Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Diggin' Up Bones

This weekend was Memorial Weekend, and my family spent it as we spend many weekends, not just holidays, walking through graveyards.  Here in the south the holiday is still called Decoration Day because it common for an entire family to load up a picnic and visit the local graveyard where their deceased loved ones are interred.  It is a big deal for families to decorate the graves with fresh colorful flowers.  

Haunting graveyards is a well-trampled pastime for my family.  We are all big history buffs and although we are not so very close now, we all maintain a strong connection to generations long gone, the story of how each of us came to be a part of the same family tree.  Yet, this strange hobby extends past the graves of family members we have never met.  It is not unusual for us to seek out and visit old cemeteries with interesting and beautiful carved headstones.  An older grave site is usually peaceful and calm, making it a nice place to visit to get away from the chaos of the world.

So, I wonder, does anyone else love reading old tombstones or exploring old crypts, mausoleums or vaults?  Or, is this simply one of those weird things passed down in a genealogy obsessed family?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

In the dictionary the first definition of symbology is: the art of expression by symbols.

Some form of symbology is practiced by most everyone.  Cross necklaces, St. Christopher pendants, and wedding rings are all emblems worn often to symbolize beliefs or customs that are important.  The symbols we wear are the items that remind us of our beliefs and the things we hold dear and important. 

I love symbols, and as someone who likes to constantly carry reminders of what those sigils mean. I love to look down and get a little nudge from something on my person that will remind me of what is real and important. I have collected these symbols over my lifetime, gaining a new one here and there to represent some other facet of the elements that are symbolic to who I am.  I have several that stay with me permanently.  All of which tend to raise a little suspicion amongst the unknowing.  These symbols may not be common here in the South, and tattoos especially have not been considered a usual choice for women of Southern roots, but that does not make them evil or bad.  Perhaps, they just need a little more explaining.

The symbol I have worn the longest is a silver ring of Celtic knot-work with a five-pointed star as the center focal point. I have worn this ring almost every day for over half of my life.  That being said…it’s this ring that gets the most attention here in the South.  More often than not, people stare at the ring as if it might bite them, but occasionally, they work up the courage to ask the inevitable question.  “Is that one of those witch symbols?” Or even better.  “That’s devil’s stuff.”  Now, this gets mentioned so much that mostly I answer with a shrug and say, “It’s a star.  That’s a shape like a triangle or a square.” But, that is not the entire truth.  Stars are very important to me, so much so that they are included in many of my other symbols.  The five points of my star remind me that everything is made up of the five elements, that in the end we really are made from star dust.  The star is my talisman that represents that we are all connected to something much deeper than our everyday lives. Stars represent wisdom, which brings me to the next symbol.

The constellation Pleiades is tattooed on my shoulder.  It is a constellation that has been mentioned in every major and most minor religious works ever written.   It is also the closest open star cluster to the constellation Taurus. The name Pleiades comes from Greek mythology story of the seven sisters, but is called many other names in different cultures.  The symbolic meanings of Pleiades are so vast that it is easier to imagine those stars as the observers of all wisdom and knowledge.  Those stars have touched almost every culture and every age.  So, when I get the quirky looks for have a cluster of stars permanently inked into my body I tell them it’s a reminder that my life might be short compared to the span of time, but Pleiades is a reminder that I am part of something that has always existed.  That curiously brings me to the next symbol.

Another tattoo, this is a picture of the Hindu God Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, which is in the shape of an Om symbol. Om simply put represents the divine, all-encompassing consciousness. Of all the symbols I carry with me, this one gets the most positive comments.  It seems that whether they know what it means or not, everyone thinks it’s a pretty tattoo.  I secretly think this have something to do with the deeper aspects of both Ganesh and the Om symbol, but I would never say so.  When people ask what it means, I try to give an uncomplicated yet truthful answer.  Ganesh, being the remover of obstacles, reminds me to have faith that whatever difficulty I might be experiencing can be overcome.  Om reminds me that meditation and communication with/ on the divine is where peace of mind is found. 

The last symbol Triskele or the triple spiral is a Celtic symbol I have tattooed on my foot.  This symbol has represented many different triads over time.  Land, Sea and Sky.  Maiden, Mother and Crone.  Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.  Why did I choose this symbol?  Because, it celebrates the different strengths of being a female at any age.  This holds true no matter where you are from or what you believe. 

We all carry signs and symbols with us.  Some wear a lucky shirt, or their grandmother's brooch or other jewelry.  A lucky bowling shirt, a special ball, or a tree planted in honor or a loved one...all these and much more are just symbols that tell the world that we are alive and honor memory, and life.  Others remember their family using their china at the family dinner table.  Through years, cattle have been branded, gates and doorposts have included carvings of leaves or acorns and other items of meaning.  Symbols are a good present reminder of the past.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I was born a tree-hugger, loving nature and gardens before I was old enough to understand their importance to the earth.  I could say coreopsis before I could say Sesame Street. The women in my family grow things.  Gardening is part of being a lady in the South.  Weezer from the movie Steel Magnolia’s said it best. “I am an old Southern woman.  It is my obligation to wear funny hats and grow tomatoes.” The truth in this is uncanny.  Flowers and bushes get planted everywhere.  By April, almost every yard has a tilled up garden spot to grow fresh vegetables.

Southern lands are green and fertile, and loving nature would seem like a natural thing to Southerners. We do have an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Yet, they blatantly disregard the importance of trees. I have long been given to serious heart palpitations when I pass yet another patch of land that has been unnecessarily cleared of its trees.  When I was younger, I was na├»ve enough to believe that people would only cut down woodlands in the South if they were desperate for money to survive.  As I got older, I began to notice that this was not always the case.  Sometimes people like to tear things down to show the power they have over whatever they have destroyed. There seems to be something disrespectful inside of people that make them want to remove something that has lived twice as long as they ever will.
Apparently, trees are just large obstacles that are in the way. Are people unaware of true magnificence or are they simply ignorant that trees take in CO2 and in turn release Oxygen, the chemical element humans, even Southerners, need to breathe?  I don’t know.  I sadly believe that it comes down to a lack of caring.

Outside the window of a place I frequent most days, stands the largest magnolia tree that I have ever seen.  Actually, there is an all around agreement that it is the largest that anyone from my small patch of the world has ever seen.  This tree is old and regal.  When it blooms, the blossoms are larger than my head.  This tree is so spectacular that people should stop instantly in their tracks to appreciate something that has stood through time.  Yet, it’s rare that anyone notices it, and when they do, the most common comments made are atrocious.

“I don’t know why anyone would plant a tree there.  Someone should pull that tree up.  Its roots are beginning to crack the sidewalk.”  Seriously!?!  I am afraid to admit, that I was unable to find the humor in this comment, and simply had to reply in return.  “Bless your heart. You can’t seriously believe that someone planted a 200 year old tree beside that nice new sidewalk…”  Where is the moron who made the decision to put a sidewalk two feet away from a tree?

I actually overheard someone say aloud as they peered out a Court House window,  “If they removed this big ole  tree (that’s been regally gracing the building for 200+plus years with its natural splendor), then THIS would be a great view.””  
Why is this typically Southern funny?  Brace yourself for the answer.  This is how it was explained to me.  Because, they revealed,  this verdant and flourishing green gift of nature “is blocking us from seeing the “old jail house”, “People will come from miles around to look at that spectacular view.”

Naturally, the decaying ugliness of the stoic jail is much more desired than respecting the historical glory of a tree which has seen over 2 centuries of comings and goings of the townspeople, provided shelter for small birds and animals, and has emitted much-needed clean oxygen at the site of the town square, which is populated by choking auto emissions.  

Right? This person really believed that to destroy something “old”, by removing the resplendent leafy-green vista which softly conceals the beauty that is the old nasty jail house would be a good thing. It’s another sad case of something new to replace the old, because some soul doesn’t value life, history or nature. 

The Southern view of nature is a dichotomy.  I cannot think of a single house that is not gardening in some way.  Yet, no one blinks an eye when yet another tree is destroyed.  I will not lose hope though.  I will share my tree appreciation for whoever will listen, and hopefully, that joy will spread!

Monday, May 6, 2013


When it comes down to it, I am an old soul. Almost all of my favorite things seem to come from times long past. This includes music, although I would hardly call the music I listen to "old." For me old is anything over 300 years of age, and though it’s true that some of my favorite music really is that old and BEYOND, my standard favorites hail from a few decades ago.  Now, I know this might be hard to believe, especially if you have read my previous blogs, but there is something about my lifestyle choices that seems to ruffle Southern feathers.  Yes, my inane ability to upset extends even to the music I choose to listen to.

I rarely listen to modern music.  When I do, my favorites: HIM, thenewno2, and The Civil Wars are so widely-spaced in variety that eyebrows all around me arch towards the ceiling in confusion. To an outsider, there seems to be no sense in my musical choices.  The genres are so far apart that there appears to be no common ground between them.  There is, of course, something they all DO have in common.  They all consistently produce good music… Although I want to write about older music and the funny assumptions that come with the enjoyment of such, I must briefly point out that support of modern bands comes also at your own risk.  The logos for my two favorite bands, the Heartagram for HIM and the faceless face of thenewno2, carry enough of the unknown and are so misunderstood in concept that they might earn Southern person many well-meaning invitations to the local church house. According to the local tradition of what is acceptable and what is not, it seems that music really "could be the devil." Or it could mean that they haven't bothered to Google and find out exactly what these logos actually represent. 

But, this blog is not about new music.  This blog is about my favorite music, and the funny reactions I sometimes get when people discover my love for those musicians. First, I really should give you a list of the music I am talking about: Elton John, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, and most importantly, The Beatles. This list has been by far-shortened to keep this blog from becoming a small book.  Clearly, the common ground here is that I love music from the 60s and 70s.  Is that weird?  Don’t most people?  I mean, disregarding the one person I know whom actually hates the band Heart (to think, she normally has good musical judgment…), who doesn't love the above-mentioned bands/musicians? They have successfully made timeless music. They are classic.

Since I have been writing about the funny idiosyncrasies of the South, I had to bring up the musical topic because music is discussed quite often by most people, but here in the South its spoke of in  shamed whispers.  A lot of Southern persons would not want you to think that since they enjoyed the music of a particular band that they might also enjoy the bad behaviors that come with certain bands.  In fact, they distance themselves  from acknowledging a preference in music in order to avoid any possible assumption that they have, in any way, supported or participated in any vulgar, lewd or illegal behaviours that might be attached in any way with the business of music, as if by saying they enjoyed “such and such” band or tune, their own personal code of ethics was at risk  based on “guilt by association” principles.   This skewed line of thinking goes along with never drinking from a bottle or an aluminum can while driving so that no one will mistake that you might be drinking alcohol, as if a brightly colored soda can resembles the typically drab beer can so common here in the sticks.  Here, music is discussed in nervous unpleasant clipped words in the same manner as if someone had brought up politics at dinner.  One might listen to these bands often, but in general, actually stating that you enjoyed the music of such a rebellious or shocking nature is a discussion you would find rarely admitted.

What is my worst guilty pleasure in music, the one band I should be ashamed to mention lest my goodness be questioned?  The Beatles.

Everything I need to know in life, I learned from the Beatles.

I stand by that quote because it is true.  I have never had a problem or a bad day that a Beatles song could not fix.  I have never had a good day that was not made brighter by one of their songs.  But, here in the South, you do not go around telling people that you listen to the Beatles…unless you are me!  I find great fun gushing the brilliance of such an innovative band to old-fashioned and reserved faces of horror.  The replies make me almost keel over in laughter.  “Oh, I never listened to them.”  “They were quite popular when I was young.” “Don’t you think they were a little outspoken, and their music was strange.”  “I liked a few of their songs, but you know those boys were on that S.D.L. stuff…”  See what I mean?  Hilarious responses.  And, the best way to make their response even funnier is by initiating a little hoodwinking.  Many, many times I have turned on the their music, at work, in the car, from my phone while standing somewhere in public…wherever….and it never fails, no matter what Beatles song I play, no matter who I am standing around or how hard they deny their love of this British band, they always start singing along, enjoying themselves for a few moments before they remember their ridiculous code of music ethics and begin to guiltily look around to see who is watching their fall from grace.

I actually enjoy these responses, because I could not imagine living in a world where I could not love the beauty which is music, and so I usually let these pleasure-stifling comments go with a little smile and perhaps a song. 

~ And,I wonder should I have explained to that little woman about L.S.D.?  Probably not.