The monsoon rains finally came. The clouds hung in splotchy black chuck across the sky, their grey drizzle as patchy as they were. I made it home just in time to bake cookies and hear the first thunder and raindrops fall.
The rain came with a vengeance, and it abated for a short minute before roaring again in heavy thick sheets. And then it stopped, a few minutes later, the thunder quaking and the streets wet and flooded, and the sun began to shine.
The monsoon is cleansing. The monsoon is what we wait for, the sticky humidity with the promise of life. At least, it’s what I wait for. I can’t stand the blow dyer heat leading up to the stickiness of water in the air. I prefer muggy and humid to dry. Nothing quite beats when the rain finally explodes out of the sky though.
I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the seasons and cycles of my local environment. Arizona is not my ideal home, at all, but it is beautiful and stunning and terrifying in equal measures. Our sunsets are epic. The interaction between development, technology, and nature is amazing (and horrific). I can drive up the mountains and feel cold air, be embraced by pines and log cabins. And I can hike down into a day from the pines into dirt and mesquite, prickly cactus and dangerous cliffs straight down into saguaros, and all of that landscape is part of me. Everything about this home makes me want to scream – sometimes in overwhelming joy and awe, sometimes in painful frustration and fear. (My town is referred to by my peers as ‘the black hole’, because no one seems to be able to leave once you end up here.)
Part of the reason I’ve been thinking about seasons and cycles is because I’m working again on the calendar of the Otherfaith. I also just finished Thuri Calafia’s Dedicant and started on her Initiate book. In both, Calafia mentions earth-tides and becoming attuned to the land you live on. This is undermined heavily later in Dedicant with Calafia’s introductions to each of the monthly lessons (the book is set up as a workbook that a practitioner works through in a year) that include stereotypical descriptions of the seasons that read a bit more like hallmark card images than the varied seasonal changes one experiences when aware of the world around them.
The calendar in the Otherfaith is very sparse right now, full of holidays based on the changes our gods and spirits undergo as well as incorporating some secular holidays and events. The idea of incorporating the ‘beginning of spring’ or winter or such has not appealed to me because of the wide variation in individual areas as to when seasons change, how they change, and how they affect the environment. Our summer here in Arizona has always struck more traditionally winter symbolism, with the death that washes over our land and the retreat into our air conditioned houses. I do think being aware of the world around us is important, but I am not at my core a seasonal worshiper. My calendar is not seasonal. It’s structured on the events of my culture and my gods.
If the seasonal changes were to be incorporated into the Otherfaith, I would list it as a clergy duty – to keep track of the seasonal shifts and changes and organize rituals for the laity. Frankly, when I’m busy working, I don’t have time to record the seasonal changes, and how those change from year to year, on top of all my other writing and recording and religious duties. I don’t think it’s a duty laity should be expected to handle. Our world moves and shifts, always.
In the past I would have, if I moved more with the seasons, given offering to the Rillito when it ran – the great strong river that enveloped developments and ate our town. But we drained and sucked away that river, so that now where it flowed is only dirt. A river that once devoured building and rock has not run for years, no matter how strong the rains come. Our summer came later this year in my town, which would mean I would have to adjust a summer welcoming ritual. Spring broke and cracked like an egg over our city like it has a tendency to do.
If I, who has dedicated my entire life to my religion and spirituality, have trouble balancing seasonal shifts, work, offerings to the gods and spirits, and everything else that is a part of life – that’s not something I want laity to be handling in the Otherfaith. Religion should have trials, and it should make us grow. I don’t think it should be stress, though. That isn’t to say that I don’t encourage awareness, not at all! We need to be aware of our surroundings in order to better serve the spirits and ourselves.
But finishing up Calafia’s book, I can really see how far I’ve diverged from ‘general Paganism’ and the neoWicca that permeates a lot of the community.
Anyway. The monsoons came yesterday.