Sawyer Hill Sauté

  
Happy Memorial Day! As usual, our cohousing community had a great big potluck in honor of the holiday. I took the opportunity to do some weeding in the community garden and found a whole lot of Lambsquarters, sometimes called goosefoot, which I thought would make a great addition to the potluck. I cooked them in olive oil with some walking onions and lemon verbena, which we grew in the herb garden. In all, it turned out to be quite a tasty dish!

I love being able to introduce my neighbors to the forageables that grow wild on our land. There’s something fitting about the community eating food that comes from where we all live, plants that most people discard, not even knowing that the land supports us in so many different ways. It’s a way for me to share my Druidry beyond a very specific spiritual circle, into my broader community.  

 

Death and the Lady

14243610469_c27d51f9c3_zAs some of you may know, one of my day jobs is helping older folks manage their bills and balance their checkbooks. It’s extremely satisfying work, one of those rare instances where you can actually see your actions affecting someone’s life for the better.

But my clients are elderly. They’re entering the twilight of life. It means sometimes I lose them.

My favorite client, Mrs. Z., is currently in hospice care. She’s an opinionated, 97-year-old spitfire from West Virginia with a pretty rich fantasy life.  She’s at home, which is good, and her bed is now in the living room which is bright and lets her have visitors. If you can catch her eye, she gets an impish look and begins telling you about how she’s going to be going to Leningrad next week.  She still likes her brownies and her Vermont Country Store catalogs, though the New Yorker is a bit beyond her now.  The point is, she’s alive.

I once heard a hospice nurse say that people are never really “dying,” they’re either alive or they’re dead.  Don’t treat a live person as deceased until it actually happens. And yet the palliative care Mrs. Z is receiving falls so far short of that. Yes, she’s bed-ridden. Yes, she has a catheter. That doesn’t make her less of a person, less alive. She’s having pretty bad dizziness or vertigo, and claws at the air looking for something to steady her. All it takes is someone to hold her hands and she calms down. That’s it. Simple, human touch.  One of her aides was dismissive of Mrs. Z’s agitation, saying, “Oh, she’s just confused.”  While that may be true, it doesn’t make it any less terrifying for her. To her, it is real.  She’s dying, she’s scared, and if someone just sits and holds her hand, it’s all ok.

Mrs. Z isn’t my first dying client.  That would be K., whom I watched fade for over four months after she had fallen out of her bed in the nursing home and broke several bones.  She had memory problems, but always smiled when she had visitors.  Pretty new to the job, I didn’t really know how to interact with her, what to do. I’d run in, take care of her bills and filing, and run out again, counting myself lucky if she weren’t in her room. I found myself avoiding her, ashamed at my cowardice, but not certain how to push through it. I’d say, “Next week. Next week I’ll have some time. Next week I can be braver.”

And then she died.

I regret that I ran. I regret that I couldn’t have made that extra effort just to sit with her for a little bit as she watched the resident cockatiels from her wheelchair. And that’s the thing. It takes so little to do right by someone when they’re dying, so precious little. I didn’t need to wait for a divine thunderbolt or new research study to tell me what to do–I just needed to hold her hand.

I don’t know if I’ll get it right with Mrs. Z this time. But I do know that this time I’m not running, and I’ll be there when she needs me. I think that will be enough.

9 Things I Love About My Grove

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  1. Our rituals are always outside. Always.
  2. Diversity. There is an incredible variety across age and economic level. Our youngest guest is 4, our oldest in her early 70s. There are doctors and potters,  IT folks and landscapers. We also have a great deal of religious diversity, shaman to christian, atheist to polytheist. We all come together to honor the earth and the turning seasons.
  3. Creativity. Good gods this Grove is blessed with an abundance of Awen. We have poets, potters, musicians, quilters, liturgists.
  4. Camaraderie. These are folks with whom I get together in between the high days. Sharing a cup of tea or a pint after ritual is always a joy, but seeing friends for the sake of just seeing friends is invaluable.
  5. Learning. Our members have such a wealth of knowledge, and are so generous in sharing it. It’s easy to gorge oneself on music, myth, art, divination, botany–almost any topic you could choose.
  6. Food. We have some amazing cooks. Eisteddfod feasts are not to be missed.
  7. Consistency.  The Grove has been holding eight rituals a year since the autumn of 1992. The familiarity and certainty that this creates is not only comforting, but provides a real and solid anchor for Druid work.
  8. Support. Everyone has rough patches, but not everyone has a community who is able to help them through it. People get divorced, lose jobs, become ill. The Grove has been there each time, not only with energetic support, but friendly practical advice.
  9. Experimental. There is no one set liturgist, and we’re not on the quest for the “perfect” ritual. Whomever is moved to write the rite is encouraged to do so, with much support from the senior members. Ritual style reflects the changing seasons, and always feels fresh and dynamic.