A bouquet of flowers, freshly picked from the garden. Fingers stained with paint. Stones skipping across water, the subtle ripples disappearing before they’re noticed. Daydreams on hot summer mornings. The smell of something burning, and smoke too thick to see through. Hair lifting with static right before lightning strikes. Rumpled bed sheets. Red nail polish just beginning to chip, and the accompanying color of a skinned knee. A blot of ink as a writer pauses. Birds taking flight. A harsh shout, spat out as though it was burning. An empty stage. Eyes glinting with embers and starlight. Laughter too thick and choked to be fake. Pinkies twined in a promise. Strands of rope braided out of boredom. A whispered kiss, and an embrace that promises to never let go.
Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons, a National Treasure by Kanō Eitoku, for a monastery National Treasures (国宝: kokuhō) are the most precious of Japan’s Tangible Cultural Properties, as determined and designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (a subsidiary of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology). A Tangible Cultural Property is considered to be of historic or artistic value, classified either as “buildings and structures”, or as “fine arts and crafts”. Each National Treasure must show outstanding workmanship, a high value for world cultural history, or exceptional value for scholarship.
August 28, 2016 - Blue-naped Mousebird or Blue-naped Coly (Urocolius macrourus)
Found in eastern and central Africa, these mousebirds are fairly common in captivity. They eat mostly fruits, along with some leaves, stems, flowers, buds, and berries. They breed throughout the year with regional peaks around the rainy season. Named for their rodent-like way of moving, the mousebirds are a unique family of birds with several distinctive physical features. These include the ability to rotate all four of their toes to face forward and their widely spaced legs, which lead to their habits of perching by hanging from a branch rather than sitting on top of it and often grasping a separate branch with each foot.
Maybe I’ll talk a little. No need to read it. Just scroll on.
For a long time I didn’t consider myself pagan at all. Oddly, people would ask me from time to time, as if they saw something I didn’t see. “Are you pagan?” “Are you Wiccan?” I would answer, “No. Why?” I didn’t get it—just because I like nature, people think I’m pagan?
But of course, I didn’t just LIKE nature. I took frequent long walks, noticing all the tiny changes that happen from week to week, not just noticing the four seasons. In spring I wrote down which birds came back on which days, in a book of days that I used from year to year, so I knew which ones were due next, and did the same with flowers, marking down my first hepatica, first bloodroot.
All summer I would be out, checking when the grasses start blooming, the first brood of bluebirds fledged, and all the time watching the sunrise edge south and start north again. The same in winter. I know just where the sun hits the kitchen wall when it rises on winter solstice morning. I mark down when I see the first junco in the garden in fall, and the first snowdrops to bloom, often in January.
And it makes me laugh to think that when people asked me, “Are you pagan?”, I would often answer, “No, I could never be pagan. I hate ritual.” And meanwhile I would be out looking for skunk cabbage blooms in February, trailing arbutus in April, bloodroot in May, grass blooms in June, Queen Anne’s lace in July, Joe Pye weed in August, gentians in September, and the process of the autumn turning leaves, naming the trees off one by one in order, red maples, then the sassafras and tulip poplars…. And the same with the birds and the same with so many other trees and flowers and the seasonal mists and the way the light hits things at different times of year. I was out there for all of nature’s rituals, so caught up in watching them progress, like a secret language the earth was speaking that I noticed and understood but that no one else I knew paid attention to.
Then I went to Great Britain in May, and a lot of the people I had made friends with online turned out to be pagans of one feather or another, giving me homemade mead and taking me to ancient site after ancient site, talking about wights and ancestors, pointing out sacred trees and one of them doing little rituals to her garden every evening.
And I realized, yes, sure, I’d been offering tobacco to MY garden back home once in a while. Why not? Someone had recommended it along with putting out something for spirits to live in, and I’d done it, not because I believed it but because, as they had said, what could it hurt? and then the garden had had its best year ever that first year, so I did it from then on, but it didn’t mean I was pagan, right? Just a little superstitious?
And then I went to Glastonbury Tor for the OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) summer gathering, watched the ceremony, talked with some people, and next day spent a while at Chalice Well Gardens, and it all seemed so natural and understandable, and the people seemed so thoughtful and in some ways like me, and it began to sneak into my mind—maybe I WAS pagan and just didn’t know it.
And that’s why I reblogged that O’Donohue quotation today. He says:
“With complete attention, landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess.”
All that time I kept saying I hated ritual, but I’d been out with the landscape, celebrating “the liturgy of the season” almost all my life! I’d been carrying home feathers and acorns and cool stones and setting them in a place (that is SURELY not an altar!) where they represent the places and creatures and things I love. I’ve been whispering “Thank you!” to the bluebirds when they light on something near me, or to a place when it dazzles me with its beauty, or a to a rare plant for letting me find it. But does that make me pagan? Or just a person in love with an amazing world? I know when he says “passion of the goddess” in that quotation, what he means by the word ‘goddess’ is what I mean by the word ‘world’.
Am I really pagan? I still don’t know for sure. But it seems like during that time when I thought I was walking alone, actually I had stumbled on a much-used path. Hail, fellow earthlings!