Today, I am thirty-four.
Today, some celebrate Mabon, the second harvest festival. So do I, though I prefer the name Harvest Home, these days. A day of bringing in the fruit of our work, of celebrating our labor.
Today is also the second in my personal string of new years. There is the beginning of school: the beginning of a cycle every year of my life since I was born in some way: as the child of a professor, as a student myself, or as someone working in education.
Today is my birthday: the day when night and day balance, when the days truly seem shorter, when my desire to come home and nest and reflect in the quiet competes with the growing work of the school year. They are both good, both necessary, and they continue to dance in their own helix until June. And following that, there comes Samhain (the pause before the dawning sun of Midwinter and a new cycle of potential) and the calendar’s New Year.
And I am reminded, always, of my birthday’s place, falling as it sometimes does between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Neither are my celebrations, but they were the celebrations of some of my ancestors, in the not too distant past. A time to reflect on the things I’ve regretted, as well as walking forward into the new year of blessing and potential.
Today, I came home from work, and had a long bath, with the particularly decadent bath salts, and excellent soap, and read by candlelight for long enough for my neck to untangle and my body to relax.
And now, I sit here, hair drying down my back, and I think about this past year. This past decade, in fact, for ten years ago this past summer, I picked up and moved to Minnesota. Nine years and a week or two ago, I started working at the school I’ve been at ever since. Just under ten years ago, I adopted my Athene, the small cat who makes my life a delight, and who is always a warm friendly presence.
This year has been a year of many changes. Not of ritual initiations and elevations, mind you – the changes I’ve volunteered for in more than one way, worked deliberately for, and plunged into, knowing that there were many other changes yet to come I could not predict.
But this year’s brought other changes.
Most importantly, there is the job. After seeking a professional library position for over two years as I finished my Master’s degree, I got hired last spring (as many readers here know) to become the teacher librarian. Last spring was a flurry of setting longer-term plans in place. This summer, we rearranged the library, handling every single book on the shelves (some 11,000) in the space of ten days. And this fall, work has eaten my brain, as I challenge myself to improve some skills, and to juggle administrative tasks (less fun) with helping people find information (what I’d rather spend all my time doing.)
This job has brought stability of all kinds for the first time in years. I wake up in the morning not needing to job hunt. Knowing that my salary not only lets me survive, but thrive. That I can use that stability to help out a friend, or support an independent artist.
But more than anything, not needing to endlessly contingency plan. Not knowing if this would be the week when the perfect job ad would appear, and need to be responded to quickly and brillantly. Not knowing if I’d still be in the state in three months, or six months, or a year, and thus not ever being able to make a firm promise to help with something.
It’s amazing how helpful that is. But it’s also new, and I’m still getting used to what it feels like to live this way: to live in joy and potential, rather than scarcity and uncertainty.
Let me count my blessings:
I adore my job. Oh, I gripe about bits of it. But I adore my job. I work with amazing, intelligent, thoughtful people. They’re not perfect (good thing, because I’m sure not.) But I know they care deeply about teaching, about students, about learning – and even when we disagree or bump heads, that’s always there. It makes everything better, and there’s almost never a day I come home from work feeling useless or invisible or pointless. (Exhausted, yes, like not enough butter over too much bread, yes. But never useless.)
And the students are fabulous, too. I can never get complacent, and yet every day brings me some question, some curiousity that delights me and gets me going off in a brand new direction. (It’s part of why I like working with high school students: I get to do a little of everything.)
I’ve had my first for-pay writing published, and submitted another contracted piece. I’ve continued to develop connections and ties within my community. (Both pieces are in Llewellyn’s Witch’s Companion Almanac: I write under the name Jenett Silver. The 2010 piece is about music in personal practice, the 2011 pieces are for September, and an article on online tools and Pagan community.)
This was also the year that my tradition, the religious community I look to first, recognised me as an elder. I’m still blinking a bit at that one, and working on figuring out how I want to – need to – live up to that honor. (This is, I think, a lifetime process, or should be.)
I got to see the last of the students in my parent group who I had a substantial hand in working with become an initiate. I wasn’t at her initiation, but I did get to talk to her a lot before and after, and watching the changes in her has been delightful, amazing, and a great reminder of why I want so much to help make that happen for more people. I hope for many more such joys in the years to come.
And I spent a good chunk of the summer helping a dear friend after surgery. While it did challenging things to my energy levels and ability to get other things done, I don’t regret a moment of the experience: many wonderful conversations, thoughts, gentle pushes in the best direction, and amazing other things.
Integration: I’ve made major steps towards integrating all parts of my life. I’m now quietly but easily out at work as Pagan, and as a priestess, to boot. I’ve gotten some great questions, a lot of quiet support, and no blowback at all. (I did say that where I work has a lot of wonderful qualities, didn’t I?) This, too, is a big change for me, and one I’m still learning to dance with fully.
Oh, yes. And I helped run a convention (learning bunches of fascinating new skills), continued to volunteer as Programming Chair and webmistress for Twin Cities Pagan Pride , and did various other and sundry things. I also grew my first vegetables ever. (Tomatoes in an Earth Box.)
Not a bad year, when you put it that way.
There are things I regret in this year, too.
Not enough music. I continue to struggle with how to make it my own in ways that truly fit into my life. Work is one thing, but this has been a back and forth struggle with my own expectations, built from decades of formal music training. Slow steps, this year, but not enough.
Not enough time with friends. I know I’ve also let friends down a few times (and I have the best friends, ever.) Being stretched thin, having to cancel on short notice because I just couldn’t keep going. Of over-estimating what I wanted to do and what I could actually manage. Of a few communication glitches. Of not remembering to reach out and check in with people as much as the ideal me, the one who has the best of all the mentors I know who do that as a matter of course, wants to.
Not enough writing. There’s the book on better Pagan research techniques I desperately want to revise and finish – but I need a brain that is not eaten by very similar discussions at work first, to be able to work on some of it.
Not enough ritual work: Not enough group work, though for very good reasons. Not enough personal work, either. That part needs to change, because lack of ritual makes my hindbrain cranky. (In both cases, it’s not ‘none’. There’s been some. Just … not enough.)
And all those other plans: all sorts of other things I wanted to get done, to improve. Better housekeeping, so my home is always the refuge and quiet place I want it to be. (I was not a tidy child, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more easily distracted by disorder, without having the orderly habits intuitively in place to keep that true. This is not a combination I recommend.) All sorts of desires – to spin more yarn, to knit more, to create other art and beauty, to write more about books I read.
These things I haven’t done aren’t good.
They all matter to me, and I want to do them more. But I also know that the world changes, the river flows on – and this year, I will have new choices, new possibilities, new joys and opportunities, especially now that work is settling into a known foundation.
And so, now, I listen to this track (“Tam Lin” from Tricky Pixie’s first album Mythcreants) to finish. And I will go forward into eating wonderful food (chicken wild rice stew, homemade rolls, and tomatoes from my garden) and some ritual work to celebrate the season. When that is done, I intend to tune my harp, and play for at least a few minutes.
Happy Harvest Home to you. Happy harvest. Happy fall. Happy bringing in the things that bring you joy, and thinking about the things that will.