the sky spoke to me

Dec 27, 2007
...the sky looked at him. He felt the earth shrug because it felt him upon its back.
The sky spoke to him.
It was a language he had never heard before. He was not even certain there were words. Perhaps it only spoke to him in the black writing the birds made. He was small and unprotected and there was no escape. He was caught between earth and sky as if cupped between two hands. They could crush him if they chose.
The sky spoke to him again.
"I do not understand," he said.

I was driving home from family Christmas Wednesday(Pagan or no, you can't avoid family Christmas), enjoying the drive between my small hometown and I-80, where you have to take these winding country roads that all go in strange directions to avoid cutting farms in half. The roads were clear, just a little wet, so I had plenty of attention to spare for the fields, which were beautiful, the couple of inches of snow we'd gotten last weekend melting away enough to see the rich, dark Iowa soil. I was reminded suddenly that in ancient Ireland, the combination of red and black and white was a sign of the Otherworld (which might explain some of the unholy love I have for Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, really); once I remembered that, I couldn't stop seeing it. Red barns and black soil and white sky and red signs and black horses and white snow.

It stopped once I got to the Interstate; it's a much more impersonal landscape from there. Or conceivably it's just that I don't know it quite so well; it isn't part of my bones the way the other is.

I've been moving away from the nature-based traditions lately, more toward my Celtic roots and the cultural knots to get twisted up in on that side. It's been a long time since the purely astronomical Sabbats -- solstices and equinoxes -- really called out to me to be celebrated, although I always know when the winter solstice is because I can't wait for the light to come back. But driving through those Iowa fields reminded me that while it's true that I'm not a farmer, I'm not tied to the cycles of the land directly, I did grow up in a farming culture. I mean, I lived in town, and most everyone I knew did, too, and it isn't as though we started seeing people missing from school during the harvest or anything. But we were all very aware of the harvest cycle, if only because you can't avoid it -- drive ten minutes in just about any direction in Iowa and there's a cornfield to remind you. And after all those years, the sight of a field lying fallow in winter does mean something.

I've been reading books on urban Paganism for years, and more so since I actually moved to something I could call a city without laughing, but they've never really seemed to sink in. Then again, I spend almost all of my time within the city limits and I still don't feel like I'm in a city as much as I'm in a vast green space subdivided by buildings and streets. Granted, Madison is a very green city, but I feel like I'd have to be in New York City before I'd really get that glass and concrete feeling. (Even in London, for the whole day and a half I was there, what I mostly got was "river.")

I suppose this is what I mean when I say I feel like I always exist in a liminal space; I'm not a country person, but I'm not a city person either. In point of fact, I never feel very comfortable in one identity, because it always seems to leave something else out, or to require something I don't have. I'm working, though, on remembering that I can still keep the parts that are mine without having to take on the parts that are not. (Such a simple concept, so much grief to figure out...) And working on learning to listen to the sky.

quoted from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, p 503

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