On Blessings for Babies

My tribe has some new children. We have been around for long enough as a tribe that we have seen a broad range of challenges and triumphs in parenting. We’ve got a greater awareness of the pressures and factors that we didn’t have to contend with ourselves, but that are major stressors on our children. Being asked to write a blessing for them this Imbolc, I started thinking about baby-blessings in general–what I wanted to accomplish or avoid in this new piece.

Most baby-blessings I have seen tend to be parental wishlists, or paeans to innocence and potential (boiling down to “be healthy and happy and successful, you precious little angel, and also reflect well on me”). I wanted to avoid putting any expectations on our children. I also wanted to avoid being the unwitting thirteenth fairy–afraid that by writing a list of wishes, I would leave something out, making room for a curse or a specific weakness. And I’m tired of rose-colored glasses, of trying to put the best face on everything.

Life is hard, and we’re not perfect, and it’s still all worth the striving.

Welcome to Preachain

Welcome, child now among us. We’ve waited for this day.
We’re your tribe. We are your family. We will love you, come what may.
We are glorious, and broken. We are fine, and we are frayed.
We are strong, and we are ailing. And we’ll love you, come what may.

We are druids, bards, and warriors, and cooks, and smiths, and fools.
We are drunkards and we’re gossips; we are kind, and we are cruel.
We’re hard workers, and we’re lazy. We are hopeful, and dismayed.
We are generous and selfish, and we’ll love you, come what may.

We are proud, and we are shame-faced; we’re holy, and profane.
We are horrible and lovely, and we’ll make mistakes again.
We are greedy and mean-spirited and wise and calm and brave.
You may be these things, or others, and we’ll love you, come what may.

 

Sassi Saucier and the Celeriac Sprain

This is a cautionary tale about the perils of chairs, trackpads, and root vegetables. I got a spiral vegetable cutter last Christmas. At the time, I made the (remarkably prescient) statement that readers should expect exclamations along the lines of “Hells yeah, spiralized celeriac!” Little did I know that spiralized celeriac would be the last straw for my right arm. Six months later, I have recovered enough to write about it without risking an aftermath of incapacity and icepacks.

Continue reading Sassi Saucier and the Celeriac Sprain

Fuse: An Old Find

[Edited, May 2017: I had a paragraph here about a video, but the link I had is broken. I’ll ask my friend Zoe, who made the video, if she still has it.]

I wrote this sometime in the early aughts, but I can’t find exactly when–and if I wait to find that information, this won’t get posted. So, I’m posting it. [EDIT, May 2015: I located the original manuscript! I wrote it between Feb. 20 (first draft) and March 1 (last edit), 2002. I’m pleased that my “sometime in the early aughts” guess was correct.]

Fuse

I beg, amid this day’s frustrations
Beg, O You who pattern pathways
Beg of you your secret sacred
Taste of truth, of sure and certain
Yes, your concentrated influx–
Sudden blaring pulsing fusion
Light-and-music, shells-and-blossoms
Sap-evaporate-infusion
Straight to vein-spike bee-hummed starshine
Shatter skull and reassemble
Kiss my fury gone with glory
Wrap me tight in all that’s holy
Slide molecular through mundane cares,
Remind me: Here’s What Matters.
Words and fibers, these I spin now
Breath and meat are what I’m made of
Silver-falling fertile springtime
Rain on long-parched fragrant soil
Rootlets tremble, jagged, fractal
Feed me free-born flesh and apples
Corded forearms, hammer-wielding,
Raising skill and crops and striking
Magma-stirring stones set just so.
Frozen crystals splitting sunrise,
Synapse-crackle, strong embraces,
Drums and honey, woolen prickle,
Wooden, copper, cobalt, amber
Bleached-white bone and deerskin supple
Scales soft rustle, silent feathers
Sudden-indrawn breath for shrieking
Crow-beak pierces through the curtain
Song and laughter, my voice gifting
Tears of gratitude, my treasure
Night and fire, silken beauty
Brainstem-clutching pale Muse grasping
Pre-dawn dreams: I am beloved.
Wild-eyed kin call me their bard,
and nothing less than howling loss
of poetry itself shall break me.

-Simone Parrish / Etaíne na Preachain, February 20-March 1, 2002

The Turning Round

My friend Morag recently discovered that a song I wrote for our Celtic reenactment group a few years ago can be sung as a round with itself, and woven into another piece we already sing as a round. (We don’t sing that other piece quite like the examples I’ve found online, though–we’ve somehow turned it from three lines to four, and added a second verse.)

My song, “Quarter Days,” is rarely sung all at once. It forms part of our quarter-day celebrations, the four big holidays on the cross-quarter points (between the solstices and equinoxes) at the spokes of the Wheel of the Year. Usually I only sing the verses for the specific holiday–the Beltaine ones for our Maypole, etc. I originally wrote the piece for Lughnasadh, which is in August, so even though the Celtic year begins at Samhain I think of the Lughnasadh verses as the beginning of the song.

There’s no recording of this, yet, but as we work on the weaving we might work on recording, too.

Quarter Days

Come we now to mark Lughnasadh,
Three quarters ’round the Wheel.
Now give we thanks for tribe and allies
As battle bruises heal.

Hearth and harvest, welcome brothers
And sisters to our feast.
We’ve fought with valor, shared our treasures;
The crow comes home to nest.

Chorus (2x):
‘Neath our feet the earth is turning.
Stars dance their shining whirl.
The fire in our hearts bright-burning
Feed our passion, light our world.

Samhain night is now upon us.
We turn to the new year.
The ancestors may walk among us;
The Otherworld draws near.

Darkness gathers. Winter’s waking,
as since the Wheel began.
Into his arms all fears now taking
So burns our Wickerman.

[Chorus, 2x]

Imbolc draws us back together.
Winter’s grip is loosening.
Forge-flames dream of warmer weather
Through cold nights’ slumbering.

Share we now what we’ve created,
Our craft and skill we bring.
Let joyous work be unabated.
Through Brigit this we sing.

[Chorus, 2x]

Beltaine’s beauty blooms before us.
Desire warms the world,
Bursting forth in joyous chorus,
New buds and leaves unfurled.

Sap has risen; now breath quickens,
Life’s forces flowing strong.
Wrap the Maypole wreathed in ribbons.
Dance to life’s sacred song.

[Chorus, 2x]

Edit, March 26, 2015: At Gulf Wars, we were thinking we might want to do something particular to mark the Vernal Equinox, and I wrote this, which means I guess I’m on deck for the rest of the solar holidays, too. (I didn’t end up singing it there, though. We did an egg-hunt, with prizes.)

Balanced days are now returning
Tilting back toward the sun
Light is waking, stretching, growing
Dreams hatch through work well-done

Plant we now for future’s reaping
Make plans for summer’s height
Longhall’s rhythm, strong hearts beating
Bright friendship warms the night.

Edit, August 2016: We had some losses as a tribe this year, so our Lughnasadh ritual focussed on the cycle of loss and growth. I added these verses to the Lughnasadh ones.

Our hearts grieve from long-fought battles
And weep for absent friends.
Well-stored crops and slaughtered cattle
Take us through the Wheel’s next bend.

Each night’s fire feeds our story.
Each life that starts anew
Feeds on every former glory
Strengthening the cauldron’s stew.

Scattered seed grows corn to feed us.
Through the dark we reach the dawn.
All that’s been has led us hither;
All that’s here will lead us on.

(Those last two lines are drawn from Robin Williamson’s For Three Of Us, which has become my traditional last-night-of-Pennsic song.)

Sassi Saucier and the Radish Spirit

TL;DR: Spiral vegetable cutter. Daikon noodles. My life is different now. Skip to the recipe.

Me, on Facebook a few days ago: “I need to issue fair warning: I got one of these for Christmas. I’ll probably be posting a series of exclamations along the lines of ‘Hells yeah, spiralized celeriac!’ This video does not accurately reflect my user experience, because at no point does this lady say ‘Wheeeeeee!'” Continue reading Sassi Saucier and the Radish Spirit

Economics is just modern fortune-telling.

Minor rant: If I were Queen of the Universe, #12 on my list of proclamations would be this: We stop saying/writing/reporting things like “Market fails to meet analysts’ projections”, or “The 3rd quarter figures were lower than predicted.” All such utterances should place the blame where it goes: On the economists, not on the figures.

“Analysts fail to predict market. Again. So far this year, they’re doing only slightly better than chance. Could you remind me why we’re paying them?”

“For the 23rd quarter in a row, the economists are wrong. This time they only missed the answer by 3%, which is pretty good, for them.”

I used to think that economics wasn’t a science, but I’m broadening my definitions. I think macroeconomics is an interesting way of looking at the world. I find the Freakonomics podcast fascinating, for example. But that doesn’t make economics a good way of predicting the likelihood of a specific event–certainly not to the degree you can rely on in chemistry or physics.

It’s kind of like weather forecasting for my neighborhood vs. meteorology for the planet. You can still call it science, if you’re using “science” to mean a “way of knowing”. It just falls apart a little when you get to the “replicability” standard for scientific merit. I’m OK with that–I don’t require that level of rigor from everything I believe. Love isn’t predictably replicable. Nor is poetry, or faith. But economics is pretending to be chemistry, when it’s arguably more like astrology, and that pretense bothers me.

I want to put an image here from Demotivators.com, because it would be funny. However, I’m pretty wary of image-searching-lawyer-bots, so I’ll just link to it instead: http://demotivators.despair.com/demotivational/economicsdemotivator.jpg. Enjoy.

Sassi Saucier and the One Year Soup

Delayed post, originally drafted on September 21, 2014.  I’m developing an unfortunate habit of writing things and then not posting them if I don’t have the perfect photos, or if I would have done something very differently. This Must End. I give you, belatedly and with No Illustrations At All, Sassi and the One Year Soup.

TL;DR: Make soup stock out of more than one kind of protein. Be amazed.

I’ve had some unprepossessing grayish lumps  in my freezer for nearly a year. They are labelled “Magic Clam and Lobster Broth.” I have a birthday tradition, in the less-lean years, of getting lobsters and clams from Maine. Coming up on Lobster Weekend 2014, I was trying to use up the stock I have left from last year. (I’m also reminded that I never posted the recipe for Lobster Waffles, because I couldn’t figure out what to tell folks to use for the broth, given that it’s mean and obnoxious-foodie-privileged to expect people to have clam and lobster broth just lying around. I’ll try to do some tests with bottled clam juice and maybe some frozen lobster tails or something…) Continue reading Sassi Saucier and the One Year Soup

“Purple Steele Landscape” for Sara Steele’s 101 Contest

The artist Sara Steele was clearing out old copies of her desk calendars, in celebration of her 35th calendar, and decided to run a little contest, which Jeanne thought looked like fun. Jeanne and I are often looking for excuses to make art together, and I’ve admired Sara Steele’s work since my sister Michelle started using her desk calendars in the 1980s, so this was a lovely bit of serendipity.

I’m posting my collage here so I can pin it on Pinterest. (I’m not a very practiced Pinterest user, and didn’t figure out a way to upload something directly until I had already written this post.)

It’s called “Purple Steele Landscape.” I made it on Saturday (November 22, 2014) from pieces of Sara Steele’s 2005 Desk Calendar (crediting her here for use of her copyrighted work).

purple-steele-landscape-collage

The shape of the landscape–and the idea of doing a layered landscape at all–came from the undulating line of the text of the index of the calendar. This might become a diptych, as the index was in two columns. I’m also wishing that I had textured up the purple background-paper more before I started gluing–crumpled it, or painted it. Maybe it’ll grown on me. We’ll see.

Life and Death Knowledge Management: Addresses and Ebola

I just read an article about why Ebola containment has been so difficult. It’s a complex problem, certainly. There is misinformation to be overcome. There are funeral practices to be accounted for. There is equipment and training to be deployed, community health workers to teach, public health measures to be taken, an already-fragile health system to be shored up. And there is fear. But there is also something so fundamental to my professional life that it makes me weep.

In 1997, I was working at a small law firm. The three partners had a thriving practice in telecommunications law. They also had a labyrinth of a contact management system. If a client with multiple broadcast licenses (e.g., an AM license, an FM license, and a low-power FM license) moved or changed telephone numbers, we beleaguered paralegals had to update that address in at least eight and as many as eleven different places—client lists, licensee lists, accounting lists, partners’ Rolodexes.

Eleven different places. Guess what? Mistakes were made. I made one. Someone didn’t get a letter they should have. I got yelled at. I yelled back, “You know what would help? Being able to update an address once, and then be able to find it no matter what list we were looking at, the AM licensee list or the accounts receivable list or the holiday party list. It’s crazy that we have to update these things in so many places. We need a database.”

Building that contacts database was one of my formative knowledge management experiences. It turned some three-day tasks into three-hour tasks. It made our work faster and better and easier. It was life-changing, in some ways, but it was never a matter of life and death.

Almost fifteen years later I came to work on the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. Splashed across the program’s website, its brochures, its presentation slides, were the words “Knowledge Saves Lives.” I believe that. I took on the project’s mission as my own, and I have served it to the best of my ability.

Today those words mean something different. “Knowledge Saves Lives.” According to the article, a major reason Ebola has been so hard to contain in West Africa is this: The contacts databases are not reliable.

The process that’s helped stop diseases like SARS and smallpox seems simple: Find everyone who had close contact with infected individuals and track them for 21 days. If any of these contacts comes down with the disease, isolate them from the community and repeat the process by tracking the contacts’ contacts. But tracing works only if you have a list of the contacts and their addresses…Many contacts’ addresses were missing or were vague like ‘down by the farm road.’ In all, only 20% to 30% of the contacts in the database had a usable address.

I have a new way to explain how knowledge management can, in and of itself, be a public health intervention. But I am filled with sorrow that the most basic information and communication technologies—not even high-speed Internet, not even touch-screen miracles, just “how to have an address”—have not gone far enough, fast enough to stop this monster.

For want of a nail.