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Iaconagraphy Sabbatical: July 26, 2017-September 21, 2017

Most people who take a sabbatical at this time of year (end of summer) do so to go on vacation–to go to the seashore and perhaps go swimming, or go to the mountains for an extended hike, or what have you–but for some of us, such rests are necessary so that we can actually get things done.  That is the case for me.  This time away is nothing so glamorous as a trip to the beach, although hopefully the end result of it will be a home where we can live constantly reminded that the Ocean, and Her Gods and Goddesses (Njordr, Freyja-Mardoll, Ran, Aegir, the Nine Waves, and Nehalennia), are never very far away from us. 

Most of you are aware that we’ve spent the entire summer embroiled in the real estate “shenanigans” of selling our house and procuring a new one.  Well, we are now at that crucial point of packing up our lives and moving them (and their “souvenirs”) to a new home.  That is going to require quite a bit of work on my part, so I will be taking time off from this business from today (July 26, 2017) through September 21, 2017, so that I can take care of the business of getting us packed, moved in, and unpacked in a timely fashion.

Njordr has been a primary and guiding force for me, through this entire “debacle”.  I never really realized how much selling one house to move to another has in common with fishing until I was deep in the heart of this situation.  When a fisherman casts a line or a net, he doesn’t wiggle or worry that line or net; he waits patiently.  Sure, he puts in all of the hard work of baiting the line and reeling in the catch at the end, or of setting the net and hauling it back in, but during that in between portion, he simply waits. Patiently.  Patience is not one of my better virtues, I’ll be honest.  But I’ve learned a lot about the hope and faith that patience actually requires through undergoing and enduring this process.

So it is with that same hope and faith that I beg your patience, while I am away for the next couple of months.  I may occasionally, as time permits, still post art and musings both here and at Facebook , so please, don’t give up on me!  I’ve cast this net, and I would very much appreciate coming back to find it still full of Wonderful Peeps!

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Rock Aching Against Water

Original art and blessing by Connla Freyjason; Thrud from a previous render by Daniel P. for Iaconagraphy (Thrud image only available at Red Bubble by clicking this image; opens in new tab)

I have spent most of my life attempting to emulate the famous Bruce Lee quote “Be water, my friend”, but for the past two weeks, I’ve felt more like the rock than the water: rock aching against water.  Most of you already know that we’re in the midst of selling our home and attempting to find and buy a new one, and I’ve said before: moving is hard.  As we go deeper and deeper down this tangled path, however, I’m discovering more and more every day that those three words are really too mild of a statement for precisely how difficult this entire scenario actually is.  “Be water, my friend” went flying out the window, leaving nary a feather behind, somewhere around June 11th, and it’s been all uphill from there!

For a moment, let’s talk about what that quote means, before we talk about its opposite.  In full, Bruce Lee said:

“Don’t get set into one form; adapt it, and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.  Empty your mind; be formless; shapeless–like water.  Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup.  You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.  You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.  Now, water can flow, or it can crash.  Be water, my friend.”

Basically, what this means it that you shouldn’t get locked into patterns; that you should basically learn to “roll with the punches”, and somehow keep landing on your feet.  It requires being mindful of your environment and surrounding situations to the point that you can easily “change your shape” to fit that environment and those situations–the way water becomes a cup, or a bottle, or a teapot.  It implies that you are adaptable; that you can take virtually any situation and “make it your own”; take command of it; know when to flow, and when to crash. Ultimately, “being like water” means being completely open to the fact that there are infinite possibilities open to us; it means being hard and soft at the same time; it means accepting the possibilities of success and failure equally. It is to believe that anything can happen, and that it actually might.  From a Heathen perspective, it means being comfortable with the ebb and flow of Wyrd, rather than afraid of that ebb and flow.  When we close ourselves off to all of that, we remove any chance for a sense of accomplishment, relegating ourselves to a constant state of feeling stymied, trapped, out of control, and basically doomed.  

And that is where being the rock, instead of the water, comes into this discussion.  Rocks don’t typically move.  They are static entities; their shape is their shape, and they aren’t exactly legendary for adapting.  Instead of adapting, they break and erode.  Generally, with a rock, “what you see is what you get”, which is why we have phrases like “written in stone” and “set in stone” to denote things that are unchangeable or immutable.  Rather than changing its environment, a rock is changed by its environment: moss grows, or the rock is broken apart by rushing water, or eroded into sand.  “Rock people” (as opposed to “water people”) see Wyrd as something which is likewise set in stone, and they live in an environment of fearing that Wyrd.  It is a life of feeling as though something unknown is constantly impending, and almost every creature alive fears the unknown.

Up until June 11th, I was doing a fairly decent job of “being water”, instead of “being rock”, with this whole home-selling-home-buying scenario.  I had dutifully packed up most of my office without batting an eye, looking upon the whole affair as the first key to a new future in our lives together. I was, in fact, actually excited about the whole thing.  I had begun shopping around online for potential new home prospects, and we had already toured a few open houses. I began embracing the whole concept of “mobile home living” and the “mobile home lifestyle”, which honestly tugged at my California-born heartstrings in ways that I couldn’t even begin to readily describe to my partner or anyone else.  I began feverishly creating home-plans (complete with decor motifs and furniture placement) at Roomstyler, and researching everything I could find on home makeovers (including fantastic accent wall treatments).  I resolved that I was going to become the “ultimate house husband” upon moving to our new locale, complete with all that such entails, right down to making sure dinner was on the table promptly at 5:30 every day when my Beloved gets home.  And I was super excited about all of that.  Wyrd would take us where we needed to be, and I had ultimate faith in the Gods in bringing us there.  So what changed?  How did I suddenly go from “water” to “rock”?

Prepping for our first open house, on the heels of our favorite future home prospect being pulled from the market, while suffering from the worst outbreak of pustular psoriasis we have ever endured started my downhill slide.  Still, I tried to remain hopeful, as we went that Wednesday to tour two other home prospects, the first of which we were both absolutely in love with.  Cat-in-tow, we went to tour two properties, both of which had promise, and I immediately came home and sat down the very next day and started plugging in our furniture and coming up with decorating motifs via Roomstyler.  Yes, I was terrified about where my health was taking me, but I kept reminding myself that soon our lifestyle would be way more laid back, and that somewhat helped me through. I continued to pray nightly (as I always do), even as I put my job on hold because I couldn’t write or even make art through the fever and the itching and the fear.  I tried to keep my chin up, and wade through the itching, the pain, and the knowledge that this could be the outbreak that ended both me and Michelle, and remain hopeful. I tried to stay water, my friends.

On the 22nd, that prospect we were in love with sold to another buyer.  I tried not to let that get me down, as my health was improving (however slightly), and instead focus on the other prospect we had toured.  The more of our furniture I crammed into the houseplan of it on Roomstyler, the more cramped it became, but I found “work arounds”, and kept plugging away.  “It’ll just be cozy”, I reminded myself and my partner; “and we love cozy, right?”  Meanwhile, we scheduled two more open houses, and I watched my Beloved work her tail off while I had to sit humbly by and try to “pray away the pain”.  I began to feel guilty that I couldn’t do as much as I had done around the house previously and internally beat myself up about that fact.  I began to pine for another property we had found that is totally our dreamhouse, but also totally un-financeable.  I began to hear the Princess Leia quote from Star Wars: A New Hope replayed over and over again inside my head, only with a real estate theme: “The more you tighten your grip, the more mobile homes will slip through your fingers”.  Except our “grip” didn’t feel tight at all; instead, it felt more and more like “one hand clapping”: an appendage constantly reaching out for what it wants, yet only grasping air. My downward spiral from “water” into “rock” had officially begun.

I am officially breakingeroding, and turning into sand.  Where once I sat out in the swing to watch the bunnies and the birds, and it would bring me peace, now I sit out in the swing and watch the bunnies and the birds to hide my tears.  What will life be like in a place where I can no longer hear the coyotes sing?  All I want to be able to do is look out my window and see a tree, and it doesn’t even have be my tree; it just needs to be a tree!  All the while I am constantly reminded that I am a financial disaster, living on the good graces of the people who love me, and cannot help with anything whatsoever except maybe a little housework here and there, and right now, I’m not even fully able to do that.  I feel like a piece of dandelion fluff blown on the wind; some magical thing, perhaps, to the eye of a child, but when it’s all said and done, wherever I come to land I will grow into a weed.  And weeds are a nuisance; they leech all of the good away.  My nightly prayers have begun to feel like something I say by rote.  Where once there was faith behind those words, now that faith has been replaced with a very definite desperation.  I still sing galdr, yet each time I do so, I am reminded of the two homes previously that I have tried to “galdr into existence” for us that have gone to other buyers, even as our own prospects grow ever more slim. I am spiraling ever deeper into a pit of despair, and I’m having a very hard time finding a way to climb back out of it. No longer caught up in the ebb and flow of Wyrd, it has instead become a wave which I fear will drown us all.  

This morning, I pulled Uruz for my daily rune-draw.  I do this every morning, asking the Gods to tell me Their intentions for me this day: how should I live; what should I do; to what should I put my energy?  Immediately, the blessing for Thrud which I had been led to create weeks ago popped into my mind, and most especially the line: As rock as it aches against water.  We don’t tend to think of the pain the rock endures, as it is broken apart by rushing water, until that moment when we have become that stone.  As Heathens, the words “the strength of mountains” sound like a fantastic thing to have; like something for which to actively strive.  That’s all well and good until one is actually asked to endure; then and only then does one realize just how tough it must be to be a mountain!  

So how does one go from being “rock” back to being “water”?  

Flip that switch in four steps:

  • Restore hope via gratitude.
  • Give yourself permission to believe in miracles; in infinite possibilities.
  • Define your ultimate possibility.
  • Ultimately believe in your ultimate possibility.

The first step is the restoration of hope.  That’s the “thing” I lost a good grasp on, starting around June 11th, and then pretty much totally on the 22nd.  As this proverbial stone has continued rolling downhill like an avalanche, things have come to feel more and more hopeless. And, as in that famous quote from the TV series Lost, “hope is a dangerous thing to lose“.  Perhaps the easiest way to flip our brains from a “doom cycle” back to a “hope cycle” is via gratitude.  Being grateful for the things around us provides the rational mind–that part of the brain that tends to be the “doomsayer” in the first place–with evidence that good things can and do, in fact, happen after all.  I end every day, no matter how shitty, with a litany of gratitude to the Gods for every single good thing that happened throughout that day, no matter how small: everything from “thank you for that heron that flew by my window this afternoon at two o’clock” to “thank you for time with my Beloved and Kili”.  So, clearly, I have a relatively decent “gratitude system” already in place, yet here I am still: a rock, instead of water.

Restoring hope should begin to pave the way for a restoration of the belief in infinite possibilities.  In other words, giving oneself permission to honestly believe in miracles.  Two weeks ago, I wholeheartedly did; now, notsomuch.  I believe that was the true turning point for me, with going from water to rock.  One can only be told so many times that something is impossible before one actually gets with the program and realizes that something is, in fact, impossible. And once we reach that point, miracles cease being a possibility.  The permission to believe in them is officially revoked.  Author Marianne Williamson, famous for her books on alternative spirituality, including A Course In Miracles, has this to say about giving oneself permission to believe in miracles:

“A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love–from a belief in what is not real, to faith in that which is.  That shift in perception changes everything.”

Breaking that down from a strictly Heathen perspective, believing in miracles means understanding, accepting, and (most importantly) allowing the concept that all of those infinite possibilities–all of those miracles–are not utangard, but instead, innangard.  In other words, miracles aren’t something that happen to someone else out there in the big somewhere elsebut are instead right there, waiting for us, within our own circle of influence.  We fear what is outside our circle of influence, while we love what is inside our circle of influence.  When all of those infinite possibilities becomes things which are outside of that circle of influence–when we have that “one hand clapping” feeling that I described earlier, which makes us feel very out of control–we come to fear those possibilities, rather than love them.  The further we push possibility away from us, the more we come to fear it, and the more out of control we subsequently feel.  

So the third step is to define your ultimate possibility.  Your ultimate possibility should be the best possible outcome, based on the good things already being detailed by your personal “gratitude system“.  By basing the ultimate possibility on things which are already happening within our present circle of influence, all of those infinite possibilities become innangard, rather than utangard. My ultimate possibility, therefore, would be an attainable home that is sustainable by me, even given all of our health issues, which will require me to show off my interior design skills in effectively homemaking, because that is the “part of this bargain” which is actually within my circle of influence.  I cannot buy us a house; I can’t make that happen.  But I can make it a home. I cannot control whether or not there are trees in our yard-to-come, but I can learn to garden and grow things inside as well as outside. Home-buying is outside my circle of influence; it is utangardHomemaking, however, is something at which I excel–something I have always longed for the opportunity to actually do–and is therefore inside; it is innangard.

The final step, then, is to believe ultimately in that ultimate possibility.  Believing ultimately means that you put your heart and soul (all four parts of it!) into making that ultimate possibility an ultimate reality.  In my case, that means that rather than pinning all my hopes and dreams on this specific property, or that one, I instead put all of that energy into learning and preparing to do all of the things that are congruent with my ultimate possibility.  For example, if I want to be able to look out my window and see a tree, I need to start learning how to either plant one, paint one, or otherwise create one, rather than sitting around crying and moaning about “please, Gods, give me a tree!”  If I’m so obsessed with having “a room with a view”, instead of pinning everything on a specific property that has that view (which could just as easily slip away as not), I need to be developing creative ways to make a room have a view.

Ultimately, Wyrd is neither shaped for us nor set in stone: it ebbs and flows and changes with our every breath and our ever-changing attitudes.  When we trap ourselves in a cycle of hopelessness, then that becomes our Wyrd.  Instead of running like rabbits from shadows in the dark–from those things which are outside our circle of influence–we must come to realize that such behavior simply calls our worst fears to us.  By living our lives that way, we are literally bringing the worst possible Wyrd into existence.  Instead, we must focus on those things which we can control–those things which are inside our circle of influence–and take charge of those things.  Be grateful for them, and then do something with them and about them.  Even if it requires the strength of mountains; even if it hurts, like rock aching against water. 

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Advent Event: Third Day of Advent: Banish Fear and Accept Joy

The third Sunday of Advent is a call to banish fear, in favor of joy.  We can’t possibly experience true joy so long as our hearts are filled with fear, nor can we experience true love, for real love banishes all fear from the heart and mind.  Banishing fear might seem like a weird topic for Christians to focus on during the Christmas season, but the shepherds mentioned in the Gospel of Luke certainly felt it, and so do all of us, on a pretty regular basis. Yet, for those shepherds to embrace the joy of the message the angels were bringing, and for us to experience true joy in our own lives, we’ve got to get rid of fear once and for all.  This is a call to joy: to being truly happy, released from all fear and excess baggage, so we can spread light not only in the world, but in our own individual lives.

Whether or not you grew up as a Christian, you’ve probably at least seen the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, where Linus tells the Christmas Story from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2:

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.

So why were the shepherds afraid of the angels?  I mean, our modern image of an angel is usually a really good-looking dude in a white dress with a pair of big, white wings; what’s so scary about that?  Why would a dude whose job it was to fight off lions and wolves with a stick be afraid of a good-looking guy in a dress, with or without wings?  Well, the truth is, real angels aren’t cute little babies with rosey buttcheeks and tiny feathered wings, like all of those pre-Raphaelite paintings, or that one scene in Disney’s Fantasia. Real angels are a force to be reckoned with, and they look like it, most of them. The heavenly choirs of Seraphim are described in the Old Testament as fiery beings, who are six-winged and many-eyed, and the actual Cherubim (also in the Old Testament) are only vaguely humanoid at all–they are four-faced, with the feet of birds. Archangels, of course, are more “human-looking”, but even they often wield swords, and generally come accompanied by a brilliant white light and the rushing sound of many wings. Even the lower echelons of angels are warriors and messengers with great wings and a feeling of power about them. So when those shepherds looked up as the skies unfurled before them, they were struck with terror, for they knew angels for what they truly are: powerful beings that were anything but “cute and fuzzy”.

And these weren’t just any angels that were coming to deliver this news to these particular shepherds, either, this was the angel: the head honcho of all angels; the General of God’s army, and we are told:

And the angel said to them: “Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people”…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.”

So, the angel was soon accompanied by the rest of an army of angels. How does one usually react when faced with an entire army of anything, whether it’s ants, zombies, or angels? Fear. Real, dyed-in-the-wool, hope you’re wearing your brown pants, fear.

But then the head-honcho angel says: “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy,” and that banished the fear those shepherds held in their hearts and minds, the same way it still does for all of us.  Joy banishes fear. Pure and simple.

What about those other things we fear? You know, those things that nobody really wants to talk about or even admit exist, like the negative entities that can sometimes come lurking around us when we allow too much negativity into our lives.  Can joy banish those, too? Believe it or not, yes, it can!

We know what fear is, but what is joy?  It is both a feeling of great happiness, and a feeling of success in doing, finding, or getting something. When we are truly happy, and feeling successful, there is no room in our hearts for fear. It’s the reason people ride roller coasters: if we weren’t happy in the first place (that’s why they’re called amusement parks, folks; they’re designed to make you happy), and we didn’t think we would feel successful after having survived something so “scary”, we would never get on a roller coaster in the first place! In reality, life is just one neverending roller coaster; unfortunately, it isn’t also located in an amusement park!

There is nothing amusing about the prospect of having our hearts broken, facing disappointments, dealing with other people’s judgments, accepting the existence of negative entities (much less facing them down), or potentially failing, yet that’s what we have to deal with, when it comes to living our lives, no matter how much of a positive attitude we adopt going into all of that.  Yet, here we all are, and we’ve got to ride this thing, like it or not.  We can ride it in fear–white-knuckled, gnashing our teeth, miserable every single step of the way–or we can ride it in joy.  That’s our choice. If we’re going to ride it the way we were put here to ride it–as luminous beings–we’ve got to make the decision for joy.

How do we make that joy decision?  A good place to start would be to follow this advice:

Celebrate [Spirit] all day, every day.  I mean, revel in [it]!  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.  Help them to see [the Spirit in them].  Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers…before you know it, a sense of wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.   It’s wonderful what happens when [Spirit] displaces worry at the center of your life.

–Philippians 4:4-7

(Paraphrases in [] are my additions.)

When we worry, we dwell on all the negative things that could happen, instead of focusing on our faith in all the positive things that could happen, and when we do that, because we are energy, we literally draw those bad things to us.  You get what you put out, right?  So if we were putting out positivity, we would get back positive stuff, but when we worry–putting out negativity–those worries become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because they attract the negative stuff straight into our lives.  A worrying life is not a life focused on the spiritual, because it’s a life focused on shadows and darkness, rather than the light.

What good is prayer going to do us, though?  I mean, isn’t prayer something only religious people do? Look carefully at Timothy and Paul’s phrasing up there; they say: “Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers”.  Petitions are requests, like “please let this good thing happen”.  What happens if we phrase that the other way, and say “please don’t let this bad thing happen”? We get all caught up in worrying about that bad thing actually happening, right? We’re screwed from the get-go when we do that.  But when we say “please let this good thing happen”, we start to hope for that good thing, and eventually, that hope turns into faith that it will actually happen.  Praises are like compliments; it’s like saying something good about yourself or somebody else.  Praises reinforce the positive petitions: if we say something like “I’m awesome, so please let this good thing happen”, that builds both our hope and our faith.  However, if we replace those praises with curses, and say something like “I know I suck, but please let this good thing happen”, there’s not much room for hope or faith anymore, is there?  A petition plus a praise equals a prayer, whether you’re a religious person or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not; it does matter that you’re spiritual, because that’s what we were all born to be.

And that’s how Spirit can displace worry at the center of our lives: we recognize what we really are, and in acting from that place, light not only comes into our own lives, but we start to spread light into the lives of others.  There’s no room in a life like that for worry or fear.  There’s only room for sheer joy! And that joy can not only fulfill us, restoring our sense of wholeness, it can also protect us, if necessary.  Celebrate the light that’s burning in you all day, every day. I mean it–revel in it!  Make it clear to everyone (and every thing) that this is what you’re all about: you’re all about the positive; you’re all about spreading light.  Don’t fret or worry. When you feel tempted to worry, pray, through praise and positive petitions, and before you know it, you’ll find everything coming together not only for your good, but for the good of everyone around you.