Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rumination, no. 3 | A Pagan Lent

I’m giving up sweets, of course. I always give up sweets. I’m allowing myself a piece of (very) dark chocolate per day (another, possibly two more, if I really need it, if there are dementors about), but no cookies, no candy, no cake or donuts. I want to experience my body sugar-free; I’ve heard tell that without sugar, one’s energy level peaks, and energy is something I could use more of. So. I’m also giving up reading blogs, twitter, and etsy. I suspect this will have the same effect on my brain that my sugar fast will have on my body. I love reading blogs, and I don’t think blogging is a bad thing, of course. I think of blogging as a genuine expression of creativity; blogging develops people as writers, as photographers, as people. I really believe this. But, I also believe that I spend too much time looking at and reading about other peoples’ creations and imagination and not enough time working on projects of my own. I make lists, sure. I bookmark tutorials. But I never actually get any work done. And, I find when looking at so many beautiful things listed on etsy, that I only start wanting; I want, I want, I want. I don't need to want so much, certainly not so much stuff, however beautiful. In fact, I'm trying to declutter my life of stuff. So. And, because I don’t believe an endeavor like this should be entirely subtractive, I will spend the next 40 39 days greeting the morning with a sun salutation. I’m off my game yoga-wise; truth be told, I am off my physical game in myriad ways, so my sun salutation so far is mightily clumsy and embarrassing. But, I have six weeks to practice.

Six weeks is the time it takes to break a habit, or make a habit.

And, these particular six weeks, these Lenten days, are lenctene, the lengthening days, the longer days as we approach spring. I, pagan proud, am taking part in Lent precisely because it is my way of approaching spring, rather than letting spring come to me, ever unprepared and fumbling. I want to be new and ready, and cleansed for the vernal equinox. This is my spring cleaning.

Typically, we non-Christians, or perhaps we Christians, even, think of Lent as a time of deprivation, a time of penance, repentance, and sacrifice. And if there’s one thing a pagan is not, it is self-punishing. I revel in my pagan leanings; I’m allowed to enjoy myself—my pursuit toward the spiritual lies in joy and love, loving and appreciating this life, digging my toes into grass, drinking an evening glass of red, kissing eagerly and sloppily. I don’t put many restrictions on myself. I eat when I’m hungry, and I eat what my body tells me it wants, whether apple slices with peanut butter or red velvet cake. And this system works out for me, because even with my insatiable sweet tooth, my body tells me it wants kale more often than strawberry cow tails. But, there is something to be said about “auspicious changes” and purification: Vacare Deo, to empty oneself so God can fill one up.

I do not fast, in regards to food. I have a blood sugar issue; three hours without food, and in settles a migraine. However, I find it interesting that this time of the year is a natural time of fasting. As Waverly Fitzgerald writes in her essay on Pagan Lent for School of the Seasons, “If you think about what’s going on in the natural world, these food deprivations make sense. This part of early spring is the most hazardous time of the year for people living close to the earth. The first bitter greens are just emerging. Fresh eggs are not yet available. The foodstuffs, particularly the salted and smoked meat, that were stored to carry the family through winter may be giving out. The potatoes and apples left in the cellar are getting soft and of dubious quality.” Fitzgerald quotes Caroline Walker Bynum’s Holy Feast and Holy fast, “Fasting is in rhythm with the seasons, scarcity followed by abundance.”

In other words, if I am one day as self-reliant as I hope to be, and as much of a locavore, I may be forced to fast whether I want to or not; food, raw food, will be getting much scarcer these next six weeks. And, in a way, food is getting much simpler at the House of Vaughn. After a couple weeks of unsettled stomach, Wolfman has declared that he no longer thinks we should eat out at restaurants—even at the “nice” (read: teetering toward expensive) restaurants, we can’t be sure of the quality of food they’re feeding us. Sure, the food is prepared beautifully, but I’m concerned about any menu that offers fried green tomato sandwiches in December. And where is this meat coming from? What is in this cheese? Of course, our concerns are not isolated, and a thriving locavore restaurant industry is cropping up in Durham and Chapel Hill, but Durham and Chapel Hill are just far enough from our little Apex to be a hassle—as in, I’d be so hungry traveling to one of those restaurants, we’d probably have to stop at a gas station for overly processed slim jims.

And in other ways, too, the timing just happens to be perfect for a simplification and evolution in our lives. I, without really thinking, gave my two weeks’ notice at my evening job two weeks ago. My last day is tomorrow, after which I will finally have time to cook dinners again, and bake hearty bread, to keep a tidy house. And, rather than falling dead tired on the sofa for endless episodes of Star Trek (in any incarnation) at the end of my heretofore 12-hour day, Wolfman and I can start having our two evenings a week without TV. We’ve tried this before, with limited success, obviously. But, the plan is for two evenings out of the week to be spent reading, talking, listening to music, enjoying each other's company, rather than sitting in front of a TV.

Besides, Lent, or a heathenish version of it, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to celebrate the passing seasons, as well. I’ve made a Vernal Equinox pinboard, trying to gather inspiration. I feel most at home, most comfortable in Autumn and Winter, so truth be told, it’s sometimes difficult for me to celebrate Spring. Spring in North Carolina only means Summer, Part 1, after all—climate-wise, that is. And by the time Summer Solstice rolls around, I am usually so sweaty and bug-bitten and headachy that the thought of celebrating seems like a cruel joke. But, this is my year of Positivity and Activity. I’m celebrating Spring by buying a flower press and setting out bird feeders. And, let us not forget planting. My seed catalogue came in the mail yesterday, finally. I’m a little behind, but, as I never cease to complain, summer in North Carolina lasts a very long time. I have months to catch up. And I have Lent, and all that sugar-less energy, to get to work on planting.

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