And so it begins, the Pagan New Year. Crunchy orange and red remnants of trees, firewood smoking, roasted chicken and white sweet potatoes drizzled with maple syrup, decorated with fried sage. Here you are, you beautiful thing. I find the season riper than spring, a bit aged and wise and fine. Harvest. I think it helps me make peace with forty-something.

Am I harvesting? Let’s see. Mmmm. Two kids finally out of trouble and messin’ round, in college, finally the love of my life snuggled beside me at night, eleven years of teaching under my belt. Check. Friends that now have stories of “us” a decade ago (big deal, for me), a mean-ass cooking history–complete with splintered wooden spoon– a nearly paid for car, a gray sweater I actually feel comfortable in, a working heavy tolerance to copious amounts of wine. Hmmm. Check, check. I am harvesting, everything except for . . .

Me. I’m sitting here, glass of port on the table, a cigarette that I’m sure will eventually kill me, Jackson Browne in the background, a barking dog down the way. I’ll be damned. I forgot me.

Holy Moses. (And not the Elton John version. Well, maybe.) I should go back to the water well, myself.

I have harvested everything, heartily and with butter, but my spirituality. Struggled through a faith that didn’t fit, walked away in an Atheist huff (of course, with a fist raised in the air toward a God I claimed not to exist), burned out, started over . . . and found the voice inside. Here I am, a Pagan raised by Christians, awake and in tune with something more than my ipod. My soul-friend has a word for this moment: Yahweh. Says it’s not just god/God. It’s the breath of it, running through a soul.

Yeah baby. I always knew I had something better to say.

So what do I know. Um. Lesse. I’ll start with stuff folks have taught me:

1. Granma: never date a man you wouldn’t marry. Wash your peachy before bed, no matter what. Make food for those you love, and lots of it. Proceed to remind them of said food in detail every five minutes (there’s cheddar in the draw, some of that leftover cobbler in the green Tupperware, a hunk of that ham from Sunday) even after they’re full. Make your own clothes, owned land feels good underfoot, sweet tea is always for the porch, don’t lie cause I ain’t gonna lie for you, thick eyebrows are pretty, God loves the lost souls best.

2. Momma: Much of the above, ’cause of they’re related. In addition: less sugar lets you taste the food, butter is an exception, showing folks you love them is better than telling, roots can make you tougher, you never stop loving folks even after they’re gone. Red wine isn’t a sin, not loving family is–failing is an opportunity, the Bible has multiple interpretations, none of them are exactly right. Lipstick can make you feel better, forgiveness is a daily activity like rinse and repeat. Saying you’re sorry can save your soul.Momma knows your insides and loves you anyway, hard.

3. Bates: No one is graceful when they swagger. God has many names, and shows up for most of them. Girl’s night heals you right up, white wine doesn’t give you a headache, you actually can quit smoking (sorry, RB. I’ll get there one day). Mexican food gets anyone through a hard winter, dogs have souls, forgiveness doesn’t mean be stupid, oaths are serious stuff. Halfway through, we can fall back in love with our Great Spirit in a way that can make you cry, When Harry Met Sally is the best movie ever made, sparkly tanks are critical to New Year’s Eve and tenderloin is expensive but you can’t muck it up. Reaching out for help does not make you weak, singing/breathing/smiling/touching is prayer. Some love is forever. Friends don’t leave.

4. Jillian: God is a woman. Never cut out on a friend, never bring up when she cried, loyalty and solidarity are givens, a knife is more than a kitchen utensil. Hang on no matter how bleak the night looks, show up for family stuff, remember your loved ones’ favorite color, throw everything to hell and drink when it’s pertinent. Fight for your kids. Hard. The past is always acceptable because it is the past. Don’t lie, cheat, steal or say crap you don’t mean. Sometimes just chillin and listening is the best option. First impressions are usually dead on. Say thank you, “my bad,” and I love you as often as possible. Food is magic.

5. Chad: When you love someone, they are righteous. Gossip can go too far and puts black marks on your soul. Accept the outcasts; they make the best friends. Music, wine, and cooking should never be separated. Loving someone doesn’t diminish over mileage. When the bad day hits, play Ray Charles, drink good whiskey and dance in the kitchen with your best friend. Expect the best out of people, and when they fail, expect it again. Fire makes magic and releases bad juju. Sing. No matter who is watching. Sing.

6. Todd: Trust someone. Anything else is bullshit. Makeup doesn’t make your soul prettier. Dancing in the yard without music is better. Inside, we are all Peter Pan; be silly and the bills don’t seem that big. Resist growing up. It sucks (kids are always hoping that things will turn out). Say thank you for the food someone has crafted for you, admit that you are wrong most of the time, take the top down from your Jeep and fly. New music has hope, go ahead and move to it. Never assume the sins of the past will be committed by the souls of the present. Sleep in. Cuddle. Start over.

Now, the last one has caused me some pain to learn. Regardless, I have learned a few things from this one. I think, I know, she loves me. So, regardless of the audience, here goes:

7. Ang: Stand by folks, even when it’s hard. Say you’re sorry, accept an apology when it’s real, say you’re sorry a-damn-gain. Say what you really mean, but be careful texting. Plants grow best upside down. Show up even if it’s hard, the crowd isn’t your fan base, and you can’t find the right shoes. Stay late and laugh too hard. Make your friend the cake they love, tell them when they inspire you or you learn something, and share your Higher Spirit unabashedly. Clint Eastwood up when the situation is called for, never forget a birthday, cry with them when they lose a parent and threaten to drive the car. Forgive. Rinse. Repeat.

This is my harvest, but where’s my own damn corn? Well . . .

8. Seba: Not all Christians are wrong, some are more Pagan than they think. My spirit embeds itself into my cooking and it can heal/challenge/excite/sadden/change folks, which is a responsibility. If “god” is in all of us, we better be nicer. Forgiveness works for me, as I need so much forgiving. I am too hard on myself, which kills the “god” in me too often, and I should work on that. ‘Cause of my grandma told me that I’m worth loving, my eyebrows are pretty, and that “god” loves me best due to my asshole-edness. Then I should love the assholes, more. Kisses aren’t just for sex: some should be long and slow and wet and nibbly, some should be timid and whole and fleeting, some should land with the firmness of love on a cheek, some should be blown in the air, and some should be impulsive and carry the weight of the moment. We are ALL our mothers. Some folks need a good spanking, and I’m just the one to give it to them. My sons will leave me, my daughter will always be angry with me, my mother loves me best (right, Mom?) I’d trade it all for a night by the fire, a bottle of vino and the conversation of the above. Snakes aren’t bad. Cats aren’t necessarily good. I am Pagan. Yes, Pagan. I cast, I gather, I celebrate, I divine.

And I love the sound of “Yahweh” in my breath.

Holy Moses, I think she’s got it! So, after all the lists and elipsises what have I learned? Recently, I read something for my class that said something to the effect of “children speak/write to tell the stories that are already within them.” I am the story within me, my history, other’s stories laid down upon me like so many pieced together quilts. God(ess) is in them. Yaaaah–weeeeh. Breathe in, stories, breathe out, god. I’m in that tapestry, fucked-up-beautiful. (Granma always said to save the curses for when you meant it.) I harvest it all.

Blessed be.

Seba O'KileyComment