P is for Practice – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Continuing with the themes I explored in my two “O” posts, I’m looking at “practice” in the sense of “getting better at, over time, with consistent effort”. Very much like what Calamity Jane talks about in The Incredible Power of Habit. Very much like singing or meditation, cooking or tango. You get better at it, the more you try.
Erica, over at NW Edible, has an old post in-which she defends the enthusiasm of people who are crowing to the blogosphere about how they’ve just made their first batch of lacto-fermented pickles, or yoghurt, or home-made bread, or what-have-you. You know, crowing just like I do all the time (thank you for your patience). But something she says in it resonates a fair bit: The beginner is pushing back against “Normal” (or at least normative) behaviours, and she’s doing at the beginning, when those push-backs are still hard and scary.
So it is with syncing up with your local year-wheel. So it is with getting to know The Neighbours.
You don’t practice cooking by setting out to make a nine-course meal. You practice cooking by making pancakes from actual-scratch, rather than from pancake mix, on the weekend. You practice cooking by making half a dozen hard-cooked eggs and packing them in to work with leftover spaghetti (made, quite possibly, from store-bought sauce that you bravely spiced up with a handful of dried herbs and a clove of pressed garlic). And then you practice cooking some more by skipping the store-bought sauce, and dicing up a couple of tomatoes to go with those herbs and garlic instead. You do it in steps, not leaps.
And that matters.
Connecting with The Land has to happen in stages, and I don’t mean the part where it can take a while (possibly a very looooooooooong while) for the neighbours to be inclined to get to know you back . (Well, okay, that too, but…) I mean that part that you actually have control over.
It happens by taking regular walks and noticing where the moon comes up on the horizon, how it shifts over the course of a year, where the edible wild plants are growing and whether or not you can safely take them home (to eat, to transplant). It happens through noticing where the quiet places are that the houseless folks sleep, and noticing the other quiet places where they don’t, and maybe – slowly, carefully, cautiously – opening up to asking why that is[1]. It happens by paying attention – both in the sense of noticing what’s happening (listening, watching, learning), and in the sense of giving people your attention – literally paying up front – by cleaning, feeding, offering, and walking lightly where you tread.
Step one, as the Permies say, is always Observation. Learn what the site – the yard, the neighbourhood, the house, the scrub-lot – has to tell you through your senses. What do you see, hear, smells, taste (careful now), and feel on your skin? All those Lunar Cycles posts I make? Those are my Observations; my years-long, on-going recording of my neighbourhood (and, to some extent, bioregional) Wheel.
What you do beyond that, how you go about interacting with the rest of the place of-which you are a part, can go in a lot of directions. But slow-and-steady is probably your best bet. Today might be kitchen composting. Tomorrow (or next month, after you’re in the habit of not throwing your biodegradable food waste in the trash) might be kitchen composting and Foodland Ontario produce; or kitchen composting and weekly water offerings made to the tree that grows on the same parcel of land as you do.
Go in steps, but keep on going.
Practice, practice, practice, and see how far you get.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] NOTE: This doesn’t necessarily mean Asking The Spirits – although it’s potentially an option to do so. It might just mean using your eyes and ears and other less Woo senses to determine that, actually, that low hollow spot is a total cold-sink and tends to be soggy on the bottom.


One response to “P is for Practice – Pagan Blog Project 2014

  1. Very Good stuff here. You’ll find my own Observations of the Land under the “poetry” button on my blog. And no sooner did I finish connecting with the Land than I was put under enormous pressure to leave, which … after a couple of years of challenge… I did. Difficult when your home and your work are the same place. Someone in authority kinda realized what I was doing, and started forcing me out. I stayed long enough to put things right, but my — I miss that Place dearly sometimes.

    The work of Practice in pagan circles seems to be more about where you are in life cycles. This seems to change, the older one is. I see young’uns wearing pentacles and doing not much else; the adults may hide the pentacles, but they do a bit more; the elders don’t hide the pentacles, but the goats come when they call. It’s akin to what Benedictine monks say about themselves: “young monks think they’re saints, and they’re not; middle-aged monks think they’re sinners, and they’re right; old monks think they’re not saints, and they’re wrong.” Settling into being pagan — having a household god or faerie or two, observing the wheel with more than just an athame waved over a cup of wine — takes years of practice after years of observation.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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