A is for Attention

[Part of the Pagan Blog Project]

I used to do a lot of horseback riding when I was a teenager, and a number of things from that time have stuck with me.

One of those was the way we pay attention. There’s a concept called “hard eye versus soft eye”. Hard eye is the directed focused attention, when you are honed in on a particular goal – pointing a horse at a fence, navigating an obstacle in a trail class, doing THAT thing right now.

Soft eye is letting things open up, to the edges of your peripheral vision. Being aware of that thing that’s coming up beside you – whether that’s another horse and rider, a branch, a random thing that will terrify the poor pitiful thousand pound prey animal you’d like to stay on top of. (With my beloved pony, that was sheep. She was terrified of them. Also deer.)

You need both kinds of vision – both kinds of attention – in your life sometimes, but in general, the more of your time you can spend in soft eye, the better it is for you. You take in more, for one thing. But you also are easier on your body. Things are flexible, gentle, open, able to respond to new input quickly. It’s harder to sneak up on you.

So, why am I talking about this in a post about Pagans and research and life? Because the same thing is true with research.

Continue reading

Pagan Blog Project

So, as part of my “No, really, I will blog more regularly in public.” goal. I am planning on doing the Pagan Blog Project, wherein one writes a post a week (based on alphabetical placement)

But because I’m me, and because – for more than one reason – I don’t really want to do “Let me talk about general Pagan stuff”, I want to turn this to a topic I’m about to dig into in much more depth (in hopes of producing functional long-form writing about it by the end of the year: for those of you who know me, this is the thing I refer to as the Better Pagan Research book I’ve been talking about for nearly a decade.)

So, I plan to use these blog posts to talk about aspects of research, learning, information, analysis, investigation, training, evaluation, and pretty much any other term you can think of for “taking in information about the world and doing something with it” as they intersect with Paganism. I’ve got a list of topics (yes, even for X, Y, and Z) though I may change some between now and when I actually write them.

You can also expect there may be some book recommendations (both Pagan and non) and probably a certain number of cooking metaphors. Because I’m like that.

Posts will be in their own category (Pagan Blog Project), and will get posted on Fridays, generally around 10am. Feel free to suggest topics you’d particularly like me to touch on, though the format (and frequency) may mean some things just don’t fit in blogging space as much as I’d like.

An odd anniversary

Three years ago, effectively (technically November 30th, but it was the Monday after Thanksgiving), I woke up feeling just as lousy after 5 days off as before I started.

The next six months were hell. Two months to get a diagnosis. Two more before it even started to kick in. Two more before I could see the faint glimmerings of myself behind the cloud of cottonwool and exhaustion. My job did not renew my contract.

It turns out that was an excellent thing. It took a year of being unemployed to begin to recover. I job hunted throughout, but these days, I am so very grateful no one hired me before my current job. I had a year of being able to sleep in until I woke, of taking a 3 hour nap more afternoons than not – but still being able to get things done, at my own pace.

(During that year, I turned out 4-5 detailed and individualised cover letters and other applications a week. Oh, and planned a Pagan convention, created my Seeking site, did a bunch of teach-myself-new-tech projects, and a fair bit else. But there was a lot of napping, and resting involved.)

And then I moved to Maine, and it’s taken me a year and some to feel like I have an idea where my limits are. I’m now at a point where I can work a full day, and do good things at work, and come home and have the brain and focus to write. Or clean for 30 minutes without feeling completely wiped out at the end.

It’s taken a long time to recover. It’s made me so very aware of the friends I can count on, and the ones I can’t. Of trusting my intuition looking for solutions in unlikely places. (I remain convinced that my Feldenkrais lessons saved my sense of self in ways I can’t begin to describe.)

There are still challenges: my religious practices (the formal stuff, not the little stuff that’s warp and weft of my life) has not yet recovered. The thought of organising public ritual exhausts me still. (Though I’m dancing around what it would take to do a Pagan coffee-and-talk gathering once a month.) The same thing is true with my social life: I like my co-workers (and am closer friends with one), but a lot of my social interaction is with friends in more distant places. I want to fix some of that this year.

And it’s taken a long time for other things, too. To not flinch and bury myself when I know I’m behind on work. (Because I now have a boss who is very reasonable and reassuring. And where I can get feedback for the asking, rather than meetings once a month that are prone to rescheduling and interruptions and other stresses.)

But this weekend, I was rereading Lord Peter, the collection of short stories by Dorothy L. Sayers.

There’s one in there, where – look, I’m spoiling a story that’s been in print since the 30s, okay? – that I’d not read since before my diagnosis. Of a woman, hypothyroid like me, and what happens when she doesn’t get the tiny bit of hormone she needs each day. And what it’s like when she does. The dawning of a life, again, that seemed loss. And the dawning of having the energy to engage with the world again.

I woke up today feeling not-great (I have the horrible cold that’s going around, I’ve had it since last Monday, and I missed a Thanksgiving gathering I’d really been looking forward to. My week was mostly sitting on the couch knitting and attempting to nap.) But I also know that I’m getting better, and it’s temporary.

Three years ago, I was not so sure.  And worse, not sure how to fix it, and who might be a help.

Thanks, again, to those who were. (You know who you were.)

One spirit in the dark

There’s a chant out there from the Spiral Rhythm CD I Am – that goes

One spirit in the dark, like a candle wavers.
Many spirits joined as one, burn with the power of the blazing sun.
There is strength in community, the circle empowers you and me.
The circle binds yet sets us free, as we will, so mote it be.

I listened tonight, as I walked home from my evening reference shift at work (random music shuffle is a form of divination and sometimes consolation) while I was thinking about a recent post on the blog Making Light which essentially asks “What happens when new spiritual experience opens up under our feet, and we’re not sure what to do with it?”

My answer is far too long for a comment there – and I knew this before I even started typing – so I figured it would be a fine post here instead. (Look! This blog still exists! Really!)

Continue reading

Wicca, censorship, and the library

[So, one of my goals this year is to update this blog weekly on average. I did not quite expect to start with this topic, though.]

I’ve just seen a number of news stories come across my professional blog RSS feed about the case of a resident of Salem, Missouri (Anaka Hunter) who (supported by the ACLU) has sued both the library and various other named parties (including the library director) for blocking reasonable access to material – namely information about Wicca and Native American religious practices, among other topics.

 Ars Technica has an excellent overview, and links to the PDF of the complaint.

Reading the stories I’ve seen so far, I have both a few questions – and the thought that a lot of people don’t know how libraries are supposed to handle this sort of thing, or what the common considerations around filtering/etc. are in public libraries and schools.

Continue reading