Wands – Migrated 06/19/2014

When I was a young kid, I loved making wands. Some were little more than sticks with a handle of wrapped wool, others held gemstones reservoirs and special carvings. I made them because I felt that I had to. Here were these beautiful fallen branches with wands hiding inside and no one else was going to bring them out. I feel that every sculpture or amateur whittler knows this feeling. Indeed, the same is true of any artist with their own medium.
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Like many other things I enjoyed in my childhood, crafting wands was something I dropped. I suppose I thought it childish. Maybe it was, but much of my art is indeed childlike. The difference is a significant one though. The adult me wants to reject anything that doesn’t seem “grown up.” Doing childish thing is to act like one is a child. Being childlike is to act without constraint, to ignore the rational thoughts of the adult mind and simply have fun. With that thought in mind, I have once again taken up wand making. Being a ‘grown up’ simply means that I can create better and more intricate designs.
Over the winter, I collected a large amount of sticks which now sit in the corner of my room. A quick trip to Lee Valley and I had all the tools I needed. The image above is my first wand in years being carved. I intend to make many more. These pieces are very personal to me and I put a lot of time and care into making them. All my wands are unique, each one wants to be shaped differently than does it’s brothers and sisters. Creating a wand is more than simple wood carving, It is breathing life into a beautiful and precious tool.

Learning Patience – Migrated 04/23/2014

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Homemade cabbage pastries
Yesterday for the first time in months, I reached for the frozen food at the back of my freezer. I’ve been sick the last couple of days and didn’t want to leave the house to buy groceries.
“What’s the harm?” I asked myself, as I chewed a mouthful of fries and fishsticks.
Turns out, quite a bit. The meal left me feeling worse than the empty stomach had. No doubt my already sick stomach had something to do with it, but I think the real culprit here was my switch to a high sodium processed meal. I love cooking and baking, but when I’m stressed or tired it can be hard to remember that. Making a meal from scratch is a lot of work, and the clean up feels like twice as much.
Clearly, I have much to learn when it comes to patience in the kitchen. Had I made a simple meal with the ingredients I did have, I believe that my discomfort could have been lessened. Instead, I chose the ease of convenience and skipped a corner that I should have known to walk around. These learning opportunities crop up every so often. Usually when I seem to be forgetting life’s seemingly simple lessons. So next time I see myself following a path simply because it is easier to do so, I hope that I will take some time to think. Does the trail lead to someplace great? Or am I walking without thinking, going nowhere in particular?

Becoming a Student – Migrated 05/15/2014

In 2012 when I moved to Vancouver, my plan was to attend college the following fall. I had wanted to become a youth councilor, but the more I thought, the more I realized that wasn’t the right path for me. Yes I wanted to work with children, but I wanted something more constructive. I finally allowed myself to be open to the idea of being a teacher, something which I had dismissed outright as a high school student. Here was a career that would let me help children to grow, rather than simply try to fix them. The last two years of educational purgatory were key in coming to this realization. They gave me time to better understand what I needed out of life and how I could make that a reality.
So where does this realization leave me? Last week I attended a course planning session at Langara College. Yesterday, I completed my application and picked two courses to pursue once fall course selection becomes available in the next few weeks. Because I don’t want to start with core courses before I am once more used to attending school, I chose an entry level french class (a huge bonus for teachers in Canada) and a world religions class (something that interests me greatly.)
Making change happen in my life has never been a strong suit of mine. I tend to get very comfortable with how things are and rarely find the motivation to act, to make a significant change like this. I am looking to my future now. While that is a scary thing for me to do, I can’t help but think that it is the only real choice I have available.

How Reading is Changing Me – Migrated 04/05/2014

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I made a challenge to myself to read 100 books this year. As of this post I have read 24 books since January 1st. I didn’t decide to try this challenge till later in the month so I am a bit behind schedule. I read fiction and non-fiction alike. I’ve read fantasy, instructionals, spiritual guides, science fiction, dramas, existential works, and poetry. I’ve also watched less television and wasted less time wasted in front of my computer.
As I spent more time behind the pages of a book, I began to notice a shift in my consciousness. Changing my focus from my computer to a book changed my outlook from passive to active. Reading is very different to watching a TV show. A TV show is a passive experience. It happens to me. Characters, emotions, sounds, and feelings are all provided. When reading a book, I am forced to engage myself, kick my imagination into gear and work at creating a world, a character, or an action based on the words provided by the author. I often feel tired after reading because I have actually been doing something.
This engagement has trickled over to the rest of my life. I am more active and aware. Instead of sitting down in front of my TV after work, I find something to do. I might reach for a paintbrush, or spend some time in my garden. I might go out for an evening bike ride around my neighborhood.
I am not saying that I have cut TV out of my life completely, or that I even want to do so. I love shows like Game of Thrones, Vikings, Hannibal, and Arrow. But I appreciate them more for having an engaged mindset. Being an active part of the story, rather than viewer. Watching less TV is actually helping my enjoy and fully appreciate the shows that I do regularly watch.
Reading every night doesn’t cut into my day. I don’t feel that any time spent reading is wasted. Every book or article is useful, especially those that seem useless or wrong. It is easy to accept that because something is in print, it is correct. Words on a screen change, while words in print may as well be carved in stone. They hold more sway over us psychologically because the are ‘more’ real. If the words are real, then so must be their meaning. It is the job of any good author not only to tell an enjoyable story, but to sway the reader. To convince them of something. This is obvious in some works but more hidden in others. This can be a scary concept to fully grasp. Whether I like it or not, each book I read influences and changes me. Some more so than others. Reading, or perhaps more importantly, reading a large range of material, helps to create a mind that can discern for itself what it deems to be true. To understand each message and to filter and interpret it. I have noticed that I is more open to new ideas, but also better at analyzing ideas. Instead of being swayed by each new theory or idea proposed, I am better equipped to decide and understand for myself. Regaining an awareness I never knew I had lost is the greatest gift that reading has given me. I know there are many more gifts waiting to be found and I now have the ability to search for them.

My Altars and Spiritual Path – Migrated 03/26/2014

I recently posted a video to my YouTube channel showing my altar. This is where I pray, give thanks, meditate, and celebrate solitary holidays. Having my own sacred space is quite important to me as it helps balance the sometimes hectic nature of life in the city with a daily reminder of faith. My altar is a unique space in my life where all mundane thoughts are set aside. Think of it a spiritual focus point, a gathering of seemingly ‘ordinary’ objects that as a collection, gather more meaning the more I use them.
My first altar came together quite slowly as many pieces were hand made. I like to build my own tools and representations. I find that I don’t have the same intimate connection to items bought in a shop. I don’t find, say, store-bought images of a goddess to be inferior in any way, but I do feel that a hand painted version will hold more meaning to me.
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I was never fully happy with this idea, but it fit at the time.
I miss that altar in many ways. How open and light it was for example. But it was fairly cookie-cutter in some ways. The pentacle in the center for instance managed to stay the focus point on my altar for many months even though I have never felt a strong connection to it. I placed it there because at the time, I was almost exclusively practicing wiccan/goddess spirituality, and that was what I felt I ‘had’ to have as a center piece. That said, I was very happy with my ‘by the book’ altar. It only changed because I moved, and an old fashioned tv cabinet became it’s new home. For a while, it remained unchanged, but I wasn’t happy with space the cabinet made. It was so tall and there was nothing filling the space.
Enter altar 2.5. The round tree section was perfect for the heavy feel of winter. I spent some time working with rune meditations and wood featured in a lot of my projects at the time. But with the spring came change. I did away with the starkness and back came the altar cloth. It also became less structured and a little bit more intuitive.
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My most recent spring altar.
The change and growth of my altar is in many ways, a reflection of the changes made along my path. As I let go of my own preconceived ideas of what my spirituality should look like to others (who couldn’t see the altar anyways), it became easier for me to progress. Removing the pentacle from my altar let me reevaluate which path I was actually on. Was I wanting to stay within what I defined as Wiccan, or should I branch out? How could I include my important Jewish lineage? Did I need to choose at all? Ask yourself a truly honest question and you will find that it is answered, though not always how you think.
My world is filled with spirit, I see life and nature as being sacred and infused with spirit. The elements are essential parts of this world, For me, there is both female and male deity, not one catch-all. For the past few months, when asked, I simply say, “I’m pagan.” it fits, so I leave it at that. I don’t need to pick a sub-category. I am happy that my place of worship and self refection is no longer laid out by my ideas of what it ‘should be’,  but rather how my spirit says it should. I am happy that my path feels free again, and I am happy to be able to say that. For the moment, this is true to me, to how I view my own spirituality. At the end of the day, that is the whole point.

Ostara and Spring Energy – Migrated 03/19/2014

While technically the spring equinox isn’t until tomorrow, there is no denying the surge of spring energy that the holiday drives before it, like cold refreshing air before a storm. Spring energy is youthful and wild. We clean out the pantry and rearrange the cupboards yet another time.
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For me, this is a time to do away with the heavy and dark imagery of winter. It is a time to create and surround oneself with light. I plant seeds and paint pictures. I work my hands into the ground, not minding that the mud is caked to my elbows.
Most importantly, this is the season to make, act and do. Crafts of all kinds are somehow easier at this time of year. Now is the right time to start a new hobby. Take up walking outdoors if you have been trapped inside all winter long. Easter,Ostara, Eostre, Passover, whichever holiday you celebrate (or if you don’t celebrate at all), take a moment to consider the changing of the season. What that will mean for you is very different than what it means to me.
Whether we like it or not, the seasons play a significant role in our well being. Despite our every attempt to divorce ourselves from nature, we humans cannot escape our ties to the natural world. As Moses led his people into the desert, away from the ‘industrial’ slavery of the Egyptian cities, we too in some small way recognize the wilderness. We shrug off our burdens and turn our backs to the oppression of the coldness of winter. At this time, we face our troubles and take swift action against them. We are each in our wilderness. She is all around us, buried beneath a ton of concrete and steel, but this is just a mask she wears. Beneath it, she is as primal and rich as ever. This facing of trials is not felt as burden as it is at other times of the year. Rather, we are given fresh and youthful energy with which to face it. What we create with that energy, is for us to decide