Sunday, December 31, 2017

Living in liminal time.

Happy almost 2018! We're a few hours short of midnight here as I write this. Hoping to get it online before the world goes mad...

Alert hearth/myth readers know that I talk a lot about liminal spaces. This time at the holidays is such a space -- perhaps the only one that still gets a nod of recognition from modern society. I don't know about you guys, but I've had the sense multiple times over the past week that this time between Christmas and New Year's is sort of a throwaway week, that we're in a sort of holding pattern while we wait for life to start up again. Admittedly, my sense of "what's the point of this week?" might have been exacerbated by the fact that I went in to work at the day job every day -- one of the few at my workplace who did.

But these weeks between the solstice and the turn of the year have long been considered a time out of time. Early calendar calculations left a short stretch of days that didn't fit evenly into a month. The Romans used these days for their Saturnalia celebration -- which included the appointment of a mock king who ruled over the drinking and debauchery.

Christmas celebrations in medieval England included a similar figure, popularly known as the Lord of Misrule -- often a peasant who was elevated to the lofty position to oversee the drunken mayhem. There's some evidence that the idea of a Lord of Misrule began as a pagan custom and was later tolerated by the church to varying degrees.

In any case, nowadays the holidays pretty much end with New Year's Day. It's the last hurrah for the season of big parties (unless you count the Super Bowl, which used to be in January, but I digress), and the last chance, too, to take a breath and think about how things went for us in the past year and where we'd like for them to go in the year to come.

I read a blog post earlier today that suggests spending part of this evening meditating, envisioning how you'd like for the next year to look and what you'd like to see happen, both personally and in the world around you. The idea is that imagining a thing in detail is the first step in making it manifest. Personally, I think dreams require some work on the part of the dreamer before they are made manifest. The Universe sometimes operates on chance, it's true, but typically your overnight success has toiled in obscurity for years.

On the other hand, it can't hurt to have a vision of where you want to go. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sit in a quiet spot for a few minutes, just as soon as I post this.

Happy 2018, everyone. May you manifest everything you desire, and may the new year be better to you and yours than the old year was.

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These moments of manifest blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Monday, December 25, 2017

"I believe," said Sage.

A few nights ago, on the eve of Yule, I read a new story live on Facebook. It's a Christmas story, more or less, and it stars Sage and Webb, those two crazy kids from the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. In case you missed it, here's the link.

Last time I tried linking a Facebook video on the blog directly, it didn't work -- so if you're not on Facebook, the link probably won't work. Just to cover all my bases, then, here's the text of the story. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and see you back here next Sunday to help me kick 2017 out the door.

Thirteen-year-old Sage Curtis sat stiffly in the back seat of her parents’ SUV, her arms crossed. “Tell me again why I have to go to this thing,” she said.

Her mother, who was driving, glanced in the rear-view mirror and shot Sage a look that would have made a god behave. “Because Aunt Shannon was kind enough to invite you,” she said.

Sage’s ten-year-old brother Webb turned toward her with a bounce. “Come on, Sage. It’ll be fun!” he said with a happy grin. “There will be cookies…”

“And about a million little kids.” Aunt Shannon had invited all of her nieces and nephews.
“Kerry’s coming,” Mom put in.

“She is?” Webb asked, his face lighting up. Kerry Hanrahan was Sage’s best friend. Webb adored her.

“Yes, Mother, she told me,” Sage said, ignoring Webb. “That’s the only redeeming thing about this whole stupid party.”

“Santa’s coming, too,” Webb said.

“Oh, for gods’ sake,” Sage snapped. “You know it’s just Uncle George in a red suit.”

“It might be the real Santa,” Webb said.

Sage stared at him. “You’re not serious. You don’t still believe in Santa, do you?”

Webb faced forward and pulled some string from a pocket of his pants.

“Mom,” Sage said, shocked out of her bored pose. “Do something!”

“What do you suggest?” Mom said, glancing in the rear-view mirror again. It looked like she was suppressing a smile.

“Talk to him!” Sage said. “He’s too old to believe in Santa!”

Webb shot her a sly smile and went on fiddling with the string in his hands.

“What are you making, Webster?” Mom asked.

There was that Trickster grin again. “It’s a secret,” he said.
Aunt Shannon’s house was already in an uproar when they arrived. “Thank the gods you’re here,”
Kerry said, her blond ringlets bobbing as she met Sage just inside the front door. “These rugrats have nearly tripped me three times already. Come on.” She grabbed Sage’s hand and led her through the throng, past the towering Christmas tree in the living room and into the brightly-lit kitchen.

“Oh, good,” Aunt Shannon said as she fussed over a tray of cookies. “You’re here. Where’s your mom?” Sage opened her mouth but didn’t get a chance to reply. “Would you girls please take care of the cider? It’s in the dining room. Paper cups are on the table.”

“Sure, Auntie, no problem,” Kerry said, pulling Sage through another door.

“Only fill the cups half-full!” Aunt Shannon called after them. “The kids will spill it otherwise.”

The dining room was relatively quiet. Kerry set the cups on a tray while Sage poured.

“So I found out something shocking today,” Sage said. “My brother still believes in Santa.”

“No way!”

Sage nodded. “Yes way. He was all excited in the car on our way over here.”

Kerry looked thoughtful. “Maybe he just identifies with the spirit of the holiday.”

As if on cue, Webb poked his head in the doorway. “There you are!” he crowed. “I have presents for you.” He presented them each with a small, misshapen packet of silvery paper with tape liberally applied. “Uncle George helped me wrap them.”

“I can see that,” Sage said dryly.

Kerry had pried the tape off one end of her gift and peered inside. “Oh,” she said faintly, and turned it over. Something finely woven of red and gold strands slid out onto her outstretched palm.

“It’s a hair holder thing,” Webb said as Kerry shook it out and tucked her hair inside it.

“You made this for me, didn’t you? I love it!” she said, hugging him. “Thank you, Webb!” She turned to Sage. “What did you get?”

Side-eyeing Webb, Sage unfolded an end and dumped her gift into her hand. Her “hair holder thing” glistened green and gold. As Kerry helped her stuff her straight black hair into it, she asked, “What does it do?”

“You’ll see,” Webb said, that Trickster grin back in place as he ducked out of the room.

Sage wanted to go after him...but it was too late. She was flying.

Flying! Soaring above rooftops. Higher than the trees. As high as the mountains!

Webb knew she hated flying. He was going to pay for this…

But she wasn’t flying under her own power. She was in a sleigh. Pulled by… reindeer?

Slowly, she turned. Sure enough, a fat man in a red suit stood behind her in the sleigh. His beard was as white as her great-grandfather’s hair. His smile was so bright, it rivaled the moonlight on the snow below. And he was definitely not Uncle George.

“Ho, ho, ho!” the man boomed. “Hello, Sage! Your brother has pulled quite a trick on you!”

“Yeah,” she said, scowling. “He’s a real joker.”

“My dear child,” the fat man said gently. “So scornful for one so young. But then you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.” He leaned toward her. “Tell me,” he said in a confidential tone. “What’s your fondest wish?”

 She swallowed hard. “To be normal,” she whispered. “I don’t want to shoot fire from my eyes. I don’t want to be able to fly. I don’t want to have to save the Earth.”

“I cannot give you that,” the fat man said sadly. “I can’t change who you are. But I can give you something better.”

“What?”

“Love,” he answered. “Joy. And hope.” He laid a gloved hand on the crown of her head. “Go in peace, Sage Curtis, and save us all.”
When she came back to herself, no time had passed. “Come on!” Kerry said. “I hear Uncle George!”

Hand in hand, the girls entered the living room, just as the front door opened. Uncle George, his ponytail peeking out from under his Santa hat, bellowed a hearty “Ho, ho, ho!” as he came in. Following him was a reindeer who winked deliberately at Sage.

She grinned. “Hi, Dad.” As he ambled past her, she looked out the open door. There, silhouetted against the moon, was a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, with a fat man holding the reins.

“Ho, ho, ho!” Uncle George said again.

And Sage whispered, “I believe.”
These moments of joyful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Last year's spiced nuts.

'Tis the season, as you've doubtless heard. I've spent the better part of this weekend in the kitchen, making all the cookies and treats I make every year -- including the spiced pecans I wrote about last year. Go check it out, if you missed it; I posted the recipe and everything.

As you can see, the recipe calls for a pound of nuts, but I always give so many away that we don't have a lot left over for us. So last year, I bought two pounds of nuts, fully intending to make a second batch in time for Yule. Or maybe New Year's. I forget which.

Now here is where I need to mention that I have developed a habit, honed by many years in journalism, of working best on deadline. That's one of the reasons I like NaNoWriMo -- it imposes a deadline on me, however arbitrary, to draft a novel in thirty days. As a corollary, I am the sort of person who wants to do the thing and be done with it -- and so the thing I'm doing had better have tangible results. Cleaning the house, for example, is not something I'm good at keeping up with; I don't see the point of dusting unless there's enough dust on the coffee table to write my name in it.

So I set deadlines for myself. Draft a novel in some random thirty-day period? I'm in. Cookies have to be delivered on Monday, before everyone leaves for the holidays? I'll be in the kitchen all weekend. But buy an extra pound of pecans with the intention of making them this week, or maybe next week? Yeah, not so much.

All year, I've been looking at those pecans in the pantry, fully intending to make them into spiced nuts. At one point I tried to get one of my daughters to make them. Didn't work. There those pecans continued to sit, silently judging me.

Last month, I even pulled out the recipe and sat it on the kitchen counter with the pecans on top, figuring I'd be annoyed enough by them being in the way to make them for Thanksgiving. Didn't happen.

Last year's nut on the left; this year's on the right.
Finally, this weekend, it was time once again to make holiday treats. I couldn't bring myself to give away last year's nuts as gifts, so I bought a pound of new pecans. But I couldn't just throw away last year's nuts! And I could hardly make the new ones before using up the old ones. So yesterday morning, on deadline, I made last year's pecans into spiced nuts, just for us. Then this morning, I made a batch of spiced nuts from the new pecans.

The two batches look the same, if you ask me. You can judge for yourself in the photo. And last year's nuts taste fine, I think.

The best part is that "make spiced nuts" is off my to-do list for another year. I can't tell you how relieved I am. Maybe now I can get around to dusting.

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But first, I've got a little something planned for members of my Woo-Woo Team later this week. I'll be doing a live video in our closed Facebook group on Wednesday the 20th at 9:00pm Eastern time (or, y'know, thereabouts) with a new little story about Sage and Webb. I've been inspired by my daughter Kat, who sends her friends and fans holiday cards every year with a ficlet -- a story of less than 1,000 words -- enclosed. Rather than sending mine through the mail, you get to watch me read it.

You say you're not a member? I can fix that! Go to the Woo-Woo Team page here and ask to be let in. Even if you can't make the live broadcast, the video will be there for your viewing pleasure later.

(And yes, I've set myself a deadline so I will actually write the thing.)

Talk to you on Wednesday.

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These moments of spiced nutty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The age gap (maybe) in attitudes toward sexual harassment.

surdumihail | Pixabay | CC0
It has ever been thus: Older folks say they can't understand why teens and twentysomethings like this or that, or believe this or that -- and the young folks think the oldsters are hopelessly behind the times. When I was a kid, the arguments were mostly over hair ("long-haired hippie commie fags!!!") and music ("it's all just noise!!!"). The generations also fought over the Vietnam War, which the World War II vets expected the kids to fight in without complaint, and to which the kids replied, "Hell no, we won't go!"

Today, the topics have changed a little, but now the Baby Boomers are the old farts, and it's the Millennials who think we're hopelessly out of date.

Take this article from Mashable that came across my Facebook feed earlier today: "Women over 50 see sexual harassment very differently than millennials". Judging by the author's photo, she's a young woman, maybe in her late 20s or early 30s. She's also based in the UK, which may or may not have anything to do with the thesis of her article, in which she claims women over the age of 50 are much more forgiving of men's behavior than younger women are.

The author's sample size is admittedly small; it appears she mostly talked to friends of her mother's in rural England. And she may be making more of this than it deserves. The article cites a British government study of attitudes, which found, among other things: "Wolf-whistling proved to be the most divisive behaviour, with 74 percent of 18-24 year olds, and 59 percent of 25-39 year olds considering it inappropriate. But, four in 10 women over 55 say wolf-whistling is acceptable, and 27 percent even said it was flattering." So 60 percent of women over 55 think wolf whistles are unacceptable -- roughly the same as the 25-to-39-year-old respondents. That's not exactly a groundswell of support for whistlers.

But the author is right that the attitude is out there. Just as some men are having trouble parsing this brave new world, where it turns out behaviors they thought were flirtatious aren't, some women -- mostly older -- are more willing to cut men some slack. I'm thinking of the flap over the holiday duet "Baby It's Cold Outside." To modern ears, it sounds like the man is trying to persuade the woman to have sex with him, and when she sings, "What's in this drink?" it sounds like a precursor to date rape. In the '40s when the song first came out, though, the reading was very different; the song's defenders say the woman was trying to figure out a way to stay and have a drink with the guy without ruining her reputation. Personally, I think if a holiday ditty needs to be accompanied by a short course on How Times Have Changed, it's probably time to retire it. But maybe that's me.

A number of holiday movies haven't exactly stood the test of time, either. My all-time favorite Christmas movie is "White Christmas" -- even though when I watch it now, it makes me wince. All the showgirls are dumb blondes, and the point of the plot is to get everybody married off. At least Rosemary Clooney stands up to Bing Crosby, I guess, even though (spoiler alert!) it turns out it's all a big misunderstanding.

In any case, I think if you're going to set a cut-off age for women who have more lenient attitudes toward male behavior, then 50 isn't old enough. A whole lot of women in their 50s today have been working their whole adult lives, and are very clear about what constitutes sexual harassment. Even 60 is too low. Maybe 65 or 70.

Some folks are wondering whether we won't swing too far in the opposite direction, to the point where touching a member of the opposite sex in any way could be construed as harassment. That's all-or-nothing thinking, and worries along those lines generally turn out to be overblown.

I agree that these are uncertain times. However, things have been bad for women for a very long time. There's that old saying that power corrupts, and men -- generally white men -- have been in control of our society for decades. Now women are emboldened to stand up for themselves and expect their complaints to be taken seriously. It's not just about getting married anymore. And men who have believed wolf whistles -- or worse -- were the best way to get a girl's attention are going to have to clean up their acts.

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Sorry about the problem with the photos last week. Now that I'm home, I've fixed those broken links. You're welcome.

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These moments of uncertain blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Finding wonder.

I guess I hit a nerve last week with my post on forgiveness, although in the end I'm not sure whether it was my nerve or everyone else's. In any case, I'm going with a less fraught topic (I hope!) this week.

I turn 60 this coming week, which means I'm nearing the end of my second Saturn return. In astrology, your Saturn return is the year or years in which Saturn returns to the astrological sign it was in when you were born. It happens every 30 years, more or less. So most of us will get two Saturn returns in a lifetime, and some of us lucky humans will be graced with a third.

As I understand it, if you didn't solve some of the stuff you were supposed to work on during your first Saturn return, that stuff comes back to smack you upside the head and force you to deal with it during your second. Knowing that, I can see it's no accident that I wrote the Transcendence books this year.

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that one thing that's been missing from my life lately is a sense of joy and wonder. Particularly when you've been doing the same thing for as long as I have, it's easy to fall into the habit of trudging from one workaday care to the next, without finding joy in any of it. So this week, I am in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a sort of birthday-week retreat. And on the plane out here, I found myself wishing for a little wonder.

After I checked into the hotel yesterday, I strolled down to the central plaza, as one does when in Santa Fe, in search of dinner. What I found -- as you can see -- was wonder. So much wonder that I went back tonight. Enjoy.


All photos copyright Lynne Cantwell


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These moments of wonderful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.