Respect for the Old Ways|
Posted: October 29th. 2001
Times Viewed: 5,827
I don't know exactly when it was that they left us. I can't even remember the last time that I saw them. One morning they were there as usual snarfing up bread crumbs and then another morning they were nowhere to be seen. It took a few more mornings of no-shows before I realized the sad truth: The ducks had migrated south for the winter and somehow, I had missed it. I never got to say good-by and 'good-journey-to-you'. I feel rather bad about that. It's a family thing.
My family has always been pretty big on keeping the old ways. I am not talking about generational spell books or secret handshakes. I mean to say that we have always been rather adamant about just how one properly celebrates the cycles and seasons of the year. We aren't fundamentalists exactly. We do believe that every other family is free to do it in their own way. We don't actually look down on folks who introduce some new -fangled ways of doing things. Well, we wouldn't be so rude as to laugh in their presence anyway. It's just to our way of thinking, the old ways are indeed best.
Part of living an organically aware life is the need to be constantly aware of the subtle changes in Nature. In today's predominantly artificial living arrangements, it has become increasingly difficult for many people- even those who sincerely aspire to it- to live according to Nature's timetable and natural rhythms. We can get vegetables that are locally out of season at anytime and just about anywhere. We can keep the nighttime hours at bay by simply turning up the lamps. We can suspend the rules of weather by dialing up or down the thermostat. I am not willing to give up any of those things, mind you. But just as it is hard for me to pin down exactly when it was that the ducks left the Little Pond, it is with the same sort of sad regret that I realize how many other of the old ways have left us and we didn't even notice that they had at the time.
Our family had a small organic farm. While my grandmother was alive, we had chickens and grape vines and apple trees and vegetable patches. Dad scrapped the keeping chickens idea (Gram lopped off their chicken heads without a qualm. Dad on the other hand got just too attached to the little fowl beasties to sacrifice them to the fryer pan.) but we still had all of those other things. Which meant that since we kept the old ways, we had to watch them all of the time. For in my family, we didn't cover the grape vines in order to prevent the birds from making off with our potential jam; we checked them daily for ripeness as the season approached. Sometimes, the birds figured out that they were ripe before we did. That meant that we had to get up at dawn for the next few days in order to get our fair share. Same thing for the blackberry bushes and the beechnut trees. But erecting artificial barriers to keep Nature out was never considered. As partners in the cycle of sowing and reaping, the family and the birds and the beasts matched wits and tested perseverance with all hands and wings and paws clearly visible upon the table. In this contest, hanging netting or erecting fences would have been like cheating at cards. It simply isn't done amongst family.
We didn't fence in the corn or the watermelons either. Dad would peel back slightly on an ear or thump a gourd a few good thunks to determine when it was time to harvest them. And often it was that on the very morning Dad had declared that he was going to cut some of the early corn or that a certain watermelon was just about right, we would find that the raccoons or squirrels had already done a taste test and determined the very same thing. We didn't dust the plants with chemicals; we let the slugs drown themselves happily in saucers of beer, planted marigolds and handpicked the rest of the bugs. We didn't use commercial fertilizer; we made compost, relocated earthworms and recycled the fish heads from Saturday night's trout dinner. We didn't spray the apple trees; we ate around the wormholes. That is just the way that it was back then. But things change.
Gram is gone now and so is Dad. The apple trees were cut when old age came to them and the grape vine has become a domesticated and manicured ornamental shrub. The land was rezoned as residential years ago and now a sea of lawn grass flows over the former vegetable patches and garden furrows. An archaeologist with a trained eye might be able to discern what used to be here, but to anyone else it would seem as though this is simply the way that it always was. Things change. Times change. The land changes. We change. And there is no going back to what was. Memories, however, remain and within our memories, these things still live on. We can close our eyes and taste the wild purple of the grapes and smell the hot sun on the tomatoes and feel the sting of the nettles on our skin as we pluck the delicate and succulent raspberries from the bush. And somewhere in there, Gram is baking her spiced apple pies and Dad is whistling his way down the path into the deep woods. And the ducks are flying south for the winter.
In this time of transition, in this Samhain season, Pagans will be holding circles both public and private. Many will be attending a 'dumb supper' wherein the Old Ones, family members or ancestral Gods are invited and honored. This year, many Pagans will be 'adopting' some of our country's 'dearly departed' who so unexpectedly crossed over to the other side on September 11th. We shall ask Them to join us. We shall speak their names. We shall talk of things that once were. We shall laugh and we shall cry and we shall gaze into the flames of time and we shall remember.
For this is the time of the year when the worlds of here and of there overlap. This is the time when what was and what is and what shall be beckon to us in whispered voices to come and sit by the fires and dream of wondrous things. We will remember. We will remember those days long gone by. We will remember the sound of your voice, the touch of your hand, the light in your eyes. Until we meet again, we will remember you.
Everything changes in the outside world, it is true. We see now that the ducks have indeed flown south for the winter. But within our hearts, you are still there. And so on that day when we meet again and laugh again and live again and love again, we will be as if we have never really been apart.
The ducks will return. So will you. So shall we.
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
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