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I don’t believe in raking leaves. On Sunday afternoon, the air was just chilly enough to coax me to admit that summer would not, in fact, be back until the wheel of the year turned again. The leaves on the ground were a worn, welcome home blanket. The ground is exactly the place they should be beautifying this time of year. I thought of my friend from Tucson as I noticed the deep, red orange that still hung onto the sassafras and wondered how she would regard the seasonal shift. I imagined that to someone who is amazed by the water flowing in East Coast rivers, these changes would be directly magical.
In the Pagan traditions that have come to align with much of my spiritual instinct, Sunday was Samhain, the day that belongs to neither year. I was preparing for the few people who would gather to celebrate the holiday. I did my Halloweening the night before as a banana-clad Josephine Baker at Jack & Jenn’s Fright Night Party. Samhain is a more somber affair, and we gather to honor and release those who have passed away in the year prior. We listen for wisdom carried on the last of the October wind and whispered into our ears by the ancestors. We welcome the coming of the new year and the Divine spark we will once again have the opportunity to recognize and embrace. However literal or figurative a participant’s experience, these moments are meant for quiet reverence and insight. It feels good to release what needs to go— to redefine, redirect, and get ready for what’s next. I celebrate a new year whenever I can, though this time of year, it feels most serious.
The simple altar was set and thankfully, Vigile was more than happy to start and tend the fire. That left me more able to finish preparing quinoa vegetable potluck, to relax into a ritual mind space, and to be ready to greet those who would arrive. At six o’clock, we shifted ourselves into sacred space with a song, the smoke of white sage and the recognition of the four directions to mark our circle. Over the course of the evening, the energy and love of God/dess was called and honored by Names most dear to each of us: Krishna, Ram, Brigid, Astarte, Jesus. Everyone had a turn to speak the names and stories of those who had passed through the veil. I remembered Frank Barnett, kirtan aficionado of Cleveland, a natural force for the drawing together of community. Though I didn’t know him, I remembered Tyler Clementi and all kids who have died before they were able to grow out from under ridicule to recognize their worth and brilliance.
We chanted for quite a while, and danced a little. A young woman I met for the first time at circle asked me how I came to love chanting and to know about the Hindu path. The question had me wondering: How have I gotten anywhere that I am? The times of initial impact of all the most important aspects of my life feel like vibrant blurs of information, like sudden, unexpected downloads. At its most genuine, my writing seeks to unpack and understand the visions, experiences, emotions, and intentional turns of the journey. I keep trying for genuine.
These autumn days which I once resented on behalf of my beloved summer now find me loving their beauty and metaphor. I welcome these changes, and the inner work that will follow. I am ready for a time of gentle and courageous newness.