Summer

Though weather varies widely across the planet, of course, the traditional meaning of May Day in Europe was “the beginning of Summer”. Thus, the summer solstice was termed “Midsummer”, et cetera. Here in the U.S. the unofficial beginning of summer is a little later, with the passage of Memorial Day at the end of May.

Here in the Mediterranean climate of coastal northern California, our hills are now turning from green to gold as the grasses go to seed and turn tawny. It is the signal that summer has truly arrived, and we have days to match: 70s and low 80s, not quite hot enough yet to provoke the fog cycle which will soon draw moist air in from over the ocean and blanket us with fog during the morning, burning off to sunshine in the afternoon.

Summer is a time with many meanings, most of them pedestrian: it is vacationing time and barbecuing time and the summer break in children’s schooling. In many places, it is the season of stifling heat and or swarming insects as cold-blooded invertebrates take advantage of the heat to complete their life cycles. We’re lucky here; we have some days in the 100s, but they cool off at night, and mostly it’s a pleasant, shirtsleeve-weather kind of time.

For those who grow our food, however, it is a time of hard work. Sowing is done, but stewarding the crops until they are ready for harvest is an ongoing effort, and those raising animals must keep them adequately cooled and watered. It is no surprise that people all over the world greet the season of harvest with feasts and parties: for all the hard work of bringing in the harvests, the wealth of delicious food that results is grounds for celebration.

It bears saying, of course, that south of the equator we are approaching the darkest and coldest time of the year, as well. There, the holy Sun is missed, longed for, and its return avidly awaited. There, it is nearly Yule.

While we in our Atheopagan practices celebrate the summer season with Midsummer, for many of us summer is already here. The Season of the Sacred Sun is upon us.

Whose warm love flows across the land each day

Stirring Life, the world’s magic, arms yearning up,

Turning each green leaf to follow. Whose generous balm

Upon the skin is love’s touch, ahhhhhh heated fingers soothing,

Whose roar boils water from ocean to sky

Drawing sweet from salt, becoming rain, snow, river, lake;

Whose fervid beat upon us may be deadly, and yet

Contemplating cold stars how we miss it, the Golden One, quotidian center

Of our days, steady companion, sower of treasures great and small:

Light-bringer, Life-quickener, dazzling, unbearably bright,

Hail, oh hail the magnificent Sun!

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On the Other Hand…(A Love Letter)

So, I’ve been a little hard on the Pagan community lately.

I’ve decried abuses and hierarchieslack of political engagement, and the leftovers of the sexual culture of the 1960s that still thrive in many corners of it.

Those things are true, in my opinion, and I stand by them.

So why, one might ask, do I continue to be a part of a community of people who I find so problematic?

Well, let me tell you: because it’s wonderful.

In all my experience, no cohort of people has ever been so smart, interesting, creative, unique and, by and large, genuinely good-hearted. Weird, yes—but isn’t that just a synonym for creative?

Despite blind spots, Pagans are generally kind and well-meaning, and wish the best for the Earth and their fellow humans. They are fiercely independent and egalitarian (sometimes to a fault). And the vast majority of them are adamantly opposed to bigotry and injustice.

They are masters of arts, like brewing and distilling, leathercraft, weaving, jewelry making, sewing. They are musicians and poets. They throw a great party, and many of them know how to create a powerful, life-transforming ritual.

Being a part of the Pagan community adds LIFE to my life. Life lived large, out loud, with unashamed exuberance. Life filled with rich flavors and sensuous textures, life full of music and dancing. Life of exploration and adventure.

Life the way I always hoped life could be before I found them.

Does it drive me crazy with its frequent dysfunction? Certainly.

Does it sometimes disappoint me with its too-human failings to live up to the vision of what it could be? Of course.

But when I withdrew from the Pagan community in 2005, following some very dysfunctional experiences, I found quickly that my life had become pale and wan. The color had simply run out of it.

Yes, there was the richness of the natural world. And as I began exploring my thoughts and researching the nature of religion (the explorations which would lead to my publication of the “How I Became an Atheopagan” essay), I certainly savored the richness of Nature.

But we are social apes, we humans. We need one another. And every social group I found myself in after leaving the Pagan community seemed so constrained, so denatured. So straight.

And maybe it’s just because I’m a weirdo, too. But the culture of suburban white middle-class America not only bores me senseless, it fills me with a kind of panic. A desperate desire to escape. I can play the game for awhile, but it’s not where I want to live.

No. Give me the woolly musky randy brilliance of a full-on human in contact with the complexity of this world, someone who thinks and feels and knows they are an animal. Give me people who laugh loudly and cry bitterly, who wring the joy from living.

For truly, they are my people. They are blessed.

Blessed

For my people—you know who you are

I am among the blessed.

I am of the kind who leaves the glaring tube, remembering

And goes to watch the moon rise silver through the trees

Breathing purple and chill, stinging pine.  I am

Among the blessed:  I know the acacia, the first daffodil,

The irises unsheathing cream and violet labia in the green wet of May.

I tune for the new music on the radio:  I turn it up.

I am among the blessed:  I drink wine by firelight, clothes rank with smoke,

Bright silver twisted through my lobes.  I know secrets;

They are tattooed on my body where the sleeves can cover them,

They read

Blessed, and only if we are lucky enough, you and I, courageous enough

To shed our clothes together will you read them.  Seeing scarlet leaves drift down,

Perhaps, with ice around the moon, or the steel bones of the oaks against Orion,

Knowing we are among the blessed, that we miss nothing, that we will eat this life

Like a chocolate mango, like Beethoven ice cream,

Moaning our joy with each sweet bite.

A Dawn Prayer

Whose warm love flows across the land each day

Stirring Life, the world’s magic, arms yearning up,

Turning each green leaf to follow. Whose generous balm

Upon the skin is love’s touch, ahhhhhh heated fingers soothing,

Whose roar boils water from ocean to sky

Drawing sweet from salt, becoming rain, snow, river, lake;

Whose fervid beat upon us is deadly, and yet

Contemplating cold stars how we miss it, the Golden One, quotidian center

Of our days, steady companion, sower of treasures great and small:

Light-bringer, Life-quickener, dazzling, unbearably bright,

Hail, oh hail the magnificent Sun!