Thursday, October 30, 2014

Keeping the Hallowed in Halloween: The Final Chapter

I'm just back from a Halloween parade in nearby Snob Township. I marched in it. My good ol' friend the Monkey Man called me a few hours before it started and said he was going to go as Walt Whitman. So I put on my Civil War recon gown and went to meet him.

Gotta love the Monkey Man. He didn't dress as Walt Whitman. He dressed as Leaves of Grass. I'll have a photo for you in a day or two. Snob Township has a nice little Halloween parade on October 30 every year. They even dole out cash prizes for best costume -- and the competition is serious. Still, I think Monkey Man has a good chance. There's nothing quite so compelling as a six-foot-plus fellow all done in green construction paper, covered with ripened stalks of grass and lines from Walt Whitman.

Can you imagine this holiday coming and going, and you not recognizing it in any traditional manner?

That's what some ultra Christian families ask of their children. They have "harvest festivals" in the church basement, where kids come dressed as their favorite Bible character (other than Satan, of course.)

If you think about it, celebrating Halloween inside just seems completely wrong. It's a night that begs you out into the air. March in a parade. Watch a parade. Trick-or-treat. Light a bonfire. Breathe that autumn air. Visit a haunted house. Sometimes it's cold. Sometimes it's wet. Doesn't matter, it's a time to be outdoors.

The dark nights are nigh. We'll be hunkered by the fire for months. So this is the opportunity, the sacred opportunity, for youngsters to get outside, to exercise their imaginations, to walk the streets in drifts of colored leaves. We are celebrating something very ancient here, and it still feels right.

What's a Christian to do? Enjoy yourself! Don't be so scared. Don't judge. Don't feel put upon. Give those kids bags and costumes, and let them run the streets for one night. And not dressed as Moses, either.

Let us all have a wonderful Samhain weekend. I'm going to get some rest, then have a Ritual with my little Druid Grove. And I can't wait until the little kids come around in their costumes! I'll be on the porch, with my jack-o-lantern and my sage stick, ready to liberally bestow Skittles on the populace. I've got fudge for my dad, and chicken for my mom, And a shrine that I'll light up as the darkness descends.

Blessings to you all.

From Anne
The Merlin of Berkeley Springs

Monday, October 27, 2014

Duck Travesty

I just spent a fruitful half hour looking at Snobville's annual water and sewer report, and a larger geological study of the aquifer from which Snobville draws its water by way of local wells.

"Why bother, Anne?" you ask.

Well, it's like this. The devil ducks have descended on Snobville.

Snobville currently has local control of its water supply. But the small city council has decided that, despite reporting the water and sewer in Snobville to be good every year since 1980, we suddenly need a Big Brother Devil Duck to run our water for us.

That Devil Duck is a publicly traded corporation known as New Jersey American Water.

New Jersey American Water really wants Snobville to sell out.

Of course, this is a matter for voters to decide. The referendum will be on our ballot next week.

Our city council has threatened much higher water bills if we don't sell out to Devil Duck. Through a six-month campaign of glossy brochures, door-to-door canvassing, swag giveaways, and "meet and greets," Devil Duck has told us all the wonderful things they'll do for us if they own our water. The first and most important thing they'll do is fix our "failing" sewer system. And they promise not to raise rates for the first three years.

Readers, you're smart people. What do you think Devil Duck really wants?

Snobville is one of the oldest boroughs in this county, and its wells sink deep into a three-tier aquifer. The upper tiers of the aquifer are at risk from saltwater incursions. Not so much Snobville's level.

And then there's the average income of a Snobville resident. It's high. (Sadly, this author is way below average.)

At the recent Snobville Fall Festival, Devil Duck Water, Inc. had a huge booth, prominently placed, where every kid was given a cute rubber ducky and every adult a backpack, pens, brochures, and other goodies. There were earnest employees there to speak to concerned citizens. They had an answer for everything, let me tell you.

But because Mr. J snarkily introduced me as an "expert" on water, I did not speak up as Mr. J engaged in discussion with Devil Duck. Why bother? I had already decided that no company with honest intentions would spend so much money up front to court voters. Other New Jersey American Water customers paid for all the swag doled out in Snobville. Gosh, that's enough right there for this suspicious Pagan.

Wait. There's more.

As part of their "display," the good folks from Devil Duck had an old section of pipe with mineral buildup in it. The thing looked icky, and sure enough, people were walking by and viewing it with dismay. Alongside the icky one was a "new," Devil Duck-treated pipe with some kind of icy-looking polymer in it that just glowed in perfection.

There's nothing icky about those old pipes. The buildup restricts water flow and puts a little rust in the water. That's it.

The Devil Duck representative pointed out the difference in pipes to me and Mr. J. That's when I said, "So, what's wrong with this one, other than that it will keep my house pipes from blowing out?" And that's when Mr. J (uncharacteristically I quickly add) discounted my knowledge of water pipes by snarking that I was an "expert."

Water is a finite resource, just like everything else. Water rights will be more valuable than oil rights by the end of this century. I am dead certain that Snobville's residents are going to clutch their new American Water swag as they sign away the village's local control of its most precious commodity. But as for me and my house, we will never vote away our water rights.

You know how long I've understood the value of water? Ever since I was a kid in Appalachia, and my granddad and I had to drive to the public spring to fill jugs when our seasonal spring went dry in July. I remember Granddad looking at the burbling perfection of that public spring and saying, "The man who has this on his property has something."


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Vaccination Frustration

None of us are old enough to remember the killer bugs of the first half of the 20th century. Thirty years ago I knew one elderly polio survivor who had a great deal of trouble walking. But he was at least alive. Polio was a serious fear for every parent.

In the 1960s, I contracted rubella. It was sort of like chicken pox (which I also had), but the bumps were smaller. I recovered in about two weeks. Something had changed, though. One of my eyes went all fuzzy. I couldn't see out of it anymore. Because I still had a good eye, I was able to keep this sudden change secret ... until the school nurse tested me and called my parents on the phone.

In college I had a boyfriend whose mother got rubella while she was pregnant. When she gave birth, her twins were both deaf.

For me, it was a no-brainer to give my daughters the full flight of vaccinations, which now included rubella. If there is indeed a link between a small numbers of children and reactions to the vaccines, I would say it is still not as deadly as getting the diseases that the vaccines protect us against.

Every October, I get a flu shot. Again, a no-brainer. I work in a school. I'm around 500 people a day. I've had the flu, and what I find it to be is a terrific consumer of sick days. At my age, I need my sick days to pile up in case I get something more serious.

On Wednesday I got my flu shot and gave it no more thought. Sadly, one of my colleagues had a mild cold and called out on Thursday.

It's Saturday, and I'm too sick to move from the chair. I would probably have a mild cold today, but I sent my immune system into overdrive. It's fighting both the cold and the fake flu, and the cold is winning.

When I look out the window, I see a glorious autumn Saturday. I'll miss it. Sunday looks like a wash too.

It's frustrating, but I have no regrets. While I hate GMOs and fracking, I'm more bullish on vaccination programs. This may be because I remember seeing polio, and I remember having rubella. Glad those plagues are in the archives.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hoping for Some Dull Moments

Yesterday afternoon I went to the doctor for a checkup. She told me that a medication I've been taking for 25 years has been linked with Alzheimer's Disease. I had two great-aunts who had that illness. My mother also basically died of dementia.

Already I have been forgetting things and getting confused about appointments and stuff. I've been chalking it up to sleep deprivation, but damn. I don't want Alzheimer's Disease.

So now we embark on a bold new initiative.

As long as things are dull as dirt, I have a chance.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Keeping the Hallowed in Halloween: Decorating with Taste (or not)

Wow! I don't know whether to feel like Charley Brown and decry this as crass commercialization, or to slobber with jealousy. Extra Chair and I went to a Halloween party together, and this is what the foyer of the house looked like.

My photo doesn't do it justice.

The rest of the home was similarly stuffed with Halloween decor, though not nearly as over the top as this.

As for me and my house, I keep things simple. I bought three autumn-colored scented candles at South Jersey Pagan Pride Day, but then I kind of went nuts that very night, and ...

So, which is more tasteful, the multi-jack foyer or the candle porn? You tell me!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Samhain 2014: Buying Maple Walnut Fudge

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," proudly Pagan Lite since 2005! Here's my wacky, weedy, poorly-tended but sincere Path.

In October the Veil between worlds thins, and those who went before us come back to take a look around, drop a howdy on us, and perhaps partake of some goody that they loved while they were here. Sometimes they will let you know exactly what they want, too.

Today Snobville had yet another festival. This little town never saw a street it didn't want to close to traffic on a Saturday. So there were crafters, and photographers, and candle-makers, and all those sorts arrayed all around the town. The weather was gorgeous, so Mr. J and I joined the other Snobvillians to walk around and ogle the wares. (Please don't remind me that the autumn colors are at their peak in the mountains. I know that, and I'm homesick.) Strolling through "downtown" Snobville seemed like a good way to waste a few hours and a few ducats.

There was a portly gent selling home made fudge. This is one of my favorite foods. If I was to be stranded on a deserted island with only one thing to eat, I believe I would ask for a crate of peanut butter fudge.

You know these artisan types. The fudge is four bucks a square, two for seven, or buy four, get one free.

Having missed lunch, Mr. J and I had no problem grabbing four flavors, but then it came time to choose a fifth.

The vendor said, "Here's maple walnut. It's really good."

Almost to myself, I said, "Oh, that was Dad's favorite."

The vendor heard me. He shouted, "GET SOME FOR DAD!"

And that brought me to my senses.

Halloween is still with us, after 1500 years of Christianity, because our families over there want to see us here. They are influencing the holy day from their side of the Veil. My dad wants some fudge! The vendor told me so!

I got a brick of maple walnut and will begin putting pieces of it on the Shrine of the Mists next Friday evening. My mom liked chocolate. I got some for her too.

It makes perfect sense to me now. When it comes to keeping the Hallowed in Halloween, we've got partners beyond the Veil.  This is the day that the Dead have made. We should rejoice and be glad it it.