There are many festivals in Southwest Florida during Fire Season, Honorable Shamans and Fellow Pagans, but the “granddady” of them all — the biggest display of lights, is the Edison Festival of Light Parade, which honors Thomas Edison and his many inventions, and it comes to Fort Myers, February 20th.
One way you can tell it is getting to be time for the Parade is to go downtown Fort Myers this time of year, and inspect the sidewalks. Chances are, you’ll see duct tape on the sidewalks, like this:
That’s right. This time of year, people put tape of different colors on the sidewalks along the Parade Route, to reserve “their spot,” and as far as I know, this system works. As it gets closer to the actual Parade Day, people will put out yard chairs. This has been going on for over 30 years.
Southwest Florida has over 1.5 million people in six counties.
I have developed what has become a very complicated relationship with Halloween and Samhain. But first, let’s talk about the Full Moon. I love watching the Moon change over time. There is something so quietly sacred about this simple process, which we watch and are part of. Month after month, year after year, it is a natural process, it is a spiritual process.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why Halloween didn’t occur on a Full Moon each year; I thought that only made sense, because of Easter and its connection to the Full Moon. But all the grown-ups would say was, “Halloween has always been October 31st.” I grew up in a Unitarian-Universalist household, and we didn’t celebrate All Saints Day or All Souls Day on November 1st. But I had friends who were Catholics, and they did. But all they could say was, “it’s all in Latin…” so they didn’t understand it, either. We were just kids, of course. Yet, on a basic level, I knew the whole time frame of the end of October and the beginning of November was somehow special, sacred even. At least to some people.
Halloween was special to me as a kid, because I got to design and dress up in a costume, and go outside walking around outside at night, and get candy. Each of these features was a rare opportunity in my childhood. I think Halloween should be kept as an event for children, as a right-of-passage.
As I grew a little older, I went through the phase where I felt I was too “grown up” to go trick-or-treating. And then, I grew a little older and began to find Halloween parties and other occasions where I could dress up in costume. Since Halloween wasn’t tied into the cycle of the Full Moon, it gradually became all about dressing up and partying to me. The partying was mostly indoors, so the connection to nature at night, was severed. And I watched as Halloween became just another over-commercialized consumer–oriented event in our economy, one where in 2014, it was “estimated that Americans will spend $350 million just on pet Halloween costumes…” And as the costumes for adults became more and more sexy/provocative or violent. And I gradually quit celebrating Halloween.
As a kid growing up, my connection to my Ancestors was an on-going lesson in History, since my Mom spent so much time researching our genealogy. Yet, it wasn’t presented as, ‘these are your beloved dead.’ Due to circumstances in my family, the deaths of my grandparents was treated in a somewhat remote fashion. I collected mementos of my grandparents to maintain connections to them, small objects that I carry with me to this day.
In my on-going spiritual path, I met some Native Americans. One was an Algonquin, and he shared with me the concept of Great Spirit, and how we were connected to all beings, and these were, “all my relations,” and I liked that, because I felt connected to all the animals and plants and rocks and trees and the Moon and the Stars. And also in my Spiritual path, I learned to SEE the energies of the fey and connected with the spirits of the animals.
And then I met my Wiccan and Druid friends, and was invited to my first Samhain. These rituals were celebrated outside and that was wonderful, to be outside at night time. And I liked the connection to the Spirits and the acknowledgement of our Ancestors and our Beloved Dead. I liked the idea that the “veil is thin at this time of year,” where we could make contact with our Ancestors and Beloved Dead.
After a year with that coven, I gradually felt that it was important to me to identify the holidays of my place here in Southwest Florida and to celebrate those holidays. So I left the Wiccan coven and went off on my own. I developed the Earthways Shamanic Path, and in Southwest Florida that is expressed as Rainy Season, Hurricane Season, Dry Season, and, Fire Season. Those holidays have “spiritual meanings,” and accompanying rituals, to be sure. But none of these holidays as yet address the deep spiritual need people have to connect to our Ancestors and Beloved Dead, and to do it in community.
In my Shamanic practices, I readily connect with my Animal helpers and guides, spirits. And with the Fey. And I can certainly connect with my Ancestors and Beloved Dead, at my Altar space. And as we are all getting older, and my Parents are now across the veil, I feel deeply, the need to honor them, to connect with them. This morning, I rearranged the things on my altar, the feathers, rocks, special objects and photographs of my parents and departed cousins. I lit candles and I lit some rosemary, to remember…
But what about that shared community experience? I belong to several spiritual communities. The Wiccans and Druids I met years ago are still my friends, and they have open Samhain gatherings. These are spiritual gatherings outside and at night, which satisfies my Earth-based needs, too, I’ll go to that tonight. And then tomorrow morning at my Unitarian Universalist Church, we have a ceremony honoring our Ancestors and our Beloved Dead. I’ll go to that, too.
Bioregions were a big deal 10 or 20 years ago as a functional concept. You don’t hear about it too much anymore. Well, at least, I don’t.
A bioregion is the distinct area, surronded by creeks, canals, rivers, forests, or whatever. They are usually fairly small, maybe a mile or so. And they are biologically distinct from the bioregions next to it.
We see this vividly in Southwest Florida when the rain comes. It may be raining on one side of the street, but not the other side.
A bioregion contains animal life and plant life, distinct from nearby bioregions.
How do you know what bioregion you are in? Do you know the boundaries of the bioregion you are in? How about the one east of the one you are in? And east of that?
(East is where the sun rises. Remember the rest this way: Never Eat Soggy Waffles.)
It takes two airplanes to get from where I live, to where my Father lives. We are both in the continental United States, I’m located in Southwest Florida, and he’s north of me in a place I call, “Up North.”
A few weeks ago, the day before I got on the airplanes, it was 85 degrees and humid, here in Southwest Florida. That was the high for the afternoon; I think it started about 65 or so. I love late March-early April here in Florida. It is the best time of the year. It is seconded only by mid-October to late-November, when things finally cool off a bit, after our adventures with rampant Heat and Humidity in the Summer months.
So on a Thursday the week before Spring, I got on the first of 2 airplanes to go north, and the air is immediately drier on airplanes, and that’s an adjustment. When we arrived at our location, it was something like 20 degrees outside, and there was a stiff wind blowing. And that was the HIGH temperature that day. I bravely put on my winter coat and hat and gloves and scarf in the airport baggage area and made whimpering noises as I picked up my rental car. I figured out how to make the heat work, but never did master the high beams.
I was thankful that my Father has great shelter and heat, so I was warm and toasty during my visit, unless I went outside. Oddly enough, this trip I went outside a whole lot more than I normally do when I go visit this time of year. And it was bone-chilling, let me tell you!
On Monday, the day I was supposed to fly back to Southwest Florida, I woke up at 4:00 AM. I was thirsty. I got a cup of water and looked out the window. I saw a light dusting of snow! “Oh no!” I thought, I don’t want to drive in snow!” I went back to my warm bed and fell asleep in spite of considering how my driving would be impacted by snow.
I woke up to the 7AM alarm clock and looked out the window. The snow was gone! I was so happy!! (I believe the Snow Fairies came and took the snow away for me!)
I drove to the Airport, turned in my rental car, put my coat in my baggage and checked it. Boarded the first airplane. We flew through clouds and turbulence and landed at Charlotte, North Carolina where it was raining. (But not snowing.)
This is what it looks like, just before Spring, up north
Continuing on south from Charlotte to RSW, the airport for Southwest Florida.
Got off the plane, and noticed it was about 65 degrees, windy, but humid. I can take that weather. I love humidity. I have never been so happy to return to Southwest Florida!!
Let’s continue exploring what Fire Season is all about here in Southwest Florida. This is the time of year when people are visiting us from the Northern United States and Canada. People stay for a week or two or more, perhaps a couple of months. To the visitors, it is warm here, compared to Michigan or Ohio, or Pennsylvania, where it is below freezing. Consequently, January-February- and March is when we have every imaginable festival going on. It is an explosion of riches.
There are: Food festivals, arts festivals, medieval faires, music festivals; Concerts, Circuses, and Open Houses and parades of homes, and street parades, and more. There are also all the fund-raisers events going on. The charity balls, the galas, the silent auctions. Most of these events are held on the weekends.
And there is typically at least 3 different things you want to do each weekend, and people have to make decisions about what they will attend, and what they will have to skip this year. (Of course, some events may migrate to the net town up the road, next weekend so if you want to catch it, you could go on a road trip.) Most people have a limited allowance of money or time to spend on all this activity. You have to budget accordingly.
But in a few months, all that activity will die down. The Snowbirds will leave, and it will become too hot to have festivals outdoors every weekend. (At least, too hot for most people.) There will still be some events like boat races and the seafood festivals.
SO the yearly influx of people is like a fuel for the fire of the yearly smorgasbord of festivals.
In my last post, I mentioned that I had hospitalized a frog (probably a Cuban Tree Frog, which is an invasive species,) in a container in my kitchen over night to help him recuperate after an exciting day. See previous 2 posts. And I explained how I checked on him that night before I went to bed (and may not have put the lid on his container correctly.) And how the next morning, Frog was gone.
I did not look for the Frog who I suspected was hopping about in a house occupied by 3 humans and 2 cats… because, well because.
… Every so often when I am house cleaning I will come across some dried up critter, usually always a lizard, that has wandered into my house and made its way behind a piece of furniture in the bedroom. This is Florida and the veil between the two worlds, or “inside” and “outside” are kind of thin. Houses are not impervious…so I figured that I would find Frog a few weeks or months from now, in a closet or behind a bookcase, all dessicated…
and I admit I went about my business that morning. Eventually I wandered through the kitchen and happened to look down (perhaps to not step on a cat tail,) and saw the Frog, hanging onto the handle of a jug of Arizona Tea. We keep 3 or 4 jugs stacked next to the Refrigerator.
I swooped down, picked him up, he hung onto my thumb but also started trying to Escape! and I made a beeline to the Orchid Tree: out the sliding glass door, out the porch door and out to the Tree. As soon as we got to where there was AIR, the Frog was so joyful/excited/anxious…
I placed him on the sunny side of the tree because there was at least a 10 degree difference between Indoors and Outdoors temperatures, and the Frog bolted off the Tree and straight out into the Sunlight!
Previously posted on January 31, 2010 by Whale Maiden
“Moth” (c) 2009 WhaleMaiden.
In an earlier post I stated I am a Suburban Shaman. What’s that mean? It means I watch the Earth and the Sky, and the Beings that live here. I pay attention to very small things, and very big things. I watch the cycles of wind and clouds and rain, to learn what will happen next. There is a world of information happening, if we just tune into it.
I have studied and practiced “Native American” teachings and respect them very much. Yet they are primarily based on information ‘borrowed’ from People who lived in the Northeast, or the Upper Midwest, or the Southwest. Here I am in the Southwest of Florida. The plants and the terrain and the climate are very different here, from the rest of North America.
And, my culture and lifestyle are different from those of The People, too. (I mean, different from the ways of the People, when the ‘borrowing’ of their culture happened.) I live in a house in the suburbs. I drive a car, commute to work, and sit in a climate-controlled office all day, buy food at a grocery store. These functions have very little to do with the Work that The People were engaged in, to survive and flourish.
So, when The People saw an animal, it meant survival. It meant that food was available, or there was a change in the weather coming. When I see an animal these days, it means that I am first of all, still honoring the frail connection I have to the Natural World. It means I am looking. It means I am paying attention to the web of life that connects us all. It means I am seeing.
My Dear Daughter Agatha (*) and her friend, Jacqueline went to a festival this weekend and when they returned, Jacqueline mentioned that she had seen three sets of Vultures. I reached for one of my reference books on Animal Medicine to quote from, “Medicine Cards” by Jamie Sams and David Carson with illustrations by Angela Werneke, but it was silent about Vultures. I looked at another book, “Power Animal Meditations” by Nicki Scully (also illustrated by Angela Werneke), which has a meditation about Vultures (“Intuitive Wisdom,”) but none of us were ready to go there just yet.
The Girls wandered off like Girls do, to the next thing and the teaching moment passed. I should really be able to tap into my own inner wisdom by now.
So I was thinking about Vultures. We have Turkey Vultures here in Southwest Florida. Vultures ride the thermals, looking for bodies that are not moving. “A thermal is an area of rising air in the low heights of the Earth’s atmosphere. Thermals are created by uneven heating of the Earth’s surface from solar radiation, and an example of convection. The Sun warms the ground, which in turn warms the air directly above it.”
Vultures see a potential prey and swoop down to investigate. They are large birds, really much larger than you are prepared for them to be. They are tall with about a 32″ wing span. You don’t want to get too close to them while they are feeding. They don’t have feathers on their faces, which helps them to keep their faces clean. If Vultures didn’t do the work of picking up all the dead animals, there would be all kinds of critters in various stages of decay, all over the place. (Pewie.) Vultures help take care of the ecosystem. They maintain the Balance.
When you see a Vulture, what are you doing, to maintain the Balance in your life? Are you working too hard or not enough? Are you in right relationships? Are you eating right? Are you getting enough exercise? What changes do you need to make, to establish better balance in your life?
The other resource I use, the website “Shaminism Working with Animal Spirits” at http://www.animalspirits.com/index9.html, notes that Vultures represent, among other aspects, issues involving death and rebirth. In terms of Balance, what habit or behavior can you let go of, to achieve greater balance in your life?
(*) My Dear Daughter Agatha wants to point out that she adores Vultures. And, she pointed out that what Vultures may mean to Jacqueline, might be different from what they mean to me. That may be true in some cases. The work I am doing here, is more archetypical rather than specific to any one person. If you have a specific encounter with any specific animal, then you have to take that into consideration next time (and any time) you see that animal again.
One evening earlier this week, my friend Brizos was driving home from work. He wrote to me,
“As I drove home from Marco Island, Florida on the causeway (951/Collier Blvd) that connects Marco Island to Naples, I had to stop in the middle of the road for a perfectly healthy, very large Florida Panther. There weren’t many cars on the road but this guy just STOPPED… in the middle of the road. Of course being the brave and mighty Brizos, I actually was considering getting out of the truck and going up to check on him… [my friend thought better of that idea] … Anyway, this guy (yes he was definitely a boy) just stood in the middle of the road – and stared at me for a moment or two before deciding to jaunt around and head back into the wood.”
So, Brizos asked me to address the Florida Panther, and how it fits in with the Florida Earthways Path.
I directed him to the Cougar/Mountain Lion/Puma page on the wonderful website, http://www.animalspirits.com/index1.html . It has an awesome photo of a Cougar, and a story about the Cougar from the Zunis. According to the website, the
Cougar/Mountain Lion/Puma’s Wisdom Includes:
Using leadership power wisely and without ego
Balancing power, intention, strength
Freedom from guilt
In the Florida Earthways Path, the Florida Panther represents the North, the Earth. My Friend was driving NORTH on 951, through-and-into this Panther’s Territory* and he sees this Cat, (a large wild animal yet a little smaller than my friend,) the Cat’s standing there, with the attitude like he is singing “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne.
So here are some additional questions:
1. Which way did Panther go, when he went off into the woods? East or West? That will provide us with more information.
2. What were you thinking about, just before you saw him? We must practice Mindfulness at all times, which isn’t easy…
* The Florida Panther Habitat intersects with the Florida Everglades.
What a blessing this is to you, my friend!
Watch out for this Cat and his family as you travel through this vast wet land.