The Little Spirit Moon Shines on the Red Road

Tonight, the December Full Moon will be full in my part of the world at 11:08 p.m. For other places, it will be officially full in the early morning of December 8.

This month’s Full Moon is often called the rather dull and generic Cold Moon. December is when winter really begins in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, parts of the U.S. and the world have already had significant snowfall and cold weather. In Paradelle, there hasn’t been snow yet, but we have had nights below freezing and almost all the plants have died or gone into their winter phase and the trees have lost their leaves. It is no surprise that in our hemisphere most of the ancient names for this Full Moon are related to the low temperatures and darkness. Long Nights Moon is another fairly common name. The Anglo-Saxon name was the Moon Before Yule, anticipating the ancient celebration around the winter solstice.

The winter solstice is still two weeks away, but ancient people were more likely to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year. The Moon is much easier to observe and the 12 months in our modern calendar are based on that observation.

The Moon names used by the many Native American tribes are usually more interesting (and sometimes harder for me to find etymologies for) and vary based on geography and climate. The cold brings the Hoar Frost Moon, Moon of the Popping Trees, Winter Maker Moon and Drift Clearing Moon. The Choctaw people’s ancestral homeland spanned from most of central and southern Mississippi into parts of eastern Louisiana and western Alabama, so it is not surprising that in November it was the Sassafras Moon and December brings the Peach Moon.

The Anishnaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe) people called this twelfth moon the Little Spirit Moon. It is a time of healing and recovery when we might receive both visions of the spirits and good health.

For many people, winter is a time to stay indoors and turn our attention to different tasks. Sailors might be mending sails and nets. Farmers might be repairing tools, preserving foods, storing meat and planning for spring planting. Warm-weather athletes might be recovering from injuries and training for a new season. Now that I can’t work in my garden and do outdoor projects, I turn inside with home projects and also increase my writing and painting.

It is a good time to walk the Red Road with pure intentions. The Red Road is a modern English-language concept of the right path in life. Though inspired by some Native American spiritual teachings, the term is used more in the Pan-Indian and New Age communities than amongst traditional Indigenous people. When I read Black Elk’s words, the metaphoric red road was a spiritual way of life. Oglala Sioux medicine man and holy man, Black Elk, saw everyone on the red road as being one interconnected circle of people. It is a sacred hoop that while you need to walk it alone, many others walk with you.

The metaphor had been adopted and adapted by groups from the Christian church to some modern addiction treatment programs. The idea of the Red Road as a way to recovery connects to the Little Spirit Moon.

I came across this book – 365 Days Of Walking The Red Road: The Native American Path to Leading a Spiritual Life Every Day – when I was reading for this post.
No review or recommendation – just a reference.

Start That Day Book

This is a short follow-up to my post about day books (AKA a book of days). Are you ready to start one? You don’t need to wait for the new year. It can be your poem-a-day book, but that is pretty ambitious. Or it can be like more traditional day books, recording events of the day.

You could use any notebook, but I am a big fan of bound books for these kinds of projects. One that I found online is specifically a day book blank book designed with 365 pages. Actually, the one I was looking at has pages numbered 1–366. Day 366 is for leap years, like 2024. It has 370 unlined pages so you can write and sketch and paste in pictures, plus a title page and three notes pages – one at the start for your intro and two at the end to wrap things up.

You don’t need a theme or special project to start recording your thoughts, memories, changes, and progress for 365 days. It could be for you but it could be a book to leave for someone else. Record the first year of a baby’s life.

The numbered pages can be a bit of motivation for keeping at the practice, though the blank page shouldn’t be frightening. I know someone whose day book is composed of all images hand drawn and cut out of magazines, mail, or found. Another friend did a gratitude journal as her daily prompt.

Another blank day book I found online has a lock on it. That reminds me of a diary my older sister had when I was a kid. The lock might have protected it but it also made the contents all the more appealing. Day books are not diaries. More almanac than a diary or intimate journal. More log book than confessional.

McGovern’s Tavern

McGovern’s is a real old-fashioned tavern. I’m sure there are those who think of it as an Irish pub and Esquire magazine called it one of the country’s best bars.  But it is a tavern.

I started going there in the early 1970s when I had a summer job in Newark during college.

It had Guinness on tap, murals of Irish scenes in a back room, old photos on the wall, patches from police organizations, and the clientele was made up of city workers, cops, and firemen, prosecutors and attorneys, students from nearby Rutgers-Newark and a lunchtime crowd from the downtown offices.

And all of that is still there. Few changes in half a century. Maybe not much different since 1936. They have a half-hearted website. I guess you don’t have a choice these days – you have to have something online – but it seems appropriate that they don’t seem to really care. They are on Facebook and it looks like they are getting some bands in there.

I’m not sure if the write-up in Esquire works for or against the place.  I don’t really see McGovern’s crowd as big Esquire readers.

The menu is still good but basic. I usually get some Chili Con Kearny (as in Kearny, NJ),  a McGoo burger or maybe a Scully burger with some Jersey Taylor ham. There’s no other place I go to where I would order a liverwurst sandwich and lava fries.

I’m not around New Street in Newark much these days, but it only takes a few minutes in here for me to feel comfortable. No one yells, “Ken!” when I enter, like on Cheers, but it feels as much like home as I want from a tavern.

Yeah, it’s a tavern – from the Latin taberna and the Greek ταβέρνα/taverna. In Renaissance England, a tavern was distinguished from a public ale house because it was run as a private enterprise. So, drinkers were “guests” rather than members of the public.

I like being a guest at McGovern’s.

Let’s Meet Up

I don’t know if it’s the age we live in or my own age that has made planning to meet people so complicated.

For the past two weeks, I have been on an email chain with four people trying to come up with a day and time we can meet. My inbox is cluttered with suggested dates and times, acceptances, rejections, and revisions. All four of us are retired from full-time work but we seem to be busier than ever.

My wife and I have a similar situation trying to meet with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids. That exchange is all phone calls and text messages.

I had to make a doctor’s appointment with a new doctor this week. I called and the office person was looking at a screen that I can’t see and throwing out a series of possibilities. “What about the week of November 21? How is the 23rd at 1pm?” and from there we bounced back and forth on days and times.

Last month I was in a doctor’s office for my annual physical. Afterward, they wanted me to make my appointment for next year. “Can you do October 11, 2023, at 11:30?” I look at my phone’s calendar. Empty for now, so yes. But I’m thinking that I have no idea what will come up in the year to come. I might not even be alive! “You can always change it,” said the office person.

So much of this is electronic calendaring. But I was talking one-on-one with a friend at a coffee shop and we wanted to pick a time to meet again. “My calendar is at home – on paper, ” he said. “I’ll give you a call and we can figure it out.”

There is a website and app I use called meetup.com used for groups to meet both virtually and in person. I joined a Socrates Cafe group when it went virtual at the start of the pandemic. I also joined a walking/hiking group. The good thing about it is that the meetings are set by a group leader and you RSVP if you can attend. No negotiations. You can meet up or you can’t.

So, is it our busy lives that make meeting people so difficult? Do electronic devices make it easier or harder?

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

What if everything you ever wanted isn’t what you actually want?

white oak

I have gone back to a practice I followed a few years ago. I was trying to simplify and unclutter my life. Well, my life might be an overstatement. I thought that by uncluttering my home, I might also be simplifying my life.

I decided that by the end of the week, each week, I needed to get rid of enough stuff to fill a large garbage can. The stuff wasn’t garbage. It was stuff that I had been saving deliberately. Things I thought had value.

I was also giving away books and movies and bikes and sports equipment and things that have value to someone else. “Clean out like we are moving,” said my wife, “because at some point we will be.”

Now, it’s another summer coming in a few weeks, and this past week I read online about Joshua Fields Millburn who similarly asked “What if everything you ever wanted isn’t what you actually want?”

pin oak

Joshua had more of a crisis than I did and it was a time when he started questioning every aspect of his life. Some people would turn to religion or drugs. He turned to minimalism.

He got rid of material possessions (not all throwaways – he sold a lot and was able to pay off some debt) and left his well-paid career.

Millburn and his best friend, Ryan Nicodemus, call themselves “The Minimalists.” They have become evangelists for living with less. They have a book, Everything That Remains: A Memoir, that they self-published written by Millburn with footnotes by Nicodemus. They have a website, www.TheMinimalists.com.

Josh’s idea was to remove just one material possession from his life each day for a month. He ended up getting rid of more than 30 items in that first month.

He says that the uncluttering left him with some difficult questions:

  • When did I give so much meaning to material possessions?
  • What is truly important in life?
  • Why am I discontented?
  • Who is the person I want to become?
  • How will I define my own success?

Again, I don’t feel my life is in crisis, but I do feel it is too busy, complicated, and filled with stuff.  “Stuff” is such a mushy word to use, but it does cover things that almost are not things. I pained and redecorated my home office. We packed 12 boxes of stuff and put them in the basement to work. When we were done redecorating, I looked at those 12 boxes and knew I couldn’t move them all back. I have been sorting, sifting, and trying to get rid of stuff. How many pens and pencils and cups to hold them do I really need?  Do I need these books nearby on a shelf? Do I need them at all?  Notebooks full of ideas for writing and sketches for paintings seem like creative stuff that I shouldn’t throw away, but they are also reminders of how much I plan to do and don’t do.

I like the office being cleaner and simpler and less cluttered. Does it help me understand what is truly important in life and who is the person I want to become? Not so far. But that may be a lot to ask of minimalism.

Coming of Age

Algren house Miller.jpg
The small Dunes cottage where Beauvoir summered in Miller Beach, Indiana on the shore of Lake Michigan   –  via Wikimedia

How do you keep life from becoming a parody of itself? It is more difficult in a culture that treats aging as a disease. –  Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age

When I hear the term “coming of age,” my first thought is of a young person’s transition from being a child to being an adult and the many novels and films about that period of adolescence. But that is not what is meant by the book title The Coming of Age which is “a study spanning a thousand years and a variety of different nations and cultures to provide a clear and alarming picture of ‘society’s secret shame’ — the separation and distance from our communities that the old must suffer and endure” by Simone de Beauvoir. It was written by Simone de Beauvoir (9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986) who was a French existentialist philosopher, writer, social theorist, and feminist activist. Though she did not consider herself a philosopher, and even though she was not considered one at the time of her death, she had a significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory. She asks what do the words elderly, old, and aged really mean? How are they used by society, and how in turn do they define the generation that we are – or once were – taught to respect and love, but instead often reprimand and avoid? As I have crossed into the “senior citizen” category, I pay more attention to how we as a society treat this generation. I noted things earlier as I was caring for my mother and my older sister. I often wondered who was helping some of their fellow seniors who had no family or friends at all or that were nearby or anyone willing to help with things like bills, healthcare, shopping, and all of the everyday life that many of us take for granted. I ended up helping some people in my mom’s facility with forms. Not only are insurance, Social Security, IRS and other forms complicated, many require you to go online and these were people who still only used a wired landline. No smartphone, no computer and no knowledge about how to use those things if they had access to them. Simone de Beauvoir suggests that the way we treat the elderly is a reflection of our society’s values and priorities. It’s not a pleasant reflection.

“Old age is a problem on which all of the failures of society converge. And that is why it is so carefully hidden.”  –  Simone de Beauvoir

“I don’t know, for example, how I will be when I am ninety years old,” said de Beauvoir, when she was 66 in the documentary film, Promenade au pays de la vieillesse (A Walk through the Land of Old Age). Simone did not make it to 90, but she certainly lived long enough to experience aging in the world of the 1980s. As a feminist, de Beauvoir does not ignore the particular problems that women experience as they age, many of which do not affect men in the same ways and to the same degree. I haven’t read her book. I have only read about it, but I certainly agree with her general argument. Aging is often seen as a disease to be fought with surgery and medications and less often treated with care and concern.