Today on Sargent Pond

September 1, 2023

It’s been a great summer. I’ve been outside as much as possible. Winter coziness indoors will begin soon enough. I hiked today to Upper Sargent Pond, which I had to myself. For a variety of reasons, it’s not a popular place, though it is lovely.

I’ve been translating classic Greek invocations lately. These are based on originals and my understanding of the deity. Here is an Orphic hymn to Hermes.

O Hermes, artful messenger: boisterous one laden with divine prophesy. You whisk into our cognizance dodging, feinting, finessing, contemporizing while bestowing counsel in your cryptic way. Wily advisor, with sharply honed insight pierce our misfortunes and smooth the way for prosperity and peace.

It takes a solar system to raise a narcissist

August 18, 2023

A character in a novel I’m writing is a classic narcissist, and I wondered what his astrological sign would be. Which sign of the zodiac is the most likely to be narcissistic? I gave the subject a lot of thought, and I couldn’t decide.

So I went online. Detecting (and shaming) narcissism is all the rage at the moment, and any fashionable zine-type site has tackled the subject, as have a smaller number of learned astrologers.

What I discovered on the internet confused me even more. There was no consensus, and very few patterns. Aries came up frequently (They’re so self-centered!). Taurus might be thrown in (They think they deserve better!). Gemini was not excluded (They’re so shallow!). Cancer usually gets a pass, but not always (They can be overprotective of family – huh?). Leo gets a lot of press (They’re always the center of attention!). See a pattern? Because I don’t.

Part of the problem is lack of a coherent definition. So many people today “just know” what “everybody knows” and don’t bother to do basic research or define their terms. Which is rather narcissistic, in my book.

So what are we talking about when we say “narcissist”? To me, as a psychotherapist, a narcissist is a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. So let’s use that definition.

The hallmark of a true narcissist is insecurity, at a core personal level. They don’t believe they’re good enough, but they think they should be better than other people. “An egomaniac with an inferiority complex,” was how we used to describe it to recovering alcoholics, and they “got it” immediately. A narcissist hides their insecurity from others, and from themselves, in a variety of pathological ways. They might brag about themselves constantly and expect others to go along. They can demand favors and special treatment and become obstreperous when rebuffed. They have poor insight and attribute ill-will from others to jealousy rather than their own behaviors. They are themselves quite envious of other people and fantasize about power, wealth, fame, etc. They don’t work to achieve (or deserve) their grandiose ideals, however, and believe they should be given these things because they are special. They will trample over and exploit others to obtain the public acclaim and status they crave. They are, deep down, complete frauds, and, deep down, they know it.

A narcissist will be a sociable person, because they need constant affirmation, and their worst company is themselves. A nerd working alone at the office late into the evening to get that raise is not a narcissist, nor is the hermit homesteading in the woods, although both could have a high opinion of themselves. A high self-concept with commensurate evidence is not narcissism. Narcissists are often very successful, however, in terms of status or wealth, because they are excellent self-promoters. The book they wrote may be crap, but they know how to market it, because they market themselves every minute of every day. Their tools are flattery, appeal to trendiness, self-praise, and identification of key players in the fame game. They rely on the work and attention of others, but try to take all the credit. They feel empty inside.

Since narcissism is a fairly common personality trait, and arguably becoming more common, it is surprising that an astrological sign cannot be identified with it, even as a “low manifestation” of planetary influences. However common it is becoming, narcissism seems to be a composite of the worst characteristics of the planets that rule the signs. What sign is most likely to be a narcissist? Any of them. It takes a solar system to raise a narcissist. So a narcissist might be an Aries with a self-centered streak who has a poorly aspected Sagittarius moon generating grandiosity, along with an Aquarius influence seeding a disinclination for self-reflection. Or that narcissist might be a Leo with a need for continual applause coupled with a Capricorn low self-esteem and a Pisces tendency to live in fantasy. Or even a Gemini with a dislike of sustained effort together with a Cancer hypersensitivity and a Scorpio sense of victimhood. And contrary to popular belief, your Aries may simply be a person with a secure sense of identity, your Virgo someone who honestly appraises their abilities, or your Taurus someone who works to achieve the finer things in life.

My narcissistic character is going to be a Leo, because he has an interest in cosplay and that sign is often drawn to the theatre. Yes, a lot of people call Leo the narcissist because he gets a lot of attention, but if that bothers you, maybe you are simply jel.

Lughnasadh on Black Pond

August 4, 2023

I took this picture on August 2nd on a still day with the trail to myself. I cherish these days when weather and privacy allows me to perform ritual outdoors. Decades ago, someone told me that this holiday is about taking stock of what you need to finish and what’s holding you back. The first grain reaped does not a harvest make. I prayed for support in the writing (and completion) of my current novel. It will be the fourth that I’ve considered worthy of publishing under my name. I actually had an offer from a publisher a few weeks ago, but I turned it down. Didn’t feel right. I took it as a sign that more developments are coming, that things are ripening. Pray for me, friends.

Sinead O’Connor 1966-2013: Woman of Integrity

July 28, 2023
Sinead O’Connor. Photo: Grussworte

Like the rest of the world, I am digesting the news of the death of Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, although unlike many of her fans, I know her mainly for one thing: tearing up the picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live.

And everybody knows about that. I remember coming to work the next day and hearing the young Catholic women rage and rage about it. I hadn’t watched SNL the night before – I heard it for the first time from the ragers – but I remember thinking, “Get a grip. It’s just this woman’s opinion and she has a right to it.”

But they wouldn’t get a grip. It spawned a pearl clutch in the shallow US news media, who, bobbleheads that they are, slavered over this public relations savvy pope like he had granted them absolution from thinking. Up to this time, Sinead had a meteoric rise in her career as a singer-songwriter, and I never heard her name again except in connection with the pope incident.

But I have thought about Sinead every day for the past dozen years or so. She was the first person I remember being cancelled for her view. Singular. For one opinion, though of course she had many others. Even the Smothers Brothers survived controversy after controversy. And the cancellation was swift, complete, and irrevocable – even after she had been shown to be right.

And she was so right. She was so so right. The horrific extent of sexual abuse by priests and the extent of coverups by the higher clergy, including the pope, eventually did become widely known, although it took years of work by dedicated survivors to make the crimes visible. That work had already started when Sinead gave her infamous performance, but certain segments of the population – including the wealthy elites who guard the gates of fame – were not willing to contemplate uncomfortable truths.

So the reason I have been thinking about Sinead has to do with the current cancel culture around gender identity, though the gender critical movement has too many martyrs to iterate in a short blog post. There are lessons from the church sexual abuse scandals that can be applied here. The first is that the more correct, and the more urgent, the criticism of a powerful authority, the more unforgiving will be the backlash. The second is that reckoning takes a very long time. The third is that the US media and entertainment industry is more fucked up than the Catholic Church.

There has never been any doubt in my mind that the gender industry will one day be universally acknowledged as the sex abuse scandal that it is. From the musty halls of Berkeley’s sociopathic sociology department  to the antiseptic surgical units of Mayo Clinic, it will be aired and flushed. The question is when. Truth is a bitch, and many people hate her. The truth – other people’s reception of the truth – came too late for Sinead. If other women of integrity are waiting for a mea culpa from the craven cheerleaders of elitest decadence, we’ll have to wait for our own funeral.

Marking Me Safe

July 13, 2023

So I wasn’t going to blog about this, but people have been calling me today so I should post something. We had quite a flood in the Adirondack village where I live on Monday night. All roads to the outside were blocked for a full day. Bridges out, roads in tatters, mudslides, dams washed away. Some people had substantial damage to their homes, and some people still haven’t been able to leave their homes. I didn’t take pictures; a photo doesn’t do the scene justice.

I was perfectly safe. My apartment building was water tight and undamaged. I didn’t even lose electricity. I slept fitfully that night, but in retrospect I was silly to try to sleep, knowing that the area was potentially flooding. I should have been up and trying to stay awake.

Today people have been calling to see if I’m okay. Yes, I’m fine. One road was cleared by Wednesday morning, so I even went to work. The state has been sending a lot of road construction crews to dig us out. Lots of places are closed and won’t be open for awhile, but I’m amazed at how quickly the village has rallied.

Somebody asked me if I was upset that Vermont is getting all the attention. Media has been focused there, and it took a few days for news about my village to reach people outside the area who know me. I would have marked myself “safe” on Facebook, but I couldn’t find my disaster listed. But of course Vermont is getting the attention. For one thing, the flooding there covered a larger area. Also, a more populated area. The human scope of the Vermont flood is huge. Here, the impact of nature is impressive but in human terms less costly.

Change of Life

June 30, 2023

I spent a quiet morning with this lovely babe at the top of a small peak. This is the Common Eastern Garter Snake, less common to me because it prefers a slightly drier environment. I tend to see more of the Eastern Ribbon Snake, another garter that hangs around marshes and bogs. I’m fortunate to live in an area with so much wetland. Much of North America is dry, and the eastern wetlands have mostly been drained for farmland or suburban development. Most animals like to hang out in the swampy places.

This garter was on a mountaintop. The presence of water and mountains makes the Adirondacks special. Though this is a common snake – perhaps the commonest of all – it’s not the one I usually see, so the significance of this sighting is a portent of something a little different, at least for me.

Snakes almost universally are symbols of change. Since they shed their outer skin as they grow, they are believed to have many incarnations in their time on earth. A few years back, I kept seeing lots and lots of snakes whenever I walked outdoors, mostly these little Ribbon Snakes. I took those encounters to mean that a BIG change was coming in my life and I tried to imagine what it would be. I decided that my writing was finally going to get the recognition and widespread acclaim that it deserves, as I could not imagine a more life-altering trajectory. Money…fame…acclaim…justification for past decisions…a sense of fulfilling a life’s purpose…

Turns out, I hit menopause. Life changing, certainly. Not the fun exciting new life I had hoped for. Mostly life stayed the same, except that I was dealing with that crone-entry crap. I had (and still have) a hard menopause, and there’s no preparation for that amount of heat. Dealing with fertility is hard; letting go of it is harder. I began thinking that my life was never going to change for the better. This was, of course, hogwash. There are many good things in my life, including wonderful things that have come in the past few years, many of them the result of my own efforts. But I have been frustrated in a few areas that mean a great deal to me, creating dissatisfaction.

Ribbon Snake along Long Lake

Lately I’ve started seeing snakes again. Not so many as the time before, but a few. My reaction, naturally, has been “Oh dear, what now?!” Yet take a look at the environment of this particular snake: she is winding through a Wild Strawberry plant. In Divining with Animal Guides, I discuss the importance of interpreting a sign in terms of context: the context of your life, certainly, but also the physical environment in which the sign appears. A Wild Strawberry is sweet and tangy; something to be savored. This sighting occurs during wteehiimiiwi-niipaahum, the Strawberry Moon, making the strawberries around the snake even more significant. And this is on the mountaintop, so there is something significant about the mountain itself. The name is Sawyer Mountain – it has the word “saw,” as in seeing, and “yer,” which is another word for you. Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, I’ve been seen (or will be seen) by someone who can help my career? Or maybe there’s a love interest in my immediate future, taking the sexual connotation of the snake. Fruit and snakes evokes images of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge. I could see this snake as a warning of temptation and downfall, but I rejected that interpretation simply because it didn’t feel right. A strawberry is not an apple (it’s sexier), and knowledge isn’t always a source of grief.

As the snake slid away, I plucked the berry, plopped it in my mouth, and, as the sweet juices lingered on my tongue, I said, “May the changes coming to me be sweet.” This is an example of how a priestess moves beyond noticing the signs in her life to directing life itself. My third (and probably final) book on animal magic will focus on spellcasting with animal energies. The first, Invoking Animal Magic, was about tuning into the magic of animals and emphasized meditation. The second involved interpretation of symbols. From there, the logical step forward is manipulation of the symbols to influence the trajectory of life.

Turtles on the Road

June 16, 2023

Snapping Turtles leave the ponds, rivers, and lakes this time of year to lay their eggs. They particularly like roadsides for this, since this is where sand is accumulating. I once encountered a snapper on the road at least three feet in diameter, the size of a superhero’s shield. I got it safely off the road, then saw in my rearview mirror that a guy was putting the turtle in the bed of his pickup truck. Turtle soup. I hated to see such a huge mama meet that fate.

There is a story I heard when I moved to the Adirondacks, that there are huge snapping turtles living in Tupper Lake that grab swimmers and drag them to the bottom where they drown. There is no truth to this; it’s just a story people like to scare themselves with, like the one about Daddy Longlegs being deadly poisonous.

Driving to work the other day, I saw a car coming the other way swerving to avoid a snapper. I got out of the car and saw that there were two snappers: one at the side of the road actively laying, the other on the pavement. I positioned my car in front of her with hazard lights blinking and persuaded her to hurry and cross to the other side. I was unwilling to pick her up, because snappers have powerful jaws and can cause significant injury. I stomped on pavement nearby in my dress shoes, and either the sound or the vibration motivated her. As she lumbered across the road, I tap danced behind her to encourage the forward motion.

The snapper below is another I found on the road last week. They’re all over the place. It’s a good idea to stop and help them off the pavement if you can. Snapping Turtles are not endangered species, but it’s a shame for them to be captured for soup before they can lay their eggs. Plus, they ruin tires if you run over them.