Tag Archives: cosmology and axiology

New Moon – Meltwater Moon Begins (#PiscesNewMoon)

Whelp. It’s almost the end of February, it was 11C on Monday (wtf…), we’re due to get snow, freezing rain AND a sudden return to very sub-zero temperatures in the next 48 hours, and Mercury is backstroking through Pisces as I type.
 
I keep getting the suspicion that planetary retrogrades can function a lot like reversed cards in tarot readings. By-which I mean that rather than (or in addition to) being about the “disfunctional” or “negative” or just “difficult” aspects of a thing, reversed/retrograde can point you in a particular direction.
I tend to read upright cards as “this is about the relationship you have with the outside world” and reversed cards as “this is about the relationship you have with yourself”.
And planetary retrogrades can be an opportunity to ask a similar question.
In the case of Mercury – planet of communication and, mythologically speaking, messenger between the various worlds – this retrograde is an opportunity for me to ask myself “What stories am I telling myself? Where I am lying to myself? Where – as Liz Worth suggests – are my actions, commitments, and habits NOT syncing up with the true nature of my most integrated self?
Which is to say, it’s a good time for Shadow Work.
 
So I’m doing some Shadow Work!
Trying to triangulate between (assumptions I make about the nature of) other people’s Stories so that I can uncover some more of my own.
If any of you have ever read Starhawk’s Truth or Dare – and it has a been a looooong time since I read it – you may remember her concept of The Unbreakable Vow. The terrible bargain we strike with ourselves – and, according to our imaginations, with someone else who generally has no idea we’re doing this but upon-whom we are dependent for life-and-death because: attachment bonds – to give up something, or take on something, in order to maintain access to love-and-belonging and therefore to survival.
 
A lot of my stories – a LOT of my stories – are about dropping everything to take care of other people (Who will SURELY reject/abandon me and Leave Me To Die, Frozen and Alone in the Snow if I fail to do this). BUT… I think there’s a flip-side to it. Something that dovetails with my expectations around “Being taken advantage of” or “being used” but isn’t that.
I told myself a story about my mom. About what I suspect her own Story is. That if someone has to be Helpful in order to be Good AKA Safe-and-Loved (which is definitely one of MY stories, too), then on some level that person needs others – attachment-bound others – to be help-LESS.
And so I asked myself if it was possible that I have made some kind of a deal With Myself, the aforementioned Unbreakable Vow, that says:
In order for ME to be safe – to be loved by my mom, instead of punished by her; to be rewarded by an employer instead of punished by them (or fired or whatever); stuff like that – I must remain on some level both compliant (accepting of someone else’s controlling behavior, direction, demands/requests, etc) AND… kind of… at the mercy of the other party in some way that involves “not being able to succeed by myself”.
Like I think there’s another angle to the “giving up my autonomy” thing that shows up under the heading of Compliance, and I’m wondering if this is it.
So that’s something I’m chewing on right now.
 
I’m reading The Secret of the Shadow which… has both useful information (albeit sometimes hard to parse, particularly when navigating the amount of ableism, fatphobia, whorephobia, and other crap that this book is definitely written with – reader beware) AND has… a lot of stuff that feels like work I’ve already done. Which isn’t to say it’s not work I still need to keep doing – when I’m feeling resentful and frustrated about cleaning my house and telling myself “I can’t do XYZ because someone else hasn’t done QRV yet” I need to catch what I’m doing and say “Okay, but is this really about “can’t” or is this about “annoyed because I have do to QRV as well as XYZ”? Like can you actually, in reality, do the thing, and you’re just pissed off?” Because frequently the answer is Yes.
But it’s not a new concept, if you will.
 
I have to tell you: Shadow Work is hard because It’s Annoying. It’s hard to do by yourself without someone to be like “Have you considered this other angle that is NOT just digging down into stuff you already know?” because it’s harder to catch that when it’s YOU doing it. It’s a bit of a slog – and maybe a LOT of a slog – because it’s hard (for me, at least) to tell when I’m making progress vs when I’m kind of maybe going backwards?
But I’m noticing that my throat chakra talks to me when I’m in my shadow-place.
Situations where I have a heap of shame – like Eight of Swords stuff – or am freaking out about a Thing that’s (probably) connected to my Shadow Beliefs (like a few days ago when I was in a work situation where my brain was screaming “No! Don’t tell Them that I don’t Need them! They’ll punish/abandon me!” about a third-party communication and my larynx swelled right the heck up immediately.
It didn’t calm down until that night, when I did my Moon Salutations while singing and consciously using good vocal technique to do so.
 
I think it’s interesting that I have some sort of built in “shut-up-shut-up-shut-up” THING going on that’s so physical and, in retrospect, so recognizable.
I think it’s interesting that my own body has these ways of talking to the words-using part of my brain, and I’m really glad that I’m starting to understand what I’m saying to myself, and under-which circumstances I find myself saying which things. Learning how to recognize where my fears are flaring up, learning how to Not Hide while that’s happening… it’s A Process, I tell you, but it feels good to be doing.
 
In other news, and for the first time in any sort of official capacity, I’m undertaking an Austerity.
This is a thing that comes up in Ms Sugar’s writing with a fair degree of frequency, and which I consistently dislike. But I’m giving it a shot right now because… why the hell not, basically. There are things I need to do anyway, so why not do them with some magical Intention behind them.
My annual Eat From the Larder Challenge has started early this year, and will be running for about ten weeks rather than about four. It is, as usual, somewhat modified. I can restock on food – milk, eggs, coffee, a few other things – that we go through frequently (in part because this is a LONG version of what I’m used to, and in part because this is MY Austerity, not my wife’s), but only if I pay cash, and there’s a limit to how much I can spend in a given week.
It’s a sacrifice of time and energy and easiness, basically, as coming up with tasty dinners and speedy lunches when I can’t decide to Just Buy Something is… tiring, to say the least.
 
I have bread rising right now. I’ll be making another batch of Hippie Muffins (think: lots of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds plus fruit butter standing in for the majority of the sweetener) later today. I need to put a bowl of chick peas on to soak, and another one of green lentils. I may or may not set up some mung beans to sprout while I’m at it.
I have plans for a lentils-and-kale soup with dried tomatoes and spicy sausages thrown in for this evening (with home-made bread) and for a zucchini-and-tomato bread pudding for tomorrow night. Pan-fried fish with rice (or maybe quinoa) and frozen veggies on Friday.
Which all sounds great (and will be).
AND
I’ve been grateful that my wife has had more than her usual number of evenings out with partners since I started this thing just over ten days ago because it’s meant that I could content myself with tea and toast and/or tinned herring “snacks” (which, ha, I am entirely out of now, and which I’ll likely be kicking myself about for the next eight weeks) rather than having to think of Actual Meals after a day of work. Because – thankfully – I’ve also been getting a fair amount of work (and also a fair amount of social events) in the past two weeks that have had me away from the house, and/or working on paid stuff instead of household stuff (like keeping the kitchen clean-and-functional or taking stock of what I have in the pantry and the freezer to work with), and… I’m getting to the point where that’s not so much of an option anymore.
I can still make tuna sandwiches, provided I’ve made bread recently, but I don’t have a LOT of tinned tuna left, which means making hummus – possibly with some frozen mashed pumpkin thrown in – from scratch so that I can make hummus-and-sour-kraut sandwiches as an alternative to tuna. It means making tasty, protein-heavy muffins from scratch AND watching how much flour I have available. It means recognizing that I have two one-person servings of (different kinds of) noodles left, and considering how many varied dishes I can make with rice, barley, and quinoa.
 
Part of me – the part that wants to cook with butter rather than oil+salt, the part that wants to have a gallon of milk in the fridge AND a pound of butter AND rotini within easy reach AND wine on the table (and, okay, the altar) this Friday – is annoyed with myself for creating “artificial scarcity” in my home, in the name of creating more abundance in the long-run. The rest of me… The rest of me is noticing how readily the paid work is coming in, including bookings from unexpected places, and is taking this as a good omen that suggests my sacrifice is being accepted. And that part wants to see how this all works out.
So we’ll see how it goes.
 
~*~
 

Silicon Dawn - Fortitude (8 of Major Arcana) - A six-armed babe in a body-suit, a striped corset, and a collar chooses to act as a pillar, holding up the ceiling at a kink party.

Silicon Dawn – Fortitude (8 of Major Arcana) – A six-armed babe in a body-suit, a striped corset, and a collar chooses to act as a pillar, holding up the ceiling at a kink party.


 
The card I pulled – from my Silicon Dawn deck – as my tarot card meditation for this waxing moon, is Fortitude. The Strength card.
Strength is my birth card, so it’s always a little bit significant when it pops into my hands at a random cutting of the deck.
In the Osho Zen deck, Strength shows up as the Courage to push through the hard thing and bloom. In the Next World deck, it’s about “accessing your higher self through compassion and listening”. Which are both relevant to my current endeavors.
In the Silicon Dawn deck, it’s also a card that talks about choosing to take on a burden or a difficult thing.
During a period when I’m both choosing to take on the extra work of this Austerity AND digging into the Shadow Beliefs that (in my particular case) have me choosing, on some level, to remain in some specific kinds of bondage? I’d call that relevant to my interests.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Yoga almost (almost) every day. Go me. Six hours of modelling work, yesterday, that involved pushing some limits and discovering that my body is stronger and more flexible than it was the last time I tried poses like that. (Oh, hey! Take note, self! Sometimes you outgrow your own limits without noticing and you don’t find out you’re capable of more until you try! It’s A Sign!) Walking my errands and commutes – although I have taken the bus home from work a few times in the past week, which I think was the right decision. Chipping and chiselling the ice dams away from my steps – we’re going to get a big dump of snow and/or freezing rain in the next few days, but I wanted to use the (unusually) warm weather to help make the impending shoveling easier for myself.
 
Attention: Listening to my body/chakras when it/they/I talk to my word-using brain. Striving to notice when I’m Up In My Narratives so that I can step outside outside of them, little by little, more easily and readily. Also taking note of what I do and don’t have in my pantry to put towards tasty meals. Also keeping track of which Tiny Magical Workings I’m remembering to do / making a point of keeping my commitments to, and which ones get pushed to the side on any given day (and trying not to beat myself up about that, in the noticing, because I built redundancies into this stuff for a reason).
 
Gratitude: For work that pays in cash. For modelling jobs. For a free poetry workshop and an opportunity to perform (open mic) that I actually took instead of bailing (Good Job, Me). For tinned soup and tinned fish and pumpkin-and-sunflower seeds that I can use to make quick, snack-like meals to keep me going when I’m tired, distracted, or prioritizing something else (whether or not that’s a good idea). Grateful for a wife who thinks I’m gorgeous and awesome. Grateful for a girlfriend who listens to me talking about my Shadow Stuff and tells me the Divine things she can see underlying them. Grateful for this blessed day off, almost entirely free of paid-work-commitments, so I can focus on home-work and homework, on writing and self-work and the magic of making food. Grateful for a body that talks to me and and brain that is starting to understand my physical language.
 
Inspiration: The specifics of everyday life, as used pretty directly during last night’s poetry workshop. Tarot Cards (because: always, apparently). My fellow poets and fellow witches. My sweethearts, working hard at what they do.
 
Creation: Three new poems! A bunch of (currently untested, but go with it) non-boozy cocktail recipes. The beginnings of (a) a new porn story, and (b) a possible memoire-related book outline? We’ll see where these ones go.

Some is Better than None – Carbon Emissions Edition

Conifer Seedlings sprouting in the undergrowth. McCloud River Trail - Shasta-Trinity National Forest - June 2017. Photographed by Carol Underhill, via Wiki Free Images.

Conifer Seedlings sprouting in the undergrowth. McCloud River Trail – Shasta-Trinity National Forest – June 2017. Photographed by Carol Underhill, via Wiki Free Images.


 
Well, folks, I’ve said this more than once. “Some is better than none”.
Buying the organic, fair trade coffee, or the milk in the one-litre glass bottles, some of the time is better than not buying it at all.
Bringing your cloth bags to the grocery store some of the time (and, okay, opting for paper bags when you don’t) is better than never bringing them at all.
Walking/biking/busing to work some of the time is better than never doing it at all.
Making offerings to, and checking in with, your gods eight times a year is better than never doing it at all.
Today I took another “some is better than none” step.
As I’ve mentioned before, we have a car. It’s not a functional car, but we’re hopeful that my wife can get it up and running in time for her to have a commuter vehicle by the time the roads get icy late next Fall. We have a motorcycle. We have drafty windows. I take two round-trip flights to DC every year, and would like to up that number by at least one more.
We don’t have solar panels or super-amazing insulation or geothermal heating.
I used this carbon calculator and, where I didn’t have the information on hand, looked up provincial averages for things like how many kilowatt-hours (electricity) or cubic-meters (natural gas furnace) we probably go through in a year.
According to that calculator, it would take 52 trees a full thirty years (it’s always thirty years for this calculator, the number of trees just changes) to absorb ONE year of my household’s average carbon emissions – assuming I took that extra flight and we got the car working as a daily driver.
 
So I signed up to sponsor the planting of five trees per month through Tree Canada.
 
It will run me $20/month to “plant” 60 trees per year to help offset my household carbon footprint.
I say “help” because there’s no guarantee that those 60 trees won’t be harvested before the 30-year “neutralization date”. (Because I’m brilliant, and didn’t realize that I could do this specifically for their “Grow Clean Air” program where the trees aren’t harvested for a minimum of 30 years, I am now emailing Tree Canada to find out if I can switch that up and pay $30/month – instead of $20 – to have that little bit of assurance/insurance).
 
So.
Some is better than none.
Why I am saying that about this step?
 
Well… Look. I know this is monoculture. I… suspect that what will be planted in my name is basically a lumber plantation, and even if it’s not that, it won’t be anywhere near the kind of mixed species perennial food forest that was here before my own people turned up with intentions of taking over. I know this nonprofit, while it’s its own entity, is also heavily sponsored by the government of Canada (and by a particular oil company with a long-standing baaaaaaad reputation).
So I suspect that this is me underpinning/sponsoring the Canadian Lumber Industry and, by extension, the continued colonization[1] of indigenous lands, just as much as it’s me trying to over-compensate (just barely) for the amount of fossil fuels I burn in my furnace, my (as-yet-impending, but added to the calculation) car, plus all the buses and airplanes I ride in a given year, and the amount of non-renewable energy used to generate the electricity that powers this laptop, my overhead lights, my fridge, my stove, and my chest freezer.
I hope I’m wrong about that.
But I would feel… dishonest, where I to presume that “my” 60 trees per year didn’t have a date with a logging company already set for thirty years from now.
 
So. I may not love it. I may feel more than a little ambivalent about it. But it’s also SOMETHING. And something is better than nothing, so I’ve done it.
 
If you would like to do something similar, you can follow the links in the post and/or you can do the other thing that I do, which is spread native tree seeds in urban areas. Think choke cherries, over-ripe service berries, and other native understory trees, that will be able to grow and thrive in the relatively shaded environment of disturbed urban earth (alleyways, tree medians, the shadows of larger trees, right around the rain-line at the edge of their canopies).
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] What I mean by that: Right now, Canada – as both a governing body and a nation – doesn’t actually have legal right to most of the land it occupies and from-which it harvests natural resources. So we’re technically steeling most of the lumber we harvest. Which, at best, is just monumentally embarrassing. But we are not at the “at best” level right now.

New Year New You 2019 : Week 17 – A Big Ritual

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions: So now that you’ve done the small magics, I think it’s time to do a big ritual to further one or more of your goals.
 

Candle Magic in Progress - My working altar set-up, as viewed from the East.

Candle Magic in Progress – My working altar set-up, as viewed from the East.


 
As all of you know by now, I’m not a Big Rituals kind of gal. I put songs on repeat to help me enter something adjacent to a trance, maybe once or twice a year, and do little rituals (offerings roughly once a week, greeting my gods at the crossroads and as I see them, the first slice from a fresh batch of bread, stuff like that) fairly frequently, but Big Magical Doings that require a lot of prep and planning… are not typically My Bag.
 
BUT.
 
I just turned forty.
I love my weirdo freelancing art life, and I want to keep it.
But I am so, SO tired (like physically and emotionally worn out, but also “sick of this crap” tired) of the precarity that comes with it.
I marked my birthday with a week worth of fun and lovely events, which wrapped up just before the recent full moon in Taurus, and I wanted to harness that “manifesting abundance and pleasure and security” stuff that comes with the Taurus full moon and its major-major link with The Empress.
 
So I spent a day working out how to turn my Greatest Hits Wish List into a series of little doodles – not exactly sigils (except in the case of making a little glyph to represent my immediate polycule), but stuff along those lines. I planned out what I’d need, in terms of materials. I sorted out offerings and harvested the herbs from my (snowed under, so that was a thing) garden. I took a calculated risk in collecting one of the other elements of the altar and the magic to be made on it, and made sure to leave offerings and… I guess I could call them connections(?) in return. I took the time (and energy, and resources, and skills) to make bread from scratch, and on Moonday, which handily actually WAS the night of the full moon (and which I also, thankfully, had off AND which was overcast enough for it to get dark enough to light candles earlier in the day), I turned my coffee table into an altar space and got to work.
 
So. You know the thing “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent”?
I don’t actually know how many of the specifics of this I should be yacking about in front of the whole internet. So, in the interests of not screwing it up or pissing Anybody off, I’m going to be a bit vague on things.
BUT. The general gist is this:
 
First thing, as you can see from the photo, above, I was doing candle magic, just in a more intense way than I often do. Even when I go big, I’m still pretty basic in terms of what I do.
I wanted to have stuff that grew in my yard – my space, the place I have some kind of a friendly (uh, I’d like to think) relationship with – sitting in each of the quarters. I wanted the elements represented by things that I wanted and things that connected me to success and security. There’s a brick from the house my mom grew up in (among other things), in the North. The South is all sex toys and kinky equipment. The East is the various hard-copy books and chaps that I’ve been published in (why, yes, ALL of them). The West is the tarot cards I drew for my birthday, all those hope-and-heart cards, plus a piece of fancy stemware. The Centre was raised up on a fancy cake tray (40th birthday gift, also hospitality and fanciness), and has the Empress card that I used to kick off my whole Empress Project in the first place. The votive candles I used had been lit at my birthday party, and I treated them like Birthday Candles (as in “make a wish”).
 
I sang (just a little – the chorus of a song that I treated as a prayer), I gave offerings that were a little fancier than I usually do, and that included a little bit of pain, and a moderate amount of blood, on my part. But the big difference in how I did this whole thing is that, when I cast the circle, I got a little bit extra. I’m not usually one to call the guardians of the watchtowers of absolutely anything. But this time I reached out to the People of the four directions, and called the Above and the Below to run the world pillar through my spine.
And they showed up.
They came.
I hadn’t been expecting that.
Don’t go getting me wrong here, I’m very glad they did. But it was an optional thing for them. I’m… touched? That the Spirits of Place, the People who orient us in space and in… action? Is that a good way to put it? That they came and were willing to witness, and maybe even help.
 
Anyway.
I did The Thing.
I think my giant bag of soil is probably thawed out by now (it having had a week to hang out in the warm), so I can now take the last of the accoutrements off the altar space and do the last bit of the ceremony, at which point I can have my coffee table back.
 
In prepping for this, my wife asked me if it was going to come at a cost – because everything has a cost. She works with a goddess who takes payment in blood and pain (there are so many of these) and she was worried about me getting hurt, basically. So we ended up having a discussion about different types of relationships.
I talked about how I’ve been involved with my pantheon actively for a couple of decades, that I check in with them and say Hello often, and that I generally don’t show up with my hand out. I said “There’s wine on the altar right now” – wine that had been offered the previous Friday – and that while I didn’t give my Gods and Ancestors wine and cookies and bread and occasional whisky and other tasty things in order to, you know, manipulate them into feeling like they have to help me, the fact that I’ve been doing this for a long time – much as with more corporeal people – will get you a certain amount of trust and good will. If you show up for your friends, and want to hang out just for the sake of hanging out, they are more likely to show up for you when you need help with a thing. (This is, incidentally, one of the reasons I tend not to contract out and do transactional work with deities outside of my pantheon. I don’t know, and won’t necessarily be able to accurately discern, what kind of payment they might want. And I’m hesitant to offer any kind of tradesies when I don’t know what I’m getting myself into).
 
I did my ritual, my ceremony, made my offerings, around the themes of the Empress.
May it be, may it be, may it be. ❤
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Harvest Moon Begins (and Grows) – Season of the Witch

“Winter Squash” – Photo by Sheila Sund, via Wiki Media Commons. Three winter squash – butternut, sweet dumpling, and buttercup – are to the left of the image, dramatically lit from the right, on an otherwise bare surface, against a black backdrop.


 
The mornings are down in the single digits these days, and the nights are hovering around freezing. The back yard is full of blooming New England asters (the purple kind) and, while nothing’s been knocked down by frost just yet (to my surprise), I know it’s coming. We turned the furnace on today and have extra blankets on the bed.
Autumn is so very, very here.
 
We’re slipping towards Root Time pretty quickly now. The leaves are turning. I have bunches of mugwort, yellow mustard (seed pods, in the latter case), sage, and thyme hanging in the kitchen to finish drying. We opened a bottle of Sortilege (a month earlier than I would have, if I hadn’t hidden said bottle away late last April), and I made an offering with the first glass of it to kick off the Season of the Witch.
It’s getting towards introspection season – although, realistically, that’s all year long if you’re me – and, like a lot of people, I’ve got a lot of stuff on my mind.
 
I went to the Climate Justice Rally the other day – and felt less useless for having gone, I have to admit, though I wasn’t expecting that. I keep looking at my somewhat feral yard, where – when we moved in, five years ago (just about exactly), I had hoped to plant a riot of winter squash, rather like the ones displayed in the photo at the top of this post, along with lots of perennial fruits and herbs.
I keep looking at it and wondering “Have I done right by you?”
 
Because, as I keep lamenting, I’m not doing very well at this vegetable gardening thing.
But my yard is a tiny ecosystem. Squirrels and rats (alas), a skunk and a rabbit, a family of raccoons, a semi-feral cat, and a lot of starlings and sparrows (and the odd bluebird, crow, cardinal) have our yard as part of their territory. The back patio is under-pinned (or destabilized, maybe) by a few different kinds of ants. There are spiders, wasps (parasitic and otherwise), two kinds of solitary bee, a few different kinds of butterfly, centipedes, pill bugs, ladybugs, slugs (alas) and snails, and earthworms the thickness of my finger. Between what I grow on purpose, what my neighbour grows on purpose, and what I just allow to grow wild, as it will, we’ve got about half the number of unique plant species that one would find in a healthy tall grass prairie represented and thriving between the front and the back yards of our little row of townhouses. And that’s something I’m proud of.
“Have I done right by you?”
 
The ground is so literal.
I like to think that the offerings of home-made beeswax candles, fresh bread and (not home-made) butter, maple whiskey, and sometimes other tasty things, are appreciated and enjoyed. (Certainly the squirrels like the bread, if that’s any indication).
But I kind of suspect that the compost heap, with its regular additions of coffee grounds, toilet paper tubes, stewed bones, vegetable peelings, and human hair, is more helpful (and more wanted) in the long run. That thinning the Himalayan Balsam so that the Crane’s Bill and Turtlehead had room to grow, but leaving enough of it for the bees to visit, and sowing white clover and wildflower seeds (after thinning out the grass, golden rod, and dog-strangling-vine), probably matter more to my Lady of Earth and my Lady of the Meadow than whether or not I managed to cultivate a lot of winter squash in any given year, even when my Lady of the Meadow is also the winter squash and the raspberries (which consistently refuse to fruit, even now).
“Have I done right by you?”
 
It’s harvest time. The squirrels have already dug up (and gnawed upon) the narcissus bulbs given to us by a friend. The two pounds of carrots I brought home from the grocery store a week or two ago are waterlogged and not doing so well, and I’m having The Feels about food waste. Again. The dill seed heads I harvested went moldy (because I didn’t dry them well enough and didn’t store them right). I still haven’t harvested crab apples, even though I walked by a tree loaded with them twice this past week. I feel wasteful rather than abundant.
“Have I done right by you?”
 
I shuffle the deck by my computer – the Next World, which isn’t the deck I’d usually use for this. The Chariot falls out. The Three of Cups almost jumps with it. I shuffle and shuffle. Look longingly at the Three of Cups, Nine of Cups, now layered one on top of the other at the very bottom of my deck. Pull a card off the top and it’s The Sun.
I want to take that as a Yes.
I want this to be true:
 

 
One of the other reasons why I was asking if I’ve done right by the land I live on is that we found out, just about a month ago, that the building we live in has been put up for sale.
It’s terrifying.
Not least of why being that we’re barely able to cover the bills we have now, and housing – across the city, not just in the neighbourhood we’ve lived in for over a decade and want to stay in – is running $400-$700 more expensive per month than we can handle.
I think about moving, and I just get a tight chest, churning stomach, racing thoughts, and nothing actually useful done. I sob my eyes out thinking that we’ll be this house’s last family and that life is going to stay (financially) hard for the foreseeable.
It’s awful.
I’ve been looking for an anchor income for a while now, but I’m kind upping the search because, if we’re going to afford to live, well, anywhere by the time this unusually-affordable rental house is yanked out from under us, I’m going to need to be SURE that I can show up with at least $800/month to put towards housing and utilities.
 
Sometimes I think that planning to move in the spring is putting the cart before the horse. We have to be able to afford to move before we can actually do so. (At least… I hope that’s how it works out). TBH, I’ve spent a lot of the past four weeks – when I’m not job-hunting or canning or cleaning or writing poetry or doing paid work – wondering how to get myself focused enough to determine What I Really Want, specifically so that I can work some magic towards those ends.
A lot of the past year has been working on the “art” and “sex” elements of my Empress Project. But the Empress, as much as she is VERY MUCH about creativity and sensuality, is also about abundance and stability and I think I need to spend some time (energy, attention, Work) leaning into those aspects.
I wonder to myself what I can offer in exchange for help getting the kind of moderately flexible, very-part-time office/remote-assistant job I’m looking for and what, should I actually secure said job, I can offer on top of that (or after that) to secure the kind of living space we want (2 bedrooms, laundry on site, no pests, ideally with gardening space and a big kitchen, pets A-okay), in any of the neighbourhoods we want, at a price we can afford long-term even if the rent goes up every year.
I keep thinking of Ms Sugar’s long-ago Thoughts on Blood As A Sometimes Food.
I keep thinking of… I think it’s T. Thorn Coyle’s book Sigil Magic where she talks about how doing ritual isn’t the same as doing magic any more than emoting or obsessing about something is the same as working your Will. I keep thinking about how I rarely have any idea if what I’m doing is actually going to get off the ground, let alone get results, let alone-alone get the kind of results I actually want.
Which, like, doesn’t help me actually have the confidence to try spellworking for this stuff, you know?
 
Regardless – and I will surely come back to the above more than once over the coming winter – in my most recent fit of “I don’t know what to dooooooooooo!!!” I did what I tend to do in times of trouble and uncertainty, and started pulling tarot cards.
(Basically, I don’t necessarily even shuffle anything, I just grab the deck and split it at random points).
This is the spread I used.
 
What do I need to think about: The Chariot
What do I need to do: The Eight of Cups
What is my challenge: The Knight of Pentacles
What is my secret weapon: The Four of Wands

 
I tend to read The Chariot as “get up / wake up, and go”. A card about taking action. And it is. But it’s very specifically a card about working one’s will to achieve one’s goals. It’s a card about doing, sure. But it’s also a card about doing magic.
 
The Eight of Cups is typically a card of “mourn and move on”. It’s a card that touches on burnout and anxiety, for sure. And one that suggests leaning into spiritual growth and personal truth, as well. But it’s most often (for me, at least) a card about grieving and letting go, about tying up loose ends and walking away.
 
The Knight of Earth (I can find a picture of the Next World Tarot’s take on the Knight of Pentacles, but there are lots of options out there) is a solid character. But, in the position of a “challenge”, their slow-and-steady nature turns to “afraid to take risks” or “pessimistic” or “keeps themself (too) small”.
 
As for the Four of Wands, for me, it’s always been a card about Community. Participation. Joyful interaction. Strengthening the web of relationships that one is part of. It’s also, however, a card that feels, one the one hand, like the opposite of the Knight of Pentacles’ more challenging aspects – “looking forward expectantly”, “letting go of limitations”, and “opening to new possibilities” – while, on the other, being almost the flip-side of the coin to the Eight of Cups – “getting out of an oppressive situation”, “reflecting on accomplishments”, and “breaking free of bonds”. There’s also an aspect of this card that pertains to taking part in a ritual or rite, although I tend to think that’s more about things like weddings or milestone birthdays (like my upcoming 40th, ye gods…) than, like, solo magical workings in my bathtub. None the less. >.>
 
What do I need to think about: Taking action physically and magically.
What do I need to do: Mourn the (impending, as-yet-unscheduled) loss of this house, and move on (literally as well as figuratively).
What is my challenge: Doing the leg work without getting frozen into inaction due to fear and risk-aversion. Not losing sight of the good stuff over the horizon just because things feel (VERY) precarious right now. Avoiding despair while job- and neighbourhood- hunting in late-stage capitalism and an increasingly expensive city.
What is my secret weapon: My people. My hope. My resistance.
 
I want to keep these cards – these four, and The Sun – in mind as my tarot card meditaiton during this waxing moon. To get’er done without losing sight of my worth and without giving up my arts-oriented work (modeling as a career, and poetry as an a/vocation). To keep making art and magic, possibly in combination. To remember that I’m not entirely powerless. To accept the joy when it comes.
 
~*~
Movement: Not nearly enough. Short, dynamic poses during modeling gigs. Walking all over the place. But that’s about it. I think there needs to be more dancing in my life.
 
Attention: Unsurprisingly? Sniffing around as to what housing costs in which neighbourhoods in town. Keeping an eye on the job boards. Watching the garden for the inevitable frost that will knock a lot of it down (at which-point, it’s clean-up time).
 
Gratitude: Thankful, however ruefully, for the neighbours and friends who brought up having seen the listing for our building on the national real estate website, and for the landlords for not denying it when we brought it up. For library books. For quiet evenings in. For a furnace that works. For clean water that comes right out of the tap. For the tool library. For friends who check in. For slow mornings with my wife. For my girlfriend’s impending (mere days away!) visit. For the upcoming weekend-long kink convention we’ll be attending. For hand-me-down clothes that fit and look good on me. For kindness. For hope.
 
Inspiration: Ongoing climate disaster and housing insecurity, because it’s an ill wind, apparently. :-\ Outside of that, Mabon and related seasonal changes and astrological events, plus the poets of Hustling Verse and also those in my extended circle of queer, polyamourous chosen families. It’s a good place to be.
 
Creation: I wrote two new glosas! I wrote them yesterday! I’m so excited! 😀 😀 😀 I really hope I can keep this up! 😀 Fingers crossed!

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins

Autumn is definitely on its way.
I kind of fear that my garden has been a bit of a bust this year – though we’ve got a few beans and I expect to bring in a few bouquets of chard over the next couple of months (mostly for the freezer). I’ve basically missed chokecherry season, so I didn’t make chokecherry curd this year. I feel a bit silly about that, but here we are. I’ll be harvesting apples (mostly crab apples) and trying my hand at cider and mead again this year, though.
At least my freezer is stocked with zucchini (though I’d like to get another 2-3 dozen pucks of the stuff frozen, tbh, if not more) and diced tomatoes (same – I’m doing this instead of canning them, this year, because I find I like the taste of the frozen stuff better than the taste of crushed tomatoes with sugar and vinegar in them… go figure) before the summer’s well and truly gone.
We’ve managed to acquire a new food processor, after I managed to melt the carafe on the our previous one. One of my art clients has downsized and is getting rid of some housewares, so she passed that along to us. As such, I have Grand Plans for lots of hummus, and also for (renewing my Ottawa Tool Library membership and) borrowing the pressure canner in order to put up a 4-8 liters of pumpkin soup, and a dozen pints of ready-to-go chick peas and great northern beans. I my try using their steam juicer, too, when I bring in the crab apples.
Other than that, the main thing I’ll be water-bath canning is pumpkin butter. No, my pumpkins didn’t give me any fruit (other than one half-eaten, but otherwise ripening, one low on a small vine… dammit), but I’ll be out at the grocery store buying up Porcelain Doll pumpkins – which are super meaty and don’t have a tonne of water content OR seeds – to turn into soup and pumpkin butter and, eventually, pumpkin-pie frozen yoghurt (and, um, actual pumpkin pies…).
I feel okay (…ish) about this.
I hope I still feel okay about it in November and, rather more-so, in February and April.
Fingers crossed.
 
~*~
 
Following Liz Worth’s spread for connecting with this very earthy Virgo new moon, I pulled the following cards (or, more accurately, had the following cards jump out of the deck in this order):
 
What is my body calling for? – The Star
This is a card about hope and optimism, not something I necessarily associate with “what is my body telling me I physically need”. But, as a body card, it says “Slow down. Find your center”.
Someone (Parneet on Chai Chats?) referred to meditation as “body time”. Like “Yes, mind, I see you having lots of thoughts, but it’s not time for that right now. Right now is body time”.
That said, and somewhat to my surprise, The Star allegedly has something to do with body issues like “ankles, legs, blood circulation, spasmodic complaints, nervous system“. Which is like… “I do have nerve-related issues in my legs because of my back stuff…” So that’s also relevant to attend to.
 
What is my schedule calling for? – The Page of Earth
This card, I pulled off the top of the deck when it felt right to do so. The other cards were all jumpers, so I feel like I had a bit of agency (not tonnes, but some) in choosing this. Which seems apt, given what it’s about. The Page of Earth is a card of curiosity (as opposed to anxiety) but, even more-so, it’s a card of steady, step-by-step actions: Make the time to make the things. Make the time to do the yoga. Make the time to do the offerings. Prioritize the commitments you’ve made to yourself, your art, your gods. Make the time to write the poetry and work on the phsyical, concrete projects that will get you where you want to go.
 
What is my foundation calling for? – The Page of Fire
Full disclosure? I’m not sure what “my foundation” is. When I was shuffling for this one, I sent my focus down to my roots, down to the seat of my need, but this could just as easily refer to the “Deep Self” or “Divine Self” that Starhawk and Gede Parma talk about.
Either way, the card I got was the Page of Fire, which is a card of creativity and optimism (much like the Star, actually) as well as a card of risk-taking and confidence. My foundation – whatever that is – says “Put Yourself Out There!”
 
What is my wisdom calling for? – The Three of Earth
This is the card of “know your worth”. It calls for collaboration and says “let your labour be meaningful”. It reminds me, just a little, of this post, from more than a year ago, reminding myself to make the holy every-day and to make the every-day holy. I may not need to conceptualize every single act of washing dishes and doing vacuuming as a specific thing I’m doing to honour a particular deity (Mattaer, in this case), but remembering what it will get me, what it’ll make easier or better for me, is also relevant. Vacuuming may not be meaningful in and of itself, but making the space clean and nice so that I want to roll out my yoga mat? That’s relevant. Doing the every-day labour because I’m worthy of the results.
 
What I’m picking up on:
Make your labour meaningful – imbue your work with meaning; Be brave and put your creative self out there. Know your worth and let other people see and recognize it. Your work is meaningful, so prioritize it. Make the time to do the things that are meaningful to you, that you (say you) value, that matter to you (…and that help your body deal with its physical issues).
 
~*~
 
It’s with the above in mind that I choose – because I’m choosing this one – for this waxing cycle’s tarot card meditation the Nine of Air.
Wait, what? Isn’t the nine of air about guilt and self-loathing and anxiety and despair??
Well, yes. And that’s relevant here – If all of my bits, from my Deep Self to my literal/physical self – are saying “make time to prioritize what matters to you” + “have some confidence, already”, they are also saying “Remember you are worthy. Stop selling yourself short and putting your health and your own goals and priorities last”. So, on the one hand, I’m choosing the Nine of Air as a “stop doing this specific business” reminder. It relates to my Body’s call to “find your center” as well, and to the my need to enter a slightly meditative (or at least quiet, slowed-down, non-spinning) state if I want to actually do my art with any degree of skill.
But the nines – as Melissa Cynova says in Kitchen Table Tarot – are all about maturing and awareness.
 

Wildwood Tarot – Nine of Arrows – “Dedication” – a woman in a blue gown and a red shawl plays her bow as though it were a musical instrument.


 
The Wildwood Tarot depicts, and defines, the Nine of Arrows (air, swords) in a much more positive light than most interpretations I’ve come across. In this instance, the Nine is a card of focus and dedication, of stripping away distractions. Here, as the little write-up book says, the figure directs “their arrows of inspiration by playing the bow as an instrument of summoning. The inner oath helps keep [them] on a balanced footing”.
 
I chose this card primarily for this reason. A reminder to Show Up. To do the actions (to start again, over and over, in doing them) that move me towards my goals. To dedicate myself to myself, to my art, to my gods. To do the daily practices (will I do them every day? Will I make sure of it?) that are good for my body, good for my religiosity, that will help me be open to the connections I want and miss.
 
So, with that, I’m going to work on my Collage workshop submission, see if I can write a poem, make some beeswax tea lights, and do a tiny bit of yoga.
 
~*~
 
Movement: LOTS of walking – maybe a little too much, due to Dyke March last Saturday. Moon Salutations. “Push Outs” in doorways, at the laundromat, and in the hall using the banister as support. There needs to be more dancing here, I think.
 
Attention: Watching the apple ripen, and just being very aware that autumn is pretty much on the doorstep – ye gods, but this felt like such a cool, short summer… Noticing all the queers, whose colours and finery are a little more obvious because of the recent Pride festivities. (I love us. I love our joy and how much we shine). Where I’m feeling Nerve Issues in relation to my lower back. When and whether I’m starting to spin, and how long it takes (and what it takes) to chill myself back out again.
 
Gratitude: Friends who invite me to visit, let me use their washing machines, turn up with butter and cheese after their non-vegan guests have gone home, make plans to see me and follow through with them, who send me bags of garden produce, who ask me how I’m doing. A weekend on my own. Video dates with both my partners. A fun novel to pour myself into. Poems that come fairly easily and work out pretty well in first-draft form. Three new poems in print. snuggles with my wife. Ice cream cones and successfully improvised “fancy flavours” yoghurt pops (I did crab-apple & juniper, and they were good). Letters from my girlfriend. Getting queer-spotted by another femme, and feeling Actually Seen, which was pretty great.
 
Inspiration: Trying to dig into my experiences in DC, about a month ago, to write poetry that touches a lot on spirituality. Digging out old books of Goddess Poetry for similar reasons. My chapbook is pretty-much ready to shop around – though I’d like to get four more pieces in print before I actually start that particular process – but it means that it’s time to start work on the next one, along side continuing to do my Femme Glosa Project. I’m currently thinking that maybe I’ll try writing some devotional poetry and see where that gets me, if anywhere? Seems like a good idea for now, so let’s see where it takes me. Planning to hit up an open mic tonight and (perform, but also) see if I get inspired there, too.
 
Creation: A number of poems, a couple of which is pretty good and the rest of which are… “very drafty”, let’s say. But still: Poems! Working on a knitting project that seems to be coming along much better than the last time I tried this one. Made and/or repaired a heap of earrings. The above-mentioned yoghurt-pops.

How Did My Own Ancestors Build Relationships with The Neighbours? (In Which I’m Just Spitballing…)

So I started reading a book (big surprise). I fact, I’ve been reading a bunch of books, including a few on the archaeological remains of the pre-Christian British Isles. But the book I started yesterday is called How Forests Think (Eduardo Kohn) and it’s both fascinating and a bit of a slog, if only because it’s academic writing and I’m out of practice so even reading relatively accessible academic writing is a bit chewy to get through. But it’s got some really neat ideas so far.
So far granted, being Page Ten.
BUT, from what I can parse through ten pages of introduction, this book is about expanding the (very white) discipline of anthropology – the study of how human being related to each other and the world we exist in – to include how the other lives in that world relate to us. That “relating to” isn’t just about Us telling stories about The Other, but also how They tell stories about Us and each other and, maybe most particularly, about how WE as distinct human and non-human (and animal and non-animal, for that matter) cultures co-create stories about the relationships we have with each other.
 
Which is awesome!
 
And which is also a “weird” way of thinking, if you’re White People. Either a very, very new possibility for our collective/canonical thought or – more likely – a very, very old one that we, ourselves, forgot – and tried to get everyone else to forget, too – but that other people have successfully hung onto despite our shitty best efforts.
 
You guys. I want this to be a Pagan way of thinking.
 
Like, I’m not sure it’s even possibly to “re-indigenize” myself, as a woman of Scottish/Brittish, German, and otherwise variously European ancestry while living as a settler and a colonizer on someone else’s land. And I’m aware that, on some level, I’m still thinking of myself as “the boss of them” when it comes to the other mammals who share my (“my”) yard, and that my relationships with them remain fairly extractive in nature. But. I do want to develop this kind thinking in myself. As a pagan, as someone who cultivates and harvests and eats non-human people, I want to cultivate (further) the understanding that they are people. People who may think about me and my existence, and/or who may relate with me if I open up and allow for that to happen.
 
Anyway.
Back to this book. The idea, the author says, is to explore ways to view ourselves (qua humans) as distinct AND part of a larger conversation or part of a larger whole/community of relationships and kinships that include non-human and non-animal people rather than thinking of ourselves (qua humans) as the only kind of life that has a worldview or relates to other lives.
Which… duh. Anyone who’s so much as met somebody else’s pet knows that animals other than us relate to, and form relationships with, members of their own and other species.
And I like that.
 
One of the reasons I like digging into paleoanthropology and pre-medieval archaeology of Scotland and Northern England is because it might, maybe-maybe, give me an idea of how my own ancestors might, hypothetically, have related to a world that they knew related to them, too.
 
To be honest, I want to find evidence that we were getting it right, once upon a time. Long before feudalism and the idea that a single person could own a vast swath of land and dictate how everyone else who lived there could access or interact with it. Before Christianization. Before Rome. What we were like in the Iron Age? What were we like earlier than that?
But the information I’ve got – through library books and BBC documentaries – feels so… scattered.
Like, I know about the deer masks and the possibility that they were involved in some kind of shape-shifting… thing. And I know about the heaps of shells and the burials with seal flippers. I know about how all the rivers and wells were sacred. How gods were location-specific. How you got to, or became part of, the world of non-corporeal-intelligences by dying (the river goddesses who became so by drowning in their respective rivers, the “passage graves” that were also faerie mounds).
 
That stuff tells me that seals were relevant. That deer were relevant. That specific places were marked out as Special. It tells me that my ancestors, like every human being pretty much ever, most likely created rituals around uncertain events (like hunting or traveling or dying) to attempt to grant us either a little control or a little negotiating power or a little good luck or favour, because those things might help get us the results we hope for rather than any kind of worst case scenario.
It tells me that seals may have been connected to the afterlife. Like the stories of selkies, it suggests that maybe there’s a relationship there that involves shape-shifting/skin-shifting and that maybe also involves mixing families.
 
Basically, I can extrapolate very broadly from the few bits of actual information available, and then tell myself a story – one that may not be at all accurate – that says “My very distant ancestors may have had a story that said we/they were related to seals. This relationship may have made it okay for us to (a) hunt them OR (b) harvest fish and shellfish from the seashore or the ocean itself, specifically because we are also ‘of the ocean’ in a way that other predators, like wolves or lynx, are not”.
Think also of the Welsh (were they ever more broadly Brythonic?) stories about Anwyn – the otherworld that is “very deep” and quite probably an island – and how you get to the land of the dead via the water, you become a goddess of a river by drowning in it. The people under the hill, and the people under the waves, were – at least some of them – our ancestors’ ancestors.
…Maybe.
 
So… did we have a relationship – like a literal, familial-in-some-way relationship – with the seals?
Maybe?
Did we – meaning literally my “we”, the Selgovae who lived by the water just north of Hadrian’s Wall, the people of what was eventually the Kingdom of Strathclyde (what is now northern England and southern Scotland) – have something similar with the red deer? “The Selgovae” is what Ptolemy called us. “The Hunters”. Did we skin-walk to negotiate with the deer folk? Did their sprits speak through us or borrow our bodies?
The Red Deer Frontlet masks/“masks” at Star Carr (contemporary northern Yorkshire, or about a week’s walk from my Ancestral Seat in Galloway/Dumfries) hint that maybe this was A Thing for My People a whole 11,000 years ago.
But, again, we don’t actually know.
I certainly don’t.
And that was a looooong time gone.
 
Anyway. As I said, I’m only on Page Ten of this book. I have no idea how forests – or meadows or, most relevantly, the scrubby disturbed-earth that makes up a lot of That Other Space in urban areas – think, or might think, or might be inclined to have relationships of any kind with me.
 
But a place to start – at least according to a Druid I got to talk to not that long ago – is to notice and recognize, to pay attention and acknowledge, to say Hello to the non-human people you meet who aren’t just directly-related to humans (e.g.: a dog on a literal leash, or your friend’s favourite succulent – although sure, them, too). Go out. Say Hello. Start – or keep on – getting to know The Neighbours.

In Which I Talk At Length Climate Change and (Eventually) what “Eat Less Meat” Looks Like for a Household that is Not At All Vegetarian

Okay, kids. So here’s the thing. I’m freaking the fuck out about climate change. As I said to my lovely wife, this morning, I’m scared as heck about it and, while I’m taking steps to mitigate/reduce our households personal carbon/climate impact (more on that in a minute), I’m also painfully aware of exactly how little that will actually accomplish in the grand scheme of things, and how little the people who can actually effect the kind of nation-scale sweeping changes that will Save Us All are willing to do (because it will piss off their donors and threaten their hold on political power and high salaries, basically).
And I’m freaking out.
My wife said, basically, that she thinks it’s going to go like: The shit is going to get very real, very fast (…more so than it is already?) and then there are going to be some very big changes that happen extremely quickly – like Emergency Measures Act quickly.
And… I don’t want it to go that way.
I want to to be going that way NOW, when there’s still a few years of buffer to make those big energy transitions a little less bumpy.
I want my legislators to actually fucking legislate rather than approving oil pipelines that poison the ground, destroy native territories (acknowledged and unacknowledged, you guys), and put literally everything we rely on for survival at risk.
 
I want to see building codes updated across the country so that every new suburban (or otherwise) housing or industrial development has to basically be wallpaper its roofs with photovoltaic panels, and every new high-rise (apartment, office or mixed use) has to come equipped with a load-bearing green roof planted with wind-pollinated crops – wheat, corn, barley, rye, oats, for sure, but also stuff like super-dwarf chestnut, walnut, and heart-nut trees and hazelnut/filbert bushes. I also want to see requirements for extremely efficent insulation, passive solar heating-and-cooling, and the escape from reliance on Air Condition to keep offices and apartments comfortable during the summers, because that will reduce both HFCs (used in fridges, freezers, and A/C units) and the fuel requirements for heating our homes and workplaces during the six or seven months of the year when we need to have the heat on.
I want to see oil rigs and refineries and nuclear energy phased out and wind farms and solar farms phased in, and phased in QUICKLY.
 
I want to see cities adopting biochar as a way to deal with their carbon-based waste (everything from the plastic that lines tin cans & the paper-and-plastic mix of those damned window-envelopes to polyester rags & mixed fiber clothes, to human and animal poop, to grease-saturated cardboard pizza boxes, to kitchen compost) to produce both (a) enough methane to run its own water treatment plants plus, ideally, enough extra to run every gas grill currently relying on fossil fuels[1], while also (b) sequestering a huge volume of carbon in the resulting charcoal which, (c) happens to also be usable as a hell of a good soil amendment thanks to it being made out of bones and coffee grounds and human piss and kale stems and dry leaves and grass clippings and dog strangling vine and giant hog parsnip and animal poop and a million other things besides just fucking wood chips (which… biochar made only out of wood? Is not the most useful thing on its own, and I gather it can be slightly detrimental in a situation where the soil is already pretty depleted).
 
I want the laws around agriculture in my country to require grass-feeding and grass-finishing for meat animals (like everything from small/”small” stock like turkeys, meat and laying chickens, rabbits, and cavias, to Large Black pasture-finishable pigs, to ostriches and emus, to beef cattle, sheep, goats, bison, and elk) AND for dairy-and-fiber animals (cattle, sheep and goats, but also odd critters like alpacas and llamas), and to more quickly outlaw things like battery cages (Canada is in the process of phasing these out[2]), farrowing crates, and finishing feedlots (CAFOs). I want our cattle farms – beef and dairy – to be contributing to carbon sequestration through “bio-mimicking” (rotational, “adaptive multi-paddock”) grazing[3].
 
I want to see flocks of chickens and turkeys, and even rabbits, in moveable hutches, grazing under the semi-shade of solar arrays (you can do this with sheep, too, but not goats – ’cause they like to climb – and not cattle, just because cattle are HUGE). I want to see dairy and beef cattle, Large Black pigs (and any other pasture-finishable breeds) chowing down on grassland under the graceful, if slightly noisy, dance of enormous wind turbines[4]. I want the transition of farms from single-crop to multi-crop AND (more to the point) to mixed veggies + grains + legumes + orchards + livestock + green energy harvesting, to be government-subsidized for a decade or two while people get the fucking hang of it. And I want a lot of Canadian farms to be OWNED and run by the same people who are doing the farm labour. I want to see Six Nations farmers and Jamaican expat farmers and southern-Scottish-extraction farmers (yes, I mean my relatives here), and Metis farmers. I want to see Japanese, Lebanese, and Somalian born farmers growing hothouse veggies and running mixed orchards. I want it all.
 
I want big companies like Loblaws and Canadian Tire (and whoever owns fucking Loblaws and Canadian Tire) to be FORCED to change up the packaging of their store brands so than random shoppers like me get to choose between the feel-good, actually environmentally ethical option of a 12-pack of TP packaged in flimsy cardboard sleeves (think cracker-box weight), a jar of mayo in a glass bottle, a kilogram of pasta in a non-glossy, biodegradable paper envelope and – tbh, I would legit take this, even if I’d want it to be the extreme minority option and only used for freezer-case items – polylactic acid (fermented cornstarch based) “bio-plastic” bags[5] of frozen veggies and perogies in the freezer case… or taking the petroium-plastic-packaged everything from a non-store brand. Because I think both the grocery stores AND the non-store brands would quickly find out exactly how happy random, distracted, grocery shoppers are to HAVE the option of Actually Not Horrible ready to go at their stressed-out, in-a-rush fingertips, and then everybody would get of the fucking bandwagon because they want our sweet, sweet consumer dollars and brand loyalty.
 
I want an affordable, electro-magnetic, green-energy-run bullet train that can shuttle me my place to Montreal, and then from Montreal to NYC, and then from NYC to DC, in a speedy six hours (with, okay, a one hour layover here and there, maybe, because I’d have to change trains at least once). Because even though it would take twice as long, and have a crappy effect on my back, hips, and knees, it would also take a mere one third of the time that the train currently takes, and I’d still get to see my girlfriend on the quasi-regular while having a lower carbon footprint (AND less exposure to radiation) than flying.
 
I want MASSIVE reforestation projects to happen, with an eye to both re-wilding AND sustainable logging, and I want them to be led and run by indigenous people in their returned-and-acknowledged territories. I want my country to work out something where we are actually paying indigenous people WELL for short-term logging rights in their territories and where we’re required to follow High Sustainability Practices, and hire a lot of indigenous people, when doing that logging. So that Canada, as a nation, can still have a logging industry, but it works very differently, and a whole lot BETTER, than the one we’ve got right now. Ditto any kind of mining.
 
…But you guys? I’m not holding my breath on getting any that stuff.
At least not outside of the “farmers of numerous racial and national backgrounds” part, because we already have at least some of that.
 
As this article from Forbes says, “We know what we have to do to avoid a climate catastrophe: eat a plant-rich diet, change our energy mix, electrify transport, [and] reverse deforestation.” But also: Educate girls, restore indigenous territories and land-stewardship to indigenous people (and follow their fucking lead), and capture refigerants (see above re: stop relying on air conditioning units and start using good insulation and passive solar for heating and cooling).
 
So what can I personally do?
 
As a renter, rather than a landowner? Not tonnes. I can’t switch my furnace from natural gas (fossil fuel) to a pellet-fueled wood stove with catalytic converter and a thermostat-run-hopper to feed it (still burning something carbon-based – pellets made of compressed coffee, sawdust, and other plant-based agricultural waste – but at least it’s renewable, plus the catalytic converter ups the efficiency, and lowers the particulate-based air-quality-destroying pollution of a wood stove by a very substantial margin). I can’t dig a very deep well and get some geothermal heating put in. (I’m not even sure I could do that if I owned the place, tbh). I can’t cover the roof in solar panels or return indigenous territories to their rightful stewards. As a single individual without a tonne of political power, I can’t reverse deforestation – beyond what I’m doing now, which is essentially guerilla orchardry, but which isn’t very effective over the short term – or up the availability of education for girls.
BUT.
I can – provided our income gets significantly better – switch our electricity provider to a company like Bullfrog Power which adds green energy sources to the ones supplying the power grid to offset (and, in theory, eventually replace) the not-so-green stuff that is currently the majority of our energy supply here in Canada.
 
I can continue to not have a car – Which, tbh, is not likely to be how this goes. I feel pretty conflicted about this because, on the one hand? Enormous growth in our household’s carbon footprint if we do this[6]. And I don’t want that. On the other hand? A car would give us some significant freedom of movement, buy my wife an extra 2-3 hours of personal time (time for sleep and time to interact with me and her other partners) every weekday, from November through to April, and the degree to-which that benefits her mental health, her physical health, and her relationships is pretty fucking huge. So she and one of her partners are looking at potentially buying a car together. I have no idea how to off-set this, other than through the whole “have one less kid than you were planning to” thing… given that we’re all child-free, that one’s a given. But this is definitely looking like a thing that will be part of our future, and a shared car is still a car.
 
I can continue to not have an air conditioner – though the fact that I have a chest freezer, even a small one, is also contributing HFCs to my environment. (I have not done the math on the difference in Emissions between keeping a chest freezer full of food that was locally grown and put up in season versus not having a chest freezer and buying fresh produce flown in from Argentina and New Zealand – or even just California and Florida – for six or seven months of the year, but I suspect I’m coming out smelling a little better in this, even with the HFCs taken into account). That being said I can also pay attention to what local, non-frozen veggies are available from hothouse producers here in (or very close to) town during the winter months and continue to rely predominantly on non-frozen veggies like long-keeping winter squash, beets, potatoes, cabbage, rutabaga, and parsnips over the winter, so that the freezer space I am using is being used efficiently.
 
I can Eat Local – whether that’s from the garden or the grocery store or a farm that raises pasture-finished livestock that I stuff into the above-mentioned freezer to use it efficiently. And I can grow/buy/forage fruit and veggies in season and freeze, water-bath-can, dry, and/or pressure-can them so that I don’t have to rely on imported frozen veggies from a grocery store (yep… those bags of kale and squash I was so enjoying this past winter were… mostly not from around here. Dammit), let alone the fresh-and-flown-in versions.
 
I can eat less meat – Yes, even though I don’t want to. And even though, as per the links about farming and carbon sequestration through AMP livestock grazing, a locally and humanely raised Large Black pig is a heck of a lot closer to carbon neutral than industrially raised barley and lentils trucked in from Saskatchewan, let alone almonds from California and quinoa from Bolivia, despite all that, I can still eat less meat.
 
Ugh. Okay. This is going to be a bit of rant, but bear with me.
Most of the times I read about “eat less meat” or “eat a plant based diet” it’s either people who are vegan, and want everybody to eat ZERO animal products (which… if it works for you, go to it, but I’ve been eating vegetarian food for most of this week – not even vegan, just no meat – and I’m hungry to the point of being shaky, even though I know how to combine fats, beans, and grains to get accessible complete proteins, and even though eggs don’t actually take that much thinking, so… given that this is always how vegetarian eating goes for me? Probably not the best plan for my body)… OR they’re writing to an audience of people who are so wealthy they can eat beef – like actual steaks – multiple times per week without having to think about it, because the articles in question literally say things like “Eating steak one less time per week will make a significant difference to your personal carbon footprint”.
Which… You’re not wrong. It definitely would. But I’m already eating close to ZERO beef per month, never mind per week, so what even are you talking about – looking at you, Michael Pollan – when you tell your readers to “eat less meat” because I think I’m already well over your particular bar on that one. /RANT
 
ANYWAY. Either way, the “eat less meat” people don’t seem to be talking about my lived experience or my body’s particular needs, so I get to kind of make my own way about this.
AS SUCH: What does “eat less meat” mean for me and my household:
 
It means getting half a hog all at once from one of those local, humane farmers, so that (a) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from exactly one death, and (b) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from within an hour’s drive of our home, and (c) most of our meat for the next two years will have had a decent life where it got be an Actually Piggy Pig and got to eat food that was good for it and didn’t spend any of its life in a shit-choked prison feeling nothing but despair.
On a related note, It means getting a couple of turkeys at Thanks Giving and relying on them for non-pork meat for most of the rest of the year. Those birds don’t get a good life. I’m not under any illusions there. But 2-4 of them in my freezer is slightly less blood and misery on my hands than a dozen+ roasting chickens, so… not less meat, exactly. But fewer lives.
 
It means making good use of those lentils and barley from Saskatchewan, but cooking them in bone stock and frying them in bacon grease, so that we get the flavour from meat[7], and – in the case of the stock, at least – some of that sweet, sweet bio-accessible protein, without relying on it for a substantial part of the meal’s calories.
It means taking a shot at growing grain amaranth in the back yard, and using that – plus those Saskatchewan red lentils and/or some milk (see below) – to provide the protein in a soup or stew, whether or not there’s bone stock and bacon grease involved.
It means buying the free run eggs even though they’re twice the price.
 
It means, since I know damn well I’m not going to stop relying on dairy, finding ways to get my milk (and cheese, and yoghurt, and ice cream, and, and, and…) from local sources, ideally ones that are humane and don’t involve completely screwing over the cows. Right now, that means I’m buying foodland ontario milk in plastic bags. But getting the organic milk in glass bottles – even though that basically means spending 4 times the money[8] – is a possibility. Most likely how this would work is I start switching from getting a gallon at a time to getting a 2L carton of “normal” homo milk at the beginning of the week, and then suplementing it with 1L glass bottles as needed. Not my favourite way to go, but definitely feasible. Once I’m (financially) used to doing it like that, I can (a) track how many glass bottles I’m getting on top of the 2L carton, and (b) start switching over to only getting the 1L bottles. This is sort of how I did it with organic fair trade coffee, so I think it would work with dairy, as well.
It means eating more organ meats and less muscle meats when we are eating meat that doesn’t come from that half a hog. This means a lot of chicken liver pâté (actually liver mousse) and marinated chicken hearts, I suspect.
 
It means making falafel patties and waldorf-esque or nicoise salads for summer dinners, and making hummus and “artichoke asiago” (or, more likely, leafy-greens-and-parmasan) dips to go along with the brie and blue cheese rather than (or in addition to, there-by allowing us to cut down on the serving sizes of) the dry sausage and liver mousse we usually have on our Wine And Cheese date nights. It means having thick-hummus-and-sour-kraut sandwiches as often as we have chicken/pork or cheese sandwiches for lunches. An “eat steak one less time per week” situation where “steak” is pork shoulder and shredded turkey.
It means eat more vegetables, meaning I need to aim for 3-4 servings of veggies per person (about 2C, cooked) per dinner, plus some pasta/whole grains/potatoes/bread… and then worry about Where We’re Getting Our Protein (which might be chickpeas, lentils, a tablespoon of parmasan cheese + 2 tablespoons of diced dry sausage, or a cup or so of shredded frozen turkey split between three+ servings of stew. Not “fewer meals ft meat” but “less meat per meal”.
 
It means, essentially, that my whole grocery bill (as opposed to just the coffee and chocolate parts of it) is going to double (but slowly – for a given value of slowly – as I have the liquid cash to actually do this) in order to lighten the burden my particular household’s food-ways place on our home. Ye gods, I am NOT looking forward to that.
But here we are.
 
Anyway. That’s my long, loooong post about Eating Less Meat and other things I can do to not wreck the planet (as much). Thanks for sticking with me.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Yes, I’m very aware that this is, in itself, not actually helping anybody’s climate change initiatives.
 
[2] We stopped manufacturing battery cages two years ago, but using them won’t actually be illegal until 2036. Dammit. Go get those free run eggs, folks!
 
[3] Yes, this kind livestock raising DOES result in more methane-due-to-animal-farts. But it also offsets 100% of that methane (apparently) through carbon-sequestration in the grasslands that are regenerated (and the root systems that get super deep because of it) through the frequent movement of the herds from one grazing area to another to another to another. You can find a blog post – with a related podcast – about it here.
 
[4] I live downtown within spitting distance of a highway on-ramp. They’re currently tearing up my nearest major intersection using a giant pneumatic hammer. Don’t @ me about the alleged health detriments of fucking wind turbines, okay?
 
[5] These aren’t ideal. Corn (or similar) used to make this stuff does contribute to the mono-cropping hegemony and, as we’re seeing with the demand for ethanol-based fuel for cars, frequently results in food-production land in The Global South being converted into fuel-production land for export… which leaves already-vulnerable and exploited populations that much worse off and more likely to face famine conditions. So, like… this is preferable to a sea of petrolium-based products, but it’s not ideal and I would rather we were able to come up with something like… I don’t know… Aluminum envelopes for frozen goods or something. I really don’t know what to do about this on an industrial scale.
 
[6] I did the math – some time last Summer, I think – and found out that, while we do have a motorcycle, which does put our footprint (as two adults) above the sustainable line per person… it doesn’t put it over that line by much. We could slide back under by replacing our last three incandescent bulbs with compact florescents, and by turning our heat down by two degrees celcius when the furnace is running. A car – even a hybrid or a fully electric one (and it’s more likely to be the former, tbh) – would squash that possibility entirely.
 
[7] My Traditional Foodways include getting a LOT of a dish’s flavour from ferments, including cured meat (such as bacon and dry sausage) and cheeses, as well as the more obvious wines, beers, ciders, vinegars, and various mustards.
 
[8] Seriously, I could get 3L organic homo milk DELIVERED to my door, in glass bottles… but it would cost me $21. Whereas a gallon of organic milk in a big plastic bag, would run me about $11 and what I’m getting right now is just shy of $6/gallon. That is a HUGE jump in price, and I’m balking at it pretty hard. Am I ready to spend $85+/month on milk alone? Because, right now, that’s more than a week of groceries. O.O