Sometimes, when the light bulb over my head comes on, it’s not a big BING sound and a beam like a floodlight. Sometimes it’s a little flashlight bulb and a whisper in my ear. I’ve been working on knitting a pair of fingerless gloves for a friend. He doesn’t normally wear gloves, but he’s recently been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, and our winters are harsh, so I know he’s going to be in pain without them.
Tonight I was trying to put into words to another friend (who doesn’t know this guy) why I was making the gloves, and the pieces sort of fell together. My sudden renewal of interest in knitting, which had been dormant for years, just happened over the past few weeks. This yarn that I’m using is a dark blue, which consciously I chose because the coat the intended recipient wears has blue trim, but I’ve associated blues with Brighid for as long as I’ve worked with her. The project is intended to ease the pain of someone who’s suffering, and I’m owned by a goddess who has a healer aspect. I’m so used to being rather thick in my interactions with the gods and needing a swift kick to the ass to force me into gear that I nearly missed the quiet nudges that I was obeying without realizing it, but I’m so grateful for the rare occasion when the work is actually placed in my hands, without my having to look for my task. My first message from her, long before I was actively hers, was, “Get to work.” So even though this isn’t a huge project, it feels good to realize that she approves.
There’s a little bit of fall in the air tonight, perfect for the official beginning of the season. When I was a kid, this would have been the time of year when our occasionally-functional window air conditioner would be turned off BEFORE it froze over, and the kitchen would cool off enough that we could bake something without feeling like we were inside the oven. My grandparents would drive to visit Grandpa’s sisters on the farm where he grew up, about 3 hours away in the mountains, and come back with bags and bags of mountain apples, which my mother, a Cosmic Possum if I’ve ever seen one, and my grandmother, brilliant home cooks both, would turn into applesauce and apple butter. I made my first solo batch at the age of 17, about a year after I figured out, hey, this cooking thing is fun!
But the most iconic recipe of my childhood, the one that makes me feel tied down firmly by my roots in a comforting, coming-home sort of way, would have to be The Sugar Cookies. Mom learned the recipe from my grandma, who got it from her mother, who had it written down as her “grandma’s sugar cookies.” So if we’re parsing it correctly and the recipe really did come from my great-great-grandmother, it’s definitely been in the family since before the World War I era, when she passed away, possibly even as early as the Civil War.
To me, the quarter and cross-quarter days, no matter what their primary focus is, all have an undercurrent of honoring the passing of the seasons and connecting with my community, past and present. So tonight I made a big batch of those sugar cookies, with the vanilla and cinnamon and nutmeg. I remembered the women in my family who’ve made them before me, saved out a couple of cookies for my mom and grandparents to eat tomorrow while I’m at work, and packaged up the rest to take to work with me. I honored the change of season by baking voluntarily during the day, an act that in my childhood home, which was barely air conditioned when it was at all, would have had to wait for this time of year. I honored my ancestors by being mindful of my great-grandmother and her grandmother, from whom the recipe was passed down. I’m connecting with my living family by leaving some cookies for them (and more importantly to Grandma, by cleaning the kitchen–this latest renovation is about to kick her ass) and with my coworkers and community by sharing my food with them. And, added bonus, spending the evening baking is a good way to acknowledge being OWNED by a goddess associated with the hearth.
All that from a batch of cookies? ABSOLUTELY. There’s this idea that our day-to-day lives should somehow be separate from our faiths, but I don’t buy it. Ritual doesn’t have to be fancy. I don’t think I need to dance skyclad around the front yard to affect the energies I’m wanting to influence.
The quote, if you didn’t recognize it, is from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I knitted for years before giving it up back in 2005, and I’ve tried to go back to it, but the magic just wasn’t there. I didn’t care. That happens to me from time to time with creative pursuits, that I run out of steam and leave them alone for a while, but I’d never had a craft that I loved the way I loved knitting back in the day, and I’d never backed as far off a craft as I did from knitting when I stopped. This week, for whatever reason, I’m back at it full steam. I’ve got three projects on the needles, including a sock that was making fantastic progress until I tried it on and realized my stitch count was WAY off. Socks make me a little crazy, but I love the finished product. I’ve also started on a lace scarf for Mom, but I’m going to have to get different needles for it, because the clear acrylic needles from Hobby Lobby that I used to like when I was flying all the time aren’t made the way they were years ago, and I hate them. Ah, obsession, I missed you.
I’ve said it before, kids. Worship doesn’t come with training wheels. Especially in dealing with the Celtic pantheon, if you need handholding and constant reassurance that you’re worthy, you’re not ready to do the work.
I talk a lot about being godbothered, because my gods have made it very clear that they’ve got Important Assignments for me. This isn’t an equal relationship; I work for them, not the other way around. But let’s be real for a minute. If I don’t believe I’m competent to do the work, there’s no reason I should feel entitled to take it on. If I went to my gods with, “I’m not worthy,” they’d want to know why I was wasting their time, before tossing me out on my ass with instructions to come back when I AM worthy to take on the job. The reason the gods have Important Assignments for me is that they’ve got even bigger things to do themselves. I don’t kid myself; just because the things they want me doing are high-level tasks in my own life doesn’t mean they aren’t giving me the unskilled work so that they can handle the important jobs themselves. My primary devotion is to Brighid, to the extent that I belong to her. When I met her, though, it wasn’t a social introduction. I went looking for the divine in my life, and she didn’t ask me to be hers for life–that came later. It was “do the work.” Years later, I still struggle to meet her expectations, because there’s a side of me that’s just flat-out lazy, and I struggle with it every day. But here’s the important part: It’s not SUPPOSED to be easy. I know how I am. If it were easy, I’d half-ass it and call it good enough. But the easy part, the warm-fuzzy feelings about the gods…that doesn’t matter. They don’t need a fan club. They’re too busy to be constantly over my shoulder, telling me every little thing about my life. They teach me, but not at a kindergarten level. I’m fully capable of putting in the effort to do a little learning on my own, and they expect that of me. I’m the roadie, not the groupie. Chop wood, carry water.