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Love as a Practice February 14, 2017

The following is an essay written by my contradancing pal Lynn Ungar, who also happens to be a UU Minister, raiser of show dogs, and a very fine contemplative thinker. It’s reblogged from the UU website; full link below.

She reframes love from an exclusive romantic destination to a daily practice for everyone. I find this very timely right now, and hope you benefit from my sharing it here. As you read Lynn’s suggestions, please also consider how you might add small acts of kindness to the earth. Done out of love, these changes of behavior can turn in the heart from a burden to a joy.

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faceted-ruby-heart

         Valentine’s Day, by 

I could be wrong, but I rather suspect that Valentine’s Day is the most widely despised holiday in the country. Really, unless you’re in the small minority of people who are in the throes of romantic passion, what’s to like? You don’t get a day off of work, there’s no religious ceremony or significance, and for weeks ahead of time the stores are filled with a boatload of pink and red crap that nobody needs, and hardly anybody actually wants. Jewelry store commercials aside, the number of lives that would be improved by the gift of a heart-shaped diamond is, I suspect, shockingly small

Worse than that, for many people the holiday is an affront. If you are single, it’s a reminder that society expects people to pair up, and a suggestion that you are probably a loser because you’re alone. If you’re in a long-term relationship that has become more centered on helping with homework and making sure that there is milk in the frig than on lust and making googly eyes at one another, it’s a reminder that popular culture is obsessed with passion and falling in love, and no one will ever make a blockbuster movie that looks anything like your life. If you’re gay or lesbian or in any kind of non-traditional relationship you know that there probably isn’t going to be a card in the drugstore that is in any way designed with your kind of love in mind. And if you’ve recently been through a break-up, or your relationship is going through a rocky period from which it may or may not recover, or your spouse has died, well, then Valentine’s Day is pretty much designed for your own personal torture.

So here’s my suggestion: Maybe a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by buying candy and flowers would be to embrace the fact that love is often difficult. Rather than a day about romance, why not a day for concentrating on loving something or someone that makes you uncomfortable?

You might want to start by loving your crooked toe, or your stretch marks, or the flabby skin on the back of your arms. Anoint them with lotion, and a long, loving look, and consider the possibility that they really don’t need to be any different than exactly what they are.

You could try loving your neighbor who plays loud music and leaves his RV parked so that you can hardly get in your driveway. Maybe the music is his only stress reducer after caring for elderly people all day; maybe the RV is the only place his son has to live; maybe he’s so busy trying to hold his life together that he forgot to consider what would be most convenient for you.

You could work on loving your daughter’s crappy fourth-grade teacher who doesn’t appreciate your child’s unique gifts and has failed to teach her the structure of a paragraph. Chances are good that there are too many kids in the classroom to give each their due and the teacher is exhausted simply from trying to maintain some semblance of civilization until the bell rings.

You could try to love the person ahead of you in the line at the grocery store who has 27 items in the express lane, or the punk who cut you off on the freeway, or the customer service representative from the cable company who does not appear to have the slightest idea what “service” might mean. Just for today, since it’s a holiday.

You might even go all out, and work on loving your ex, or the person they left you for. Not necessarily forgiving, and certainly not forgetting, but just a little warmth, a little bit of an open heart for someone who, like everyone else in the world, is trying to find happiness in the best way they know how. Which isn’t necessarily a good way, but there you have it.

Just for this one day you could practice love not so much as a feeling but as a choice, a discipline, a practice. You could start with the conviction that everyone certainly needs love, and the possibility that everyone deserves it. Not because they have earned it, not because they are loveable, but because each of us is capable of being an instrument of grace, which is another name for the love that we don’t have to earn or deserve.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And good luck.

 

–by Lynn Ungar.

See this and more of Lynn’s excellent writing at the Unitarian Universalist Collective’s blog, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uucollective/author/lynnungar/ . This essay was originally posted there 2/14/2014.

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Thugamar Féin am Samhradh Linn May 1, 2015

Tulips in Boulder, 2012***

Today is May 1, and the flowers are blooming, sometimes even through the snow so you know they are serious and not about to back down anymore.

Happy Beltaine! Here’s a festive Maypole (earth-fertility symbol) and an old song in Irish to celebrate.

Maypole erection at New College of CA's Permaculture Intensive, 2007

Maypole erection at New College of CA’s Permaculture Intensive, 2007

According to An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa, this traditional Irish song Thugamar Fein an Samhradh Linn, sung on May Day (Beltaine), dates back a ways: “Edward Bunting—a 19th century music collector—said this song “is probably extremely ancient” and was sung in the Dublin area around 1633. Even so, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin says it dates back to 1745, yet Mary Devlin (author of The Lost Music of Ireland) claims it was 1726, so the origin is rather vague.”

Want to hear it? Here’s the magnificent soprano Nóirín ní Riain singing it. I learned this song from listening to her CD, Celtic Soul.

There are of course numerous versions, as with all old folk songs. Check the bottom of this post for a second version that for some reason also involves herring.

It’s fun to honor the changing seasons in creative ways like singing. You too can sing in Irish!

This song is presented in three ways to  make it relatively easy for you to learn. The first line is in Gaeilge (Irish), the second is phoneticized pronounciation for native English-speakers (Foghraíocht), and the third is Béarla, a rough English translation. (Apologies to all native speakers and my relevant distant ancestors for any mistakes here: I grew up in an American desert region where Irish is rarely, if ever, spoken, and still don’t know much so must rely on others. Just doing my best to keep it alive and spreading, at least in song.)

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THUGAMAR FÉIN AN SAMHRADH LINN

Gorgeous Maypole top from Buddha's Birthday celebration, northern CA. Photo by Tina Fields

Gorgeous Maypole top from Buddha’s Birthday celebration, northern CA. Photo by Tina Fields

   (We Brought the Summer With Us)

Véarsa 1 (Verse 1):
Babóg na Bealtaine, Maighdean an tSamhraidh,
(BA-bohg nuh BAL-tin-yeh, MY-jen uh TOW-ree)
Doll of May Day, Maiden of Summer,

Suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann,
(SOO-uss gakh cruk iss SHEE-uss gakh glyan)
Up every hill and down every glen,

Cailíní maisithe, bán-ghéala gléasta,
(KAL-yee-nee MASH-ih-heh, bahn YAL-uh GLAY-sstuh)

Beautiful girls, radiant and shining in dress,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
(HUG-uh-mar hayn un SOW-roo lin)
We brought the summer with us.

Curfá (Chorus):

Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna,
(SOW-roo, SOW-roo, BA-nyeh nuh NGOW-nuh)
Summer, summer, milk of the calves,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the summer with us,

Samhradh buí ná nóinín gléigeal,
(SOW-roo bwee nah NOH-ih-neen GLAY-gyal)
Yellow summer of glistening daisies,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the summer with us.

Véarsa 2 (Verse 2) 

Thugamar linn é ón gcoill chraobhaigh,
Hug-a-mar lin ay oo-n gill khreev-ee,
We brought it in from the leafy woods,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the Summer in.

Samhradh buí ó luí na gréine,
Sa-u-roo bwee o lee na grayn-ya,
Yellow Summer from the time of the sunset,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We have brought the Summer in.   (sing CHORUS)

Kendall & me Permy 07

With Kendall Dunnigan, wild queen of OAEC, 2007. Flowers can be worn anywhere!

Véarsa 3 (Verse 3)

Tá an fhuiseog ag seinm ‘s ag luascadh sna spéartha,
(Tahn ISH-yohg egg SHEN-yim segg lOOS-koo snuh SPAYR-huh)
The lark is singing and soaring in the skies,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Tá an chuach is na héanlaith ag seinm le pléisiúr,
(Tahn KHOO-ukh snuh HAYN-lee egg SHEN-yim leh PLAY-shoor)
The cuckoo and the lark are singing with pleasure,

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
We brought the summer with us.
[Sing Curfá (CHORUS) again.]

Singing to welcome in the vibrant Spring spirits as we erect the maypole, 2007

According to the folks of An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa , “…“féin” can be pronounced “hayn” or “fayn”, and “thugamar” can be “hugamar” or “hoogamar” depending on the speaker. Same with “Samhradh”, which can be “Sau-roo” or “Sau-rah”.”

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Here are a couple more verses found on the most excellent folksong-nerd site Mudcat Cafe, posted by Malcolm Douglas on 7 July 2001, after he found it appearing as song #502 in George Petrie’s Complete Collection of Irish Music (ed. C. S. Villiers, 1903):

Of all the fish that’s in the sea
The herring is king, the herring is king.
Sing thugamur fein an samhra linn
‘Tis we have brought the summer in

The storm is o’er ’tis calm again;
We’re safe on shore from the raging main,
Sing thugamar fein an samhra linn,
‘Tis we have brought the summer in.

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If you would like to learn how to sing more songs in Irish, check out Mary McLaughlin’s very user-friendly intro book/CD combo, Singing in Irish Gaelic (Mel Bay Publishing). It contains some great material, including a bouncy little childrens’ ditty about “Phillip’s little boat with Phillip in it” drowning in the sea.

Yep, pretty authentic Irish material, singing cheerily about death. Enjoy being alive right now to see another Spring!

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Merrie Christmas December 25, 2010

Filed under: Singing,Spiritual Ecopsychology,The Wheel of the Year — BrujaHa @ 3:41 pm
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Cover of the wonderful book Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy

When I was little, I remember thinking of Christmas Eve as the most wonderful time of year. I enjoyed the lights shining in the darkness, the neighbors coming by with little homemade gifts of cookies on festive plates festooned with brightly colored ribbons, my mother’s pin with green holly and red bells on it, and the idea of magical reindeer needing a plateful of my cookies to get through their long night’s journey. But it was the carolers with their frosty breaths emerging from woolly wraps that got to me most, lustily singing on our stoop of “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Having no sense of cultural relativity, natch, I thought the entire world celebrated Christmas – which meant that for that one evening at least, everyone everywhere on the planet was trying to be peaceful. The guns were put down; wars were put on hold; songs were being sung and tales of wisdom repeated on TV by the cartoon Linus; hot spiced drinks were passed around; people were being kind to animals; strangers were invited to share good meals. Peace on Earth; Good Will to All Beings. And nothing seemed more wonderful or precious.

I’d lay down in my bed after a good-night hug from my adoptive parents, snuggled down beneath the quilts made by the grandmother I’d never met from scraps of her childrens’ clothing, look out the window at the cold stars shining high above the trees, and imagine that for this one night at least, the entire world was breathing in peace.

I also fervently prayed to whatever Holy Mystery was out there that this peace would get deep into peoples’ cells and transform us forever, like a flower whose stem is put in colored water sucks it up all the way, thus changing the color of its petals.

This was the message of Christmas: angels, peace, wonder, generosity, abundance, love, miracles. Ignoring the consumerist vulture aspect in favor of these, what’s not to like? I don’t care if it sounds sappy – that’s far better than cynical and shrivel-hearted. The world will be far better off if more of us dare to make idiots of ourselves at least once a day in service of Beauty. And how wonderful we get to hear these stories again and again, reminding us when we most need it, at the darkest time of year.

To all of you – whether Christian, Pagan, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Orisha worshipper, Taoist, Buddhist, Animist, Discordian, Frisbetarian, et al; whether human or other:

Merrie Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

 

 


The lovely photo at the top is from Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy.