prompts


Halloween Mantel by RC
It’s a Halloween/Autumn/Harvest Poetry Contest!

 

I love autumn. After the heat and long days of summer, autumn offers a sigh. Kick-off-your-shoes relaxing, scenic-drive-in-the-country enjoyable, autumn lets us open the windows and light the candles. We slow down, we bake cookies, and in the quiet twilight we write poems!
 
Autumn Perch by RCSo, here is my autumn call to all of you Poes, Thoreaus, Rumis, and Suesses to pen an ode to the season. Bring out the ghouls, the gourds, and the golden-hued leaves—whatever you fancy the season is up to you, just keep it family-readable. What’s the trick? Only one writer will win the treat.
 
Cast a spell over our judges with your originality, expression, and technical mastery. Although they will consider the pleas of the people, in the end the judges alone will decide your fate.  
 
The one among you deemed most worthy wins the jewels–a pair of custom made earrings (sorry guys—you can enter but you still get the earrings). Sterling silver French wires with sapphire/amethmix glass and Swarovski crystals. The colors are basically lavender and pink but the orbs have an iridescence that reminds me of the aurora borealis. AutumnPoemEarrings by RC
 
How to Brew…
Each entry will be posted on A Ponderance of Things as it is received—so the earlier you submit your entry the more time you will have for readers to comment. Deadline for entries is midnight (Mountain Time), October 29th. Please send your spell-checked and edited entries in the body of an email (no attachments) to PonderAutumnPoems[at]yahoo.com with Poetry Contest in the subject line. Limit is 100 words.  Entries will be posted as-is so be sure to check for errors, there will be no editing after posting. Allow me 24 hrs to let you know I have received your email. I will send you a link as well once your entry is posted. Be sure to include an email where I can reach you in the event of your winning as I will then need a mailing address. Also, remember to include your “by line” (name or pen name).
 
The winner will be posted on November 1st, All Soul’s Day. If for any reason I fail to obtain a mailing address from the winner by November 5th a new winner will be chosen and notified.
 
Blessed Crafting! 

RedRaven by RC

A Bee Enjoying a Rosemary Bush

Invite the Bees to Your Garden

 

This picture of a bee visiting a rosemary bush was taken last week in my front yard. You’ve probably seen a photo like this before on a greeting card, calendar or inspirational poster. It may conjure images of warm, lazy days. Or perhaps you see the bee as a symbol of the promise of spring or Faith and Hope. The fact is the honeybee and its fellow pollinators need more than hope right now.  

For over a decade scientists have been discussing the decline of pollinators. The losses of habitat, use of pesticides, and other stresses have created a marked decline in population. It has been stated that in the United States we have lost over one-third of the honey bee hives, which is over 1,800,000 colonies. This is a costly problem for crop owners and manufacturers of numerous goods who have resorted to shipping farmed bees to new locations. Costly in shipping; costly for the bees.  Shipped bees, both honeybee and bumblebee, are not acclimated to the new surroundings and can become sick. The remaining local bees can be ousted by the new arrivals. Meanwhile the underlying issues are not addressed and the problem escalates.  

You might be asking “why should I care?” The next question is “what can I do?” As for the question of “why exactly this is happening”…that is too large a topic for this blog but I will direct you to other sources.  

Why Should I Care
At least one-third of our food as humans depends on the pollination by bees; not only fruits and vegetables but the grasses which feed the cattle. In fact, twenty-five percent of all animal life depends on plants pollinated by bees. In addition to the food crops bees are necessary pollinators for crops used in textiles, edible and essential oils, plants used in the formulations of medicine and other products which utilize the wax. Let us also not forget the simple things like that bouquet of roses for your loved one or the wildflowers beckoning you to a scenic drive.  

What Can I Do
The best action you can take is to limit your use of pesticides and herbicides. Chemicals toxic to pests are also toxic to pollinators. In the case of social bees these toxins are carried into the hive where they affect other bees, but the larvae still have a chance. For solitary bees the resulting loss of egg laying females affects the numbers more dramatically. A light soap solution or organic deterrent such as plant oils is usually all that is needed for minor pest problems. Better yet, consider companion planting to encourage natural predators such as lacewings, birds and frogs.  

Add native plants to your landscaping. Bees need a variety of plants to supply all the necessary nutrients. A limited diet equals a reduced immune system. A great perk to this is that native plants often require little to no maintenance and add texture and color to your garden.  

Become a Bee Guardian or even a beekeeping hobbyist. A bee guardian simply creates a space for bees to flourish. A beekeeper manages hives and reaps the benefit of harvesting honey.  

Speak up. Encourage biological diversity in your neighborhood and encourage government agencies to create policies based on sustainability.  

For More Information
Organizations:
The Xerces Society is a non-profit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Their website is a plethora of information including scientific updates, endangered species listings and conservation tips.
http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/  

The Ecological Society of America offers case studies, resource listing, policy overviews and more. This website has links too numerous to mention and is well worth the visit.
http://www.esa.org/ecoservices/poll/body.poll.intr.html  

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a good place to begin your search for native plants.
http://wildflower.org/  

In the UK
http://www.soilassociation.org/Takeaction/Savethehoneybee/tabid/434/Default.aspx 

Scientific Papers:
Plant-Pollinator Interactions: A Threatened Mutualism with Implications for the Ecology and Management of Rare Plants
Spira, TP
Natural Areas Journal [Nat. Areas J.]. Vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 78-88. Jan 2001.
http://md1.csa.com/partners/viewrecord.php?requester=gs&collection=ENV&recid=5117593&q=&uid=789016456&setcookie=yes  

Science Direct, a database of scientific literature, has an issue on bees.
Journal of Invertebrate Pathology
Volume 103, Supplement 1 

Bloggers unite to speak out for the bees on February 17th, 2010.  To view more blogs and articles visit http://www.bloggersunite.org/event/help-the-vanishing-bees 

Visit the Writing Prompt page for today’s corresponding prompt

The breeze tonight is soft and cool.  In the distance the fires burn, filling the air with the sweet scent of Oak, Ash and straw.  The light from the fires mingle with the last rays of sunlight.  Twilight rises as I set off down the road, towards the fires at the edge of the village.

 A pleasant sensation begins to move through my body, then I hear it; ’tis the drumming and chanting of The Old Songs. I quicken pace for the celebration’s begun.  Tonight’s to be a night of merry.  There’s to be dancing and food and drink ‘til n’er morn.  Torches are to be lit from the fires and carried into the homes for the hearths.  Bread and ale are to be placed on the tables to welcome our visitors. Tonight the veils are parted and for one night our loved ones will come home.

 Today we know this night as Halloween or All Hallows Eve or All Souls Eve; a night for the child in all of us to dress in costume, party and scare the wits out of ourselves and others. What is now a night of haunted houses, bloodshed and candy (a strange combination), began as a night of honoring loved-ones past.  Although The Festival of the Dead is known by many names in many cultures the beliefs and ritual run similar threads around the world.  If you share a bit of that chocolate bar with me I’ll take you on a two-penny tour.

 Our first stop is the Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced SOW-en).  Celebrated at the end of the harvest season, Samhain is the night of the year when the veils between the worlds are the thinnest.  Like many cultures the Celts believe quite literally in life-everlasting.  For them, death is not an ending; it is merely a door into the next reality.  The other world is a mirror image of this one and life continues in much the same way. 

 This view of the afterlife is much like that of the Egyptians who celebrate The Beautiful Feast of the Valley, Sunset Ceremony or The Festival of Wag (or Wagy).  Beginning at the Nile, a parade of acrobats and musicians lead a procession to the tombs where food and drink are offered to the departed.  Acrobatics aside, for parades of art and mysterious ritual New Orleans and Africa top the charts.

 Under the belief that restless spirits may come back to cause mischief, in New Orleans these processions include people disguised as departed spirits.  This “guising” is meant to confuse the spirits and is at the roots of our present day custom to dress up as ghosts and skeletons. Hey, why should the spirits have all the fun? In Peru and Mexico we know this as El Dia de los Muertos, All Souls Day; Touissant to the French; Velja Noc in Old Slavic; Genesia in Old Greek.

 In Africa during the Egungun Festival, the guising takes on a new meaning.  This festival honors ancestors with drumming, chanting and prayer. Individuals offer their services to families by donning the garb and thereby taking on the persona of a departed loved one.  The purpose is to assist in transmuting the prayers to that soul.  In Haiti a similar festival is called Fet Gede. 

 The festivals change slightly when we enter Asian lands. On the one hand we have Zhonguan Jie or Happy Celebration, a time to honor the ancestors.  On the other hand we have Ullamban or Chinese Halloween. 

 In Chinese culture the departed have a journey ahead of them and if they have not been properly sent off they can not complete their journey.  At the Chinese Ghost Festival, or in Thailand, Pee Ta Khon, the gates to the world of the dead are opened.  This is a time of Hungry Ghosts.  Souls who have not received proper tribute wander looking for food and supplies which are offered up to them by the burning of joss paper. (Lisa See does a wonderful job of allowing us to experience being a Hungry Ghost in her novel, Peony in Love, Random House Publishing, 2007).

 Festivities take on a lighter air at the Japanese O-bon festival, a happy time of family reunion.  This is a time to clean and care for gravesites and honor the ancestors.  In Vietnam the festival is called Te Trung Nguyen and in Beijing we have Qingming Jie or Clear Brightness.

 Observed in April, Clear Brightness actually began as a fertility festival much like the Celtic Beltane.  Since the dead were believed to be responsible for the fertility of the fields and prosperity of the home it was considered a good idea to keep them happy, therefore gravesites were cleaned and picnics held at graveside.  Over time the focus of this celebration shifted from a day of fertility and prosperity to a day of remembrance.

 In some cultures, such as certain Native American communities, this day of remembrance is not observed.  In these traditions the ancestors are honored with every prayer.  For most of us, however, our lives become overly hectic with our attention forever focused on what we need to do next.  Perhaps, for us, setting aside one day each year for the remembrance of loved ones past would be a healthy tradition to revive; for it is as much to honor our own heart as it is to honor their memory.

 There are many simple ways to make space in our lives for those who have parted.  Simply wearing Grandma’s necklace or making one of her recipes for dinner can open up conversations with the children, opening up a time to share all those special memories. Updating the family photo albums with notations and stories about the pictures is another way to honor our loved ones.  This is a project I’m currently planning with my eighty-one year old mother; she’s the only one who knows all those people and the pictures usually prompt a good tale. 

For your listening pleasure    – Loreena McKennitt –  All Soul’s Night

Leave a comment to share how your family remembers their ancestors or any other thoughts you may have.

See Prompt Page for accompanying writing prompt.

 Next Time:  A true-life ghost story.  I’ll post it on the 30th….

As a child,  May Day was one of my favorite holidays.  The making of May Day baskets to hang on the neighbors door and collecting small flowers (aka weeds) for tiny bouquets was great fun.  It seemed perfectly simple to me; on Halloween we asked for candy and on May Day we left flowers. 

As it turns out May Day was actually closely tied to Halloween in the early Celtic and Pagan traditions.  As Samhain, or Halloween, ushered in the Winter; Beltane, or May Day, ushered in the Summer.  Both celebrations were seen as times when the veil between the mortal world and the Otherworld was thin.  Unexplainable happenings could occur and communications with gods and nature spirits were possible.

With the arrival of Summer the focus of these communications were for healthy animals and bountiful crops.  Bonfires were lit to symbolically burn off disease or negative energy.  Celebrations were held in honor of the Goddess as Maiden, bearer of fertility.  The Maiden was married to Lord of the Wood, (Green Man or Jack of the Green), and the Earth was renewed. This marriage has been symbolically portrayed in the stories of King Arthur and his Sacred Marriage to the land and in the legend of Robin Hood who weds the virtuous Maid Marian.

To insure the fertility of this Great Marriage the people assisted with the building of the energy.  Through dancing and drumming they hoped to add strength to the magical union.  Paring up with those to whom they were most attracted, (though not necessarily wed), for long hours of love-making under the trees was another form of symbolic magic.  The celebration of  Life and the indulgence in life’s pleasures was a way of saying “yes” to the Gods.  Yes, we enjoy this life.  Yes, we enjoy the pleasures of this human body.  Yes, we celebrate fertility in all forms. 

Have you read The Secret?  Well, this is where it started.  To put oneself in the energy (the acceptance) of that which one wants to experience.  I wonder how different the world would be today if we had continued the practice of saying “yes” to Life.  How would history have played out if we had not given so much focus to death and war?

This year marks the 39th anniversary of Earth Day.  Celebrated on different days by different nations, (the UN officially celebrates on March 21st), Earth Day has reportedly become “the largest secular holiday in the world”,  according to Earth Day Network, with no boundaries as to creed or religion.  I wonder if Senator Gaylord Nelson ever envisioned such a mass embracement.

There is good reason to celebrate.  Our one, tiny universe is home to an estimated 100 billion galaxies.  In all our years studying these galaxies whether it be with refractive telescopes, infrared or radio waves, we have not yet found anything comparative to our beautiful blue planet.

Are we a result of a quantum fluctuation?  Are we divinely crafted?  Does it matter?

All we really know is this…

there is no place like home.

How many are there?

How many are there?

 

 Would you like to help astronomers classify galaxies.  If so, log onto Galaxy Zoo.  Take their How To tutorial, create a log in account and spend your free time exploring space.  https://www.galaxyzoo.org/

Want to support clean energy and green collar jobs?  Join the WE Campaign at Repower America.  http://www.repoweramerica.org/earthday

Have a few minutes?  Send an ecard, sign a petition or read the latest Enews at Care 2 http://www.care2.com/

I believe the earth needs a good lawyer and so do the people of Earthjustice.  If you agree please join us at http://www.earthjustice.org/

Didn’t know it was an art form?  Neither did I.

According to Webster’s the definition of art includes:

  • the principles or methods governing any craft or branch of learning.
  • skill in conducting any activity.

It’s just amazing how many artists we have in the world these days…

I come to this new form of communication with no contrivance.  Instead, I am allowing this space develop as I become inspired.

Today I added two new pages.  One will be for writing prompts,( unfortunately, these do not usually come to me when I am ready to write, they usually come to me when I want to be sleeping).  The other page will be for book reviews, (or movies), which I feel led to share.

So far I have left each page open for comments so don’t be shy.