Saturday, October 27, 2018

Interview with an Ancestress: Susan Bennett Imes

It's Samhain coming, and the veil is thin. This is the month when our ancestors draw near, to see us and how we are faring. A few weeks ago, I found this obituary on a Facebook page dedicated to the history of my homeland.

Maybe it was reading the obit. Maybe it just is the Veil. But whatever the case, today on a windy, rainy New Jersey afternoon, I find my great-grandmother's mother sitting here with me in my living room, sharing a glass of apple cider! Please give a warm, wonderful, Gods Are Bored welcome to Susan Bennett Imes!

Anne: Greetings, beloved ancestress! Here, have another macaroon.

Susan: Thank you! These are delicious!

Anne: I have to ask. If you had 65 great-grandchildren (one of which was my dad), how many living descendants do you have now?

Susan: 2,487, maybe another one tomorrow.

Anne: Wow. Just ... wow. How do you keep up with all of them?

Susan: I don't. I'm only interested in the ones who are interested in me.

Anne (preening): People like me, you mean.

Susan: I am actually blessed with many descendants who know my name, and where I'm buried, and other facts from the above obit. If you had ever bothered to ask your dad about me, he would have told you about me. But you didn't.

Anne: Damn. My  bad! He was 14 when you passed! He must have known you.

Susan: Indeed he did. But never mind! I forgive you. Danny Junior isn't a fellow who has a lot to say about family.

Anne: But I heard about him returning a punt 90 yards for a touchdown about 15 times growing up.

Susan: Men. What can I say?

Anne: But let's talk about you! Married at fifteen, eleven children, living in the mountains ... you must have been one hardy individual.

Susan: Hardy and lucky, in equal parts. I almost stepped on a poisonous snake when I was ten.

Anne: Me too!

Susan: Medicine is much improved in your time.

Anne: Oh my, don't I know it. You know, ancestress, I really miss living in the mountains. You were so lucky to be able to spend your whole life in Bedford County.

Susan: Great-great-great granddaughter, you are an idiot.

Anne: I beg your pardon?

Susan: This is part of the reason I'm here. Your homesickness for the ancestral lands is well noted among your people. We think it's sweet. But it's also misguided.

Anne: I must be respectful to you, so I'll listen to your rationale.

Susan: Look how you live. Look at this house! I raised eleven children in four rooms! Look at your fireplace! Look at the upholstery on this sofa!

Anne: Well, yes, I am rather fond of this upholstery. White is hard to keep up, you know.

Susan: In a poor-soil agrarian community with a large family, it would be completely impossible to keep up. Or even to purchase. Anne, I'll be blunt: You live like a queen.

Anne: Me? GGG Grandma, you are mistaken! I'm struggling middle class... You have descendants that I personally know who are far better off than me!

Susan: They haven't invited me by for cider and cookies. And I don't care how much better they have it. I'm only looking at you. And you have such an easy life.

Anne: Easy? Easy? I teach school! I'm being observed Monday afternoon by a brand new administrator!

Susan: I quit school at age 12. Education is a blessing.

Anne: But look at this flat land! A whopping four feet above sea level, and the only hills are built by bulldozers. I miss the mountains so much!

Susan: The soil in your back yard is richer than the best dirt my garden ever had. And you don't even have to have a garden. You don't have to grow anything, and watch it dry in a drought, or get eaten by weevils, or grow rust in wet weather. In your whole life you have never lost a single crop. Now let's look again at this house. It's cold and wet outside, but in here the temperature is perfect! Two automobiles in the driveway outside ...

Anne: Well, one-and-a-half. I would hardly call The Bucket ...

Susan: Two.

Anne: Yes ma'am.

Susan: That stove of yours is a marvel. And two flush toilets inside. You say you miss the mountains?

Anne: The air. The views. The solitude.

Susan: Visit whenever you like, Anne. The flatland is better. Please take it from me. I would know.

Anne: Such wisdom I've gained from you, in such a short time! But there is one thing. We are living in very dark times, respected ancestress. Our president is a horror, and there's hate afoot in the land.

Susan: Child. I lived through the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the First World War, and part of the Second World War. Plus the 1919 influenza and the Great Depression. Again, I am not impressed by your current political situation. If you're not standing in line for soup or rationing sugar and practicing for air raids, you are doing okay.

Anne: But, can you see into the future?

Susan: No. Thank goodness.

Anne: You've certainly given me something to think about GGG Granny. Will you stick around for Samhain? I'll show you some pictures of some of your other descendants on my computer.

Susan:  No thank you. As I said, if they aren't interested in me, I'm not interested in them.

Anne: It's their loss. You're a wise woman, strong, and awesome.

Susan: Oh my lordy ... are you putting sour cream in mashed potatoes? Throw that out!

Anne: Hang on, sweet lady. You're in for a treat.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The High Cost of Halloween

No one would ask a public school teacher to work on Christmas. It's a holiday.

Except if you're a Pagan, the holiday is December 21, and we're always still in school on that day.

For me, it gets worse.

As a Pagan, I need to take off work on Samhain.

Now, if I was a Pagan student, I would get the day off with no penalties. Teachers don't get that opportunity. If I want to celebrate the most important holy day on my yearly calendar, I have to lose either a sick day or a personal day.

So, what's the big deal about calling out sick on Halloween? Well, I did a little bit of math. For my first eight years of teaching, I am in a pool where I will be compensated $70 per day for unused sick or personal days. I have taken off Samhain (either one or two days, or one-and-a-half days) every year since I started teaching. Eight years, $70 per year ... That's $560. Throw in Imbolc, which I also take off every year, and the pot jumps to $1120.

Where's that war on Christianity that the moron Sessions is crowing about?

This looks to me like discrimination. Trust me, I'm watching our political events very closely, because I am ready to sue for that entire $1120 if the Christians push too hard on, say, something ridiculous like prayer in school.

Just for the record, I would be very willing and able to come to school on Christmas and teach a full day.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hot and Hotter

When I was cavorting along the Appalachian Trail as a blithe teenager, I never thought I would someday be a woman of a certain age. But there you are. Blink your eyes, and you're a geezer.

One thing about being a geezer, though: It's possible to remember past decades. In my case, I can vividly remember an entire half century.

This is why I can state with absolute certainty that the climate has warmed.

Where are the motherfuckers who deny this? Oh, snap! I forgot! They're in the White House. It's basically the Orange Menace, his Big Oil baron buddies, and the natural gas and pipeline lobbies. They say global warming is a hoax. I cry bullshit.

The Menace is even older than I am. Can it possibly be that he has forgotten frosty Octobers, when the leaves peaked in color the second week of the month? I've lived in various parts of the Mid-Atlantic most of my life, and I clearly recall that Halloweens in the 20th century were cold affairs, possibly with snow and definitely with skeletal trees that had lost every leaf.

Last fall my sister was photographing autumn colors well into November -- a full four weeks later than it used to be.

I wore a sundress to work today. I had to, because it's in the 80s and my room has no air conditioning, only a scant two plastic fans. My students were miserable. And so was I.

It wasn't only the ungodly heat that made me miserable. It was the thought that my students and my daughters are becoming adults and will live with this ever-hotter world, no matter what we do.

I'm rather baffled that anyone over the age of 50 can be a climate change denier. What about your own four senses? Your own memory?

Then I thought, "Well, maybe the changes aren't as noticeable in other parts of the country." Until I heard from my friend in Detroit, complaining about yet another day in the 80s, last week!

I lived in Michigan for four years in the 1980s. It was crisp and cold by mid-September. The trees were bare by early October. It snowed until May.

Storms! Look at these storms! Do you remember a time when we had year after year of killer hurricanes and superstorms? I. Do. Not.

This November, and every November, you should vote Green. I don't mean Green Party, I mean your vote should be for Planet Earth. For poor dear Gaia, Demeter, sweaty Danu!

One more thing before I conclude my rant and go suck some raw eggs.

I am totally convinced that scientists have developed green energy systems that could be put in place within a decade. But their ideas, their technology, is being squashed by the billionaire oil interests. Let the whole world fry, while they rake in the ducats for themselves and their families.

Just answer me this, Mr. Oil Billionaire: What exactly will your great-grandchildren inherit? Pardon my cheek if I suggest they deserve ebola Zaire.

I don't need to have manners anymore. I'm old. And mad. Where's my bludgeon?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Dark Moon Petition to the Goddess Columbia

I salute the hawk of dawn, whose path marks the bounty of the fruitful Earth. I call upon the powers of the East. May there be peace in the East.

I salute the great stag in the heat of the chase, and the crucible of the Sun. I call upon the powers of the South. May there be peace in the South.

I salute the salmon of wisdom who dwells in the pool from which all rivers run. I call upon the powers of the West. May there be peace in the West.

I salute the great bear who shines in the northern sky and marks our paths in the dark of night. I call upon the powers of the North. May there be peace in the North.

May there be peace throughout the land.

Who do I honor on this Dark Moon?

I honor the Goddess Columbia and her angel, Lady Liberty.

Why do I honor the Goddess Columbia and her angel, Lady Liberty?

They stand for all that is good and great in the United States of America: prosperity for the laborer, justice for the oppressed, a home for all the huddled masses yearning to be free.

In these times it is good and right to honor great Columbia. She can move Her citizens to seek the truth and to protect the rights of the vulnerable. She can preside over the health and well-being of Her people. She can right the course of the Ship of State.

And so I petition you, Goddess Columbia, to preside in Your District that bears Your name. Protect the health of Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Move the minds of men to true justice for the people. Your people. Draw more women into your sacred halls of power. And keep them there. Stand strong against the powers of darkness and the tyranny of the minority.

My country, 'tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died
Land of the pilgrims' pride
On every mountainside
Let freedom ring!

Justice to the oppressed. Peace and serenity in our homes. Health and well-being for all. The freedom of body and soul. So might it be.

Let us join in the prayer that unites all Druids:

Grant, O Gods and Goddesses, thy protection, and in protection, strength,
                        And in strength, understanding,
                        And in understanding, knowledge,
                        And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice,
                        And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it,
                        And in the love of it, the love of all existences,
                        And in the love of all existences,
                        The love of the divine and all goodness.

Awen. Awen. Awen.

I salute the hawk of dawn, whose path marks the bounty of the fruitful Earth. I call upon the powers of the East. May there be peace in the East.

I salute the great stag in the heat of the chase, and the crucible of the Sun. I call upon the powers of the South. May there be peace in the South.

I salute the salmon of wisdom who dwells in the pool from which all rivers run. I call upon the powers of the West. May there be peace in the West.

I salute the great bear who shines in the northern sky and marks our paths in the dark of night. I call upon the powers of the North. May there be peace in the North.

May there be peace throughout the land.

This rite is complete. May its petition remain with us in the apparent world.

Blessed be.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Determined To Outlive Them

I've been following the Supreme Court and its decisions closely for years. This year, back in June, the court decided (5-4) to end a 40-year-old precedent of "fair share" dues to public sector unions.

It was a decision that undermines the power of labor unions, who traditionally vote Democratic. And for those of you who think that Roe v. Wade is "settled law?" So was the decision the court overturned on unions!

The Orange Menace, a failed real estate salesman, libertine, and egomaniac, has now seated two men onto the Supreme Court. When I contemplated the Menace's victory, this was not even a worst-case scenario that I imagined. It is, in short, worse than my most bitter imaginings.

Every news outlet agrees that this loathsome appointment will influence the direction of America for 30 years or more.

And so, I, Anne Johnson say ... I'm determined to live 30 more years and vote in every goddamned election between now and then. My daughters know my politics, so if I go demented, I will instruct them how to cast my ballot.

When I went to the Women's March on Washington in 2017, I got caught in a huge crowd. Standing next to me was the most elderly female I have ever seen who wasn't in a wheelchair. She was dressed to the nines, and to get to that place she had to have walked blocks and blocks.

That is going to be me. If need be. Until then, I ride.