy coating off of my memories and relationships. I had to face my anger and resentment over their participation in my incest and other abuses by myself with no reconciliation. And still I tried to be a good daughter/granddaughter.

But that ended the day my favorite Aunt died. But that's the issue. No one told me. For ten days! Not a single soul thought the death of my forty something aunt was important enough to share. But when I somehow by osmosis didn't know she had died and hadn't properly shown my respects to them in their grief I was the worst monster ever born. I flipping lost it. I closed that door forever.

But forever lasted about eight months as I had conceived our child. My DH and I decided it was cruel and wrong to deny our child a relationship with my family. So I sucked up my valid resentment and packed away my heartbreak and opened up the door for my child. All while standing vigilant to make sure my daughter isn't harmed by the narcissism and casual cruelty that is my family.

Fast forward to last August. My grandmother is dying from breast cancer. My brother is in jail. My family is making me keep quiet about him to Gram because the shock would hurt her. I am lumped into actions my brother did in regards to my Gram that I had no knowledge of and thusly I am denied the right to say goodbye. Or I love you. Or sing my ABC's. I knew this was going to be the case but forewarning didn't soften the blow one bit.

I was given her ashes. A gift of compassion I have no words to express my gratitude for. I try not to allow the reality that death scares my family silly and that the gesture is as I hope it to be a gracious gift and a vote of confidence that I will care for my grandparents cremains in tenderness instead of a matter of convenience.

My Gram's death has been a sacrifice of terrible proportion.  I've had to give up my pain to soothe the hurt of those who ripped my heart from my chest. I've had to swallow my rage at being denied the right to say goodbye. I've had to offer up my pain and I rage to no one but my Kindred for sympathy and concern so that my pain did not create more in her legitimate children. I've had to break my brother's heart by being the only one to tell him his beloved Grandmother was gone as he sat behind bars alone and too far for me to comfort him.

I've been blessed to be able to harvest that loss and pain into life and art and new relationships.

But I'd give anything to hug my Gram and say I love her and I forgive her.

So as I gather the fruits of this year's labor and acknowledge the anniversary of my mother's passing I cannot help but wonder what sacrifices will be paid in the coming year.

As I make offerings to the Kindred, this up coming Tuesday, in thanksgiving and supplication for the bounty of this year and the hopes for the future I pray that the cost of passage isn't as dear.

I have the greatest respect for the wheel we are all tied to. I know that it is in death we all are given the gifts of life.

But as we all begin to prepare for the fallows of the up coming winter please don't smother the decay under bushels of sunflowers and loaves of wheat shaped bread. See the offered up lives as sacred but acknowledge that they are deaths.

The reincarnation of gathered seed in August does not grow the identical shaft next May. But life still continues the same but undeniably different than before.

Life continues through death. But that's the joy. The promise of life because ofthe sacrifice of death.

I have a deeper relationship with my father because of my Gram's passing. I have been more prolific in artistic endeavors because my grief needed an outlet.

I see a thousand little things that let me glimpse what I've gained and lost everyday in my child. She has my Gram's crooked smile just as I do.

My fellow Neo Pagans take stock, honor the sacrifices that have brought you abundance, give your best in hopes that you may have greater to give away in the future.

And most importantly rejoice in your abundance. It was hard earned by terrible sacrifices each and every day.