Returning to Life

It is Spring again. The Filianic and astrological new year has begun. This year began with a Lunar Eclipse, which on a personal level feels a bit appropriate. My usual joy at the beginning of Spring is dampened by the sadness of the passing of my grandmother last fall.

I think one of the difficult things about life in the modern West is that we have lost the notion of mourning periods. There was a time when there was a proper amount of time to be “in mourning,” and rituals for coming out of mourning, with periods of “half mourning” and “light mourning.” When reading modern wisdom about grieving, we are told that it is individual and different for every person and every relationship.  Yet, I think that mourning is not really the same thing as grieving. I think that mourning is the pause we take in our lives out of respect for the person who has passed, and the ending of mourning is when it is right to “come back to life.”

Spring RoseWith that in mind, with no modern conventions to fall back on, I decided that Winter would be my period of “mourning” and that I would try to “come back to life” in the Spring. I am still quite sad, particularly as my grandmother loved Spring, but I will always be sad from time to time. My grandmother was an important person in my life. It is funny, because she never really taught me (or her own children) much. She tried, but she had no patience. She would hastily explain things, and if you did not get it the first time, she would give up with a disgusted “Ach!” and take what you were doing and do it herself. Yet, despite this, I learned so much from her. There is very little that I do that I do not still hear her voice telling me stories or giving wise counsel.

Even now, in my front yard, I see a lesson that she left.

For the past several years, Mormor (“grandmother” in Swedish) and I lived in the same two flat, which was owned by my aunt. In the front of the house, there was a lamp post, which used to be a working gas lamp. Mormor thought it was ugly. She researched, and she found that it would be costly and perhaps dangerous to remove it, so she devised a way to make it beautiful. Last spring, she planted roses around it with the plan that they would climb and cover the post.

Throughout the Summer, she carefully tended the roses, and she made sure that they did not stray too far away from the post. This was an interesting lesson in itself. It seems in order for roses to climb, they have to be held close to their source.

By the time that Autumn came, the roses had covered the post and bloomed gloriously for Mormor’s ninetieth birthday.

KIMG0073Mormor passed a little over a month after that, right before the first snowfall.

The roses bloomed until that very day. They became covered with snow, and they left an almost magical image, as the petals could be seen on the snow.

2015-11-23 07.40.27Yet, time passes, and now it is Spring. As if the roses were left to teach another lesson, they are starting to grow back again.

2016-03-28 10.52.03I guess it is time to come back to life, as well as to honor and care for what Mormor planted and left behind.

Autumn Blessings

I have a confession to make. Autumn has always been my least favorite season. I know that all seasons have their own beauty, but I have always had some trouble appreciating Autumn. I have never been all that fond of Winter either, but in Autumn, the days get colder and darker and the coming season is Winter. Even through the cold of Winter, the days are at least getting longer and brighter, and Spring is on its way. I often start to feel a little sad as Summer winds down and by November, I am often battling deepening depression.

Yet, this year, for the first time, I experienced one of the main blessings of the Autumn season…the Harvest.

I hope that the reader will indulge me a little in boasting about my grandmother. My grandmother has always been an amazing gardener. She is going to be ninety this fall, and she loves to garden. Even when she lived in the North Side of Chicago, she managed a substantial vegetable garden in a tiny backyard.

To be honest, I never had all that much interest in gardening. I have never even been able to keep houseplants alive. It may be because now we live in the same building as my grandmother, so I see the garden every day. It may be that reading the Little House on the Prairie series in Japanese inspired me. By the way, I have just finished 大草原の小さな家, “Daisougen no chiisana ie,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and I have just started プラム川の土手で, “Puramu kawa no dote de,” “On the Banks of Plum Creek.”  I also recently read Farmer Boy in English. In any case, whatever the reason, this year I participated in the Harvest for the first time.

I learned how to make tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, apple sauce, and apple butter. I learned how to blanch and freeze fruits and vegetables for the winter. I baked several rhubarb, raspberry, and apple deserts. It was quite a busy time.

The abundance of food turned out to be quite the blessing. This October, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday, and relatives from Sweden came to stay with us to celebrate. My mother also came in from California and stayed with us for about a month. The abundance of food was really useful in feeding all of the extra people.

Today, I started feeling my usual Autumn depression. I felt sad as I raked the leaves and watched the sun go down before it was even 5 o’clock. Yet, then I went back inside, and I cooked taco salad using the last of the green peppers and tomatoes that my grandmother had dried over the summer. Now I am making apple sauce using the remaining apples that were stored in the refrigerator.

The garden is now gone. Our full freezer has emptied out. We still have green beans, green pepper, sliced apples and rhubarb in the freezer though, as well as a couple of containers of apple butter. We also have dried herbs and tomatoes that were carefully preserved by my grandmother.

I still feel a little sad, but I am also feeling intense gratitude to Our Mother, who provides for us every year. It was a good Autumn, I think.

Finished!

I finished reading my first novel in Japanese yesterday! I am quite excited about it. Last November I wrote about receiving a Japanese translation of Little House in the Big Woods. Yesterday morning, I had two pages to go before the last chapter. I read the those pages and went on to finish the last chapter! The last chapter was rather short, but I think it was the most I have read so far in one sitting in Japanese!

SAMSUNGWhile reading, I made the decision not to stop and look up new words, but to highlight them to look up later. I know that there are some that cringe at the idea of marking up a book, but I think that this book felt big and important to be studied so diligently. After I finish looking up the words, I intend to go back and use this book for reading aloud.

This series is my spouse’s favorite childhood series, and she knows it almost by heart. This has been quite helpful in that I have been able to check my comprehension by telling her what I thought happened. The only trouble has been that at times, she has gotten so excited that she has told me what will be coming up before I have stopped her.

In celebration of my completion, my spouse and I played with the paper dolls she bought me a while ago, when she visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder home and museum in Missouri on the way to visit her mother and brother. Then we went out for lunch.

SAMSUNGToday, I started the next book in the series, 大草原の小さな家, Little House on the Prairie, which my spouse gave me for my birthday this year. This one is a different translation using the older Helen Sewell illustrations. Hopefully, my Japanese has improved enough that I will be able to get through this one a little faster, although it does look a little harder than the first book. It is exciting, though.

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Avoiding the News

One of the most effective ways to reduce the level of poison in our personal Image Spheres is to avoid the news as much as possible.  One can not even catch a small glimpse of the news without being exposed to something horrid.  Even so, this can be a difficult step for people.

In the United States, we are taught from an early age that it is our civic duty to “keep informed.”  For this reason, even if we do not really want to keep abreast of the news, there can be a sense of guilt in staying away from it.  After all, there is real suffering in the world, and we are given the impression that our awareness of “issues” can help in some way.

The problem is that the “issues” in the world are complex and intertwined.  Taking action in one direction may cause more difficulty in another direction.  Unless one is an expert on a subject or issue, one really can not understand all of the complications involved.  Becoming an expert on an issue truly requires one to devote much of one’s life to it.  For the rest of us, all awareness of “issues” does is to poison our Image Spheres.

Blossoms growing on the World Heart Tree from restored Heart Flowers

Isn’t this selfish?  How can we just worry about our own protection and Image Spheres, when there is so much suffering in the world?  These are fair questions, but I think that as counter-intuitive as it seems, I think that protecting our own Image Spheres does help on a larger level.

One of the best explanations I found for this forms the basis of the Anime series, Heartcatch Precure.  In this series, the Heart Flower of every individual is connected to the World Heart Tree.  The Evil Side’s goal is to turn the world into a Desert and steals people’s Heart Flowers to create monsters called Desertarians.  For someone’s Heart Flower to be stolen, it must already be wilting due to some pain or worry.  The heroines (the Precure), fight to cleanse the Desertarians and to restore the stolen Heart Flowers.  By doing so, the restored Heart Flowers strengthen the World Heart Tree.

Cure Sunshine and her fairy erecting a barrier to protect the World Heart Tree

Cure Sunshine and her fairy erecting a barrier to protect the World Heart Tree

While this is a fictional Anime series, I think that it is based on sound metaphysics.  Our Hearts are microcosms of the Sun, and the World Heart Tree is a metaphor for how all of our individual Hearts are connected.  Horrid events do not just damage bodies, they damage souls.  The damage to the World Heart is increased when more souls are exposed to awful things.  If there was a physical contagious infection, it would only be common sense to limit the exposure to that infection as much as possible.  Even those who were caring for the sick and working to contain the infection would take precautions to limit their exposure, not just for themselves, but to avoid the spread of the disease.

In a similar fashion, I think that taking precautions to limit our exposure to the horrors of the world helps to contain the spread of the “disease,” as it were.  I believe that guarding our own “Heart Flowers” does indeed make a difference to the “World Heart Tree.”

The Importance of Holidays

I recently read a discussion about Epiphany as a celebration of Light.  In that discussion, there was a comment that every day was a celebration of Light.  It is an interesting comment that I have heard in many places, and certainly every day is a celebration of Light in a certain sense.  On the other hand, I think that holiday celebrations are quite important.

vlcsnap-2015-01-06-19h54m52s212In the Filianic tradition, we celebrate holidays in accordance with the Wheel of the Year.  Other traditions have other cycles and other holidays, and they are no less valid. We celebrate Nativity at the same time as Christmas, and our day of Epiphany is the same day as the Christian Epiphany.  Nativity and Epiphany are both far older than Christianity and speak to Universal Truth rather than a set of historical, factual events that may or may not have happened 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, see the True Meaning of Christmas.

By celebrating holidays, we bring ourselves into harmony with the Music of the Spheres.  The original function of astrologers was not to give guidance to individuals in the form of prediction or personality analysis, but to read the heavens in order to set the appropriate time for religious festivals and other earthly activities.  Just as a musical score would be rather dull if it played the same note all the time, our lives would be similarly bereft if every day was exactly the same.

Actually, there was a time* in which there were no seasons or holidays.  In the Filianic tradition, we speak of the Golden Time, when we laughed and danced with the Mother.  The Judeo-Christian speaks of Eden and the time before the Fall.  All traditions have a similar story. We are no longer able to celebrate and worship constantly.  In the Filianic Creation Mythos, the Mother tells us, “I shall not live as close to you as before, but still I shall pour blessings upon you, and you may bring Me gifts–not in every moment as before, for you have learned to tire, but My light shall give you signs in this matter.”

As Unenlightened beings, we are not able to celebrate all of the time.  We do tire.  I needed a few days to recover after the Nativity Eve dinner, and to be honest, the decorations that were exciting during Advent and the beginning of Christmas were starting to feel a bit old and stale by the end of the twelve days.  If we were to attempt to celebrate every day, we would not be able to really enjoy any celebration.

My grandmother gave me a set of plates that belonged to my great grandmother.  When she gave them to me, she said that she wanted me to use them for everyday use. There were no more daughters or granddaughters to pass them down to, and she wanted them to be used.  At first, I tried to honor that request, and I did use them every day.  The problem with that was that they lost their specialness by doing that.  So, I stopped using them every day, and I now take them out for holidays and other times that seem special (like when I cooked my first successful roast).  This seemed a good compromise.  The plates are used…often enough so that they do get used, but not all the time, so that they are still special.

Every day is indeed a celebration of Light, and each day is a microcosm of the year.  Sunrise corresponds to the Spring Equinox or Eastre, noon corresponds to Midsummer or Rosa Mundi, sunset corresponds to the Fall Equinox or Cuivanya, and midnight corresponds to Midwinter or Christmas/Nativity.  Yet, just as we need periods of activity and periods of rest every day, we also need periods of activity and rest throughout the year.

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*The use of the term “time” is not quite accurate, because it was the time before and beyond time; however, English does not quite have words to express this concept (at least to my knowledge).

Making Space for Nativity

This year, Nativity was quite a hectic time for me.  For the first year, I was the hostess for the family Christmas Eve smörgåsbord.  It was a small gathering, but even so, a great deal of preparation was required.  The house had to be cleaned and decorated, and I was responsible for the meatballs.  In our family, the meatballs are quite important; my grandmother would often make the meatballs weeks in advance, and freeze them until just before Christmas Eve.  This year was the first year that I have been allowed to make the meatballs, which was quite an honor.

SAMSUNGLearning from my grandmother, I made the meatballs a couple of weeks in advance, and I made a test batch for my grandmother to taste before committing the rest of the mix to little balls.  I was quite pleased when I received her approval after the first try.

When the day came, the gathering went well, I thought.  It was rather interesting really.  While I prepared the house and the meatballs, most of the food came from other people.  My grandmother made the glögg (a hot, sweet, spiced alcoholic beverage).  My aunt brought the potato sausage and the prinskorv (which, since childhood, I always called “little hot dogs”).  My spouse went grocery shopping and bought lots of vegetables, a small smoked ham, pie, and various cookies and sweets.  My spouse’s coworker came and brought the rotmos (a Swedish version of mashed rutabaga).  I prepared the house and the meatballs, and the rest of the bounty just arrived!  That seemed quite symbolic of Nativity to me.

All of this made me think of the meaning and importance of Nativity.  I no longer consider myself a Christian, but Christmas/Nativity has a much deeper and older meaning than the Christian narrative.  The Mother God Chapel recently published two important articles that explain the older and deeper meaning of Nativity which can be found here and here.  In summary, the material world falls further away from the Light and would fall into complete Darkness, but the Light intervenes, and Light returns and is renewed.  This theme is found in the Christian narrative, but the theme is Universal and thus larger and deeper than the narrative of any human religion.

In thinking about the meaning of Nativity, I have also been reflecting on the Advent preparations.  These preparations involve rearranging one’s schedule, one’s finances, and one’s home to make room for Nativity to happen.  One buys and/or makes gifts for friends and family.  The preparations take time, making Advent a rather busy season, and often one must rearrange one’s daily activities to accommodate the extra chores and tasks.  If one puts up a Nativity Tree, furniture must be moved.  Regular household decorations must be put aside to make room for the Nativity decorations.  It seems to me that these preparations are all symbolic of making space for Nativity to happen.

Yet, when we make space for Nativity to happen, a bounty often arrives, I think…or at least it did for me this year.

Slowing Down

Last week, a new book came in the mail.  My spouse had purchased it for me as a gift.  The book was 大きな森の小さな家, or the Japanese translation of Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This happens to be one of her favorite childhood books, and she has been reading the series again.  It was quite exciting really.  The Japanese company that sold it also sent along a little card, saying ありがとう (Thank you), stickers, and a little origami star.  I thought that was so very sweet and wonderful.

???????????????????It seemed like a good place to start my Japanese novel reading.  The thought of rediscovering reading again is quite exciting.  Although, it may seem strange reading a translation of an American novel as a starting point, but it feels “right” somehow.  Strangely enough, I do not know if I actually have read this book before, and if I have, I do not remember it.  It seems like something that I *should* read, and I am really focusing Japanese, with little time leftover to read fiction in English.  This book is a bit beyond my Japanese level; however, it is possible if I work hard, I think.

On the practical side, my spouse has already been helpful in checking whether I am comprehending what I am reading.  She has read this books so many times, she almost has it memorized.  It seems safer to ask her (and let her quiz me) then to check the English version myself.

It is exciting, but it is very slow, and I think it will likely take a long time (I have only gotten through a few pages, highlighting the many, many words I do not know).  This is interesting because my spouse has talked about being able to read these books in an afternoon (in English, of course).    My spouse and I have lots and lots of books, and I am used to being able to consume books very quickly.  Yet, if I am to have any hope of anything beyond a vague comprehension of this book, I will have to savor this book and spend a lot of time with it.

All of this has made me realize how much learning a new language has made me slow down.  As a part of my studies, I have been watching a great deal of Anime.  Yet, I am watching it is a much different way than I have watched anything in the past.  I have several series of Anime going right now, yet I am taking each one rather slowly, watching each episode between two and four times, in different ways.  There was a time I could watch an entire series in a few weeks, but now for each series, I am not even really managing an episode a week.

I think I am grateful for this slowing down.  I am finding I am appreciating everything so much more that I am unable to rush through it.  I find myself thinking about the other books in this series, and realizing, well, it will be quite some time before I get to them.  The one I have will keep me busy for the foreseeable future.  Then I find myself treasuring my new book and carrying it around with me, even when I am not reading it.  I am excited to be making friends with book all over again!

Why Japanese?

For many months now, I have been deeply immersed in the study of Japanese.  Indeed, I probably spend at minimum of 3 to 4 hours a day actively studying and at least another 3 or 4 hours with Japanese media in the background while I do other tasks.

I have to admit to feeling a little awkward when people ask me what I have been doing lately.  I explain that I have been deeply engaged in the study of Japanese.  I often get asked the questions, “Why Japanese?” and “What are you going to DO with it?”

Those questions are a bit tricky to answer as at the moment, I am not really sure of THE reason for Japanese, if in fact, THE reason exists.  I seem to have been led in this direction, and I have learned from long experience that the Fairies often give us information on a “need to know” basis.  Still, they are trustworthy, and it is generally best to follow where they lead.

That being said, there seem to be lots of reasons, and more and more reasons become manifest every day.  It occurred to me that some of the reasons are deeply intertwined with the journey that this blog has been documenting.

Language is far more fundamental to our being than many of us realize.  Not only is language a means of communication, but it shapes they way we think and look at the world.  Many English speakers, especially English speakers in the U.S., never learn another language.  Most people take one or two years of another language in high school and/or college, but that is not the same thing as actually learning a language.  I took two years of French in high school, but I really do not remember anything from it.  In order to truly learn a language, one must really embrace it, and I think that embracing a new language really changes a person on a fundamental soul level.

I have noticed many changes in myself over the past several months.  It is hard to really describe the changes, but I think that overall, Japanese has softened me.  I have noticed that I feel gentler and more quiet inside.  While I my Japanese is not yet at the level that I can think in Japanese, or at least not for very long, it has stilled my inner monologue considerably.  Even in English, I have noticed that my voice has become softer, and I feel less pressured in social situations.  I have also felt safer when out and about, as if Japanese has formed a protective shield around me.

vlcsnap-2014-09-06-01h18m25s84On this blog, I have written many articles about the Image Sphere.  As part of my studies, I have been consuming a great deal of media in Japanese.  As the reader may know, I had already been watching Anime with English subtitles, but watching them in Japanese (even at my level of Japanese) is a much different experience.  Even in English, the shows were gentler and cleaner than anything I have seen in Western media, particularly recent Western media.  Yet, watching them in Japanese makes even the English translations seem course.  (Cure Dolly wrote an article about the difficulty of translation between Japanese and English that can be found here).

Are any of these things THE reason for studying Japanese?  I do not know.  Yet, I do think that they are very good reasons.  What I am going to DO with Japanese?  I do not know that either.  What am I doing with Japanese now?  I am learning and letting my soul be reshaped by this language.

Field Trip

Last week, I went on a field trip with my spouse to a Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa Marketplace, which is about an hour and a half from where I live.  It was a lot of fun!  It had a grocery store, a food court, a bookstore, a bakery, and a video store.  It was all very exciting.

2014-07-18 14.46.37I tried chicken katsu (“chicken cutlet”) for the first time, and I really liked it a lot!  I also tried the Miso soup that went along with it.  One of my faults is being a bit of a finicky eater, so I was not sure how I would manage, but I really liked it a lot.  It was also a bit exciting, in that tonkatsu (“pork cutlet”) was a vocabulary word, and it has now changed from being a word on a list to memorize to a real food in my mind!  I also had matcha (green tea) soft serve ice cream for the first time.  It was definitely something quite new, but I think I liked it!

I have to admit to being a bit overwhelmed.  The marketplace was HUGE, with so many wonderful things.  We were a bit short on money, and I have to admit that this was probably a good thing, as it would have been quite easy to spend a fortune there.  I had to keep reminding myself that we can always go back later.  We ended up settling on a few food items, including an okonomiyaki mix and Anpaman cookies.  We also went to the bakery and brought home Melonpan and Kuremupan, which were both quite tasty.

SAMSUNGThe bookstore was truly amazing, with many, many books in Japanese.  I had thoughts of getting a grammar book for Japanese children, a kanji practice workbook, a book of knitting or crocheting patterns in Japanese.  There were just so MANY books, I just could not decide, so I ended up not buying any of these things and settling on the Sailor Moon manga in Japanese.

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I felt slightly guilty that I did not buy something more directly educational or supportive of my studies, but I am very much enjoying reading the manga.  The new Sailor Moon series, Sailor Moon Crystal seems to be following the manga quite closely, so it is fun to be reading the manga while following the series.