Archives for the month of: March, 2013

I have a mile wide conventional streak.  I am never sure if it is the last thing people see in me or the first.  I have broken my fair share of rules but breaking them is something I do with thought, not carelessly.  At school I was definately a nerd, a good girl.  Not a Clown.  In fact I can barely tell a joke.  My Husband finds it hilarious, just how badly I can tell them….

It has taken me a long time but I have finally learnt the value of a good prank.  Sometimes you have to have something to stir up the energy.  A game does it too…  I don’t like anything that will upset people, or damage their property.  It has to be something they will enjoy too.  And they can not happen too frequently.

It can be easy for things to become stagnant.  In our jobs there is a large amount of repitition and we spend a lot of time together.  Some times things are stressful and our spirits are low, we need a little something something to get thigns going.

It has been a tough week following on from a tough month.  We lost colleagues, but not the work those colleagues did.  We miss them.  Things are so busy and there is so much overtime for everyone because we are stretched right to the edge.  And so is everyone else…  Other people in other departments are trying to pick things apart, producing figures that show we can do more, without checking those figures are right for instance.  So by this afternoon, we were all well and truly ready for the weekend. 

So sat at my desk, I looked around and decided it was time for something to stir things up a little.  Thinking of something can be a challenge…  First I choose my person.  A young zombie freak, who loves everything zombie….  I printed off a sheet saying ‘They are coming.  They will get YOU.’ with a picture of some zombies beneath and hid it in a pile of papers on his desk which he will use first thing Monday.  Then I printed a load of different little zombie pictures off and cut them up and hid them.  Under his mug, in his stapler, behind papers on his clipboard, in his high-vis…  Everywhere!

This is not the first prank played within my team, we have had some great ones…  I once took a Kylie calendar, photocopied it and then grafittied the copies to make pirate Kylie, Angel Kylie etc and then blue tacked them onto the calendar.  We have a calendar of some rather attractive young men and one month, one of them ended up with a pair of dungarees stuck on him.  One of my work mates has a thing with some squirrels, they eat his bird food and nothing he does seems to discourage them.  One time, millions of pictures of squirrels appeared everywhere.  He kept the one on the back of his clipboard and everytime I see it, it makes me smile. 

Another colleague is a Man U supporter and he had a fixtures list with a photo of a couple of players pinned up.  One of the players is nicknamed Shrek.  I found a picture of Shrek and Princess Fiona and stuck their heads on the players.  I managed to get it just right and it looks pretty good.  My colleague has kept the doctored copy and didn’t want the original back…

I think the best one though is this…  Some time ago, my Boss decided to stick a post box outside for paperwork.  As it happened it went out of use and very rarely got checked.  One of my colleagues found an old birds nest and put it in the mailbox with some chocolate mini eggs.  My Boss did not check it for a very long time and my colleague had to take the chocolate eggs out because they melted…  He replaced them with chicken eggs which had had the yolk blown out and he added little blue biro dots to them.  When my Boss did eventually find it…… *laugh*

It doesn’t have to be a prank,sometimes a game does it as well.  We have run the occasional Sweepstake, I did one for GB Olympic medals and a colleague does football scratch cards for a local team.  Another time I had a dream that we were doing a quiz to think of as many bands and artists beginning with B as we could and we had got 150 I think it was.  The next day we did it in work and it was fun, made a dull day go much quicker…  We beat the total in my dream too!

I love these sorts of things…..  Not too much….  Just often enough….

 

Before I begin, I probably ought to explain.  I started working through the Moons at the beginning of 2011 and I quickly found that the totems of each Moon were extremely eagre to make a connection.  I spent the first time through getting to know each Moon and identifyin ght totem that went with it.  White Dove Wheelkeeper told me I should go deeper with my totems and be sure I really connected with them.  I decided to take the second cycle through to continue exploring the Moons and to deepen my understanding of my Totems.  Because of the way my Years have fallen and the Blue Moon, th elast cycle ended at the Moon of Surrender, however last year was my Moon of Breaking Masks and this year is my Moon of Reason so I am only left with Humility and Metamorphosis to explore completely from the beginning.

When I was writing about this Moon the first time I realised that at this time I spent a lot of time with Grasshopper.  Ther was a steep, almost vertical, grassy bank on the edge of our playground and in it there would be Grasshoppers singing.  I was so intrigued by them.  I would stand and patiently capture them in my cupped hands, trying to let ight in to look at them without letting them jump away.  It was probably about this time than I formed my dislike of the sheer destruction of Locusts.  A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves in Lanzarote at the same time as a pink Locust swarm from Africa.  It opened my eyes and I realised they did not scare me so much.  We saw the odd inidivual here and there but we accidentally found the swarm at a high mountain drop out and we stood there on the edge and watched as they flew off it.  It was an awe inspiring moment. 

I received conformation that Grasshopper was my totem later on the day I first wondered if they were mine or not.  We wee at circle and afterwards I could hear a bird that sounded exactly like a Grasshopper.  I was incredulous as I had no idea there was a bird with such a call and I had never heard it before.  Someone said they thought it might be a Grasshopper Warbler and I looked it up and listened to it’s call.  What were the chances of that?

I have been writing these exploration posts to help myself figure things out since the beginning, they can be pretty long!  They used to be on my old blog but since I have moved here it feels right that they should be here too….

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Grasshoppers hatch from eggs laid in the ground. About 50 eggs are laid together in a pod and remain their for approximately three weeks, although this can last a lot longer if conditions ar enot right, and eggs laid at the end of the year will not hatch until the weather is warm enough.  Grasshoppers have short Ovipositors, this is the sexual organ which they use to lay eggs. In some species, such as Wasps and Bees, this organ is the one that has been changed into a sting.  Grasshoppers use it to force a burrow in the ground in which to place their eggs.  They are sexulally mature about 2 weeks after they have reached their adult form and live for about 6 weeks after this.

They grow by molting as will moult five to nine times before they become an adult.  To begin with they are known as Nymphs as they have no wings.  The wing bud forms on their penultimate moult and the final stage is the only one to have fully formed wings. The rear set are membranous and the front set are of a wing type called Tegmina.  Tegmina are not generally used in flight, they can act as a protective wing covering for the other set of wings and may be used to generate sound or for displaying.  When some species turn into Locusts, the tegmina have a greater role in flying and their aerodynamics become important.

Locusts are certain species of Short Horn Grasshoppers that breed rapidly when conditions are favourable and this change can occur within a few hours.  When population density reaches a certain point changes are triggered and they become gregarious and migratory but their bodies change as well and can even be mistaken for being a different species.  The nymph stages are known as Hoppers and the grasshoppers form bands which rove across the land and they can form into long wending rivers that come together and part like a braid.  Once they have reached their final stage with wings they take to the air and swarm and there is a characteristic noise that accompanies them.

Some experiments have been conducted on the effects of population density.  In one species they found that at 18 locusts per square metre their behaviour began to change and they started marching but this would be punctuated with abrupt changes in direction which are co-ordinated. When densities reached 74 Locusts per square metre, they no longer changed direction but continued to march in one direction.  In the field, the average density of marching bands is 50 Locusts per square metre but it varies from 20 to 120.  Experiments have shown the change is actually triggered by their thighs being rubbed on their hind legs. 

North America is the only continent, except the poles without a swarming locust species of grasshopper.  It used to have one called the Rocky Mountain Locust but the last swarm of these was seen in 1902 in Canada.  Few samples were ever taken because nobody expected them to ever become extinct.  They hold the record for the largest ever swarms of some 12.5 trillion insects covering an area larger than California.  Some theories exist that ploughing destroyed their egg burrows.  Others believe that they still exist but no longer reach the required population densities however no DNA has been found in living Grasshoppers that matches.

They have short antennae in relation to their body length.  Antennae are sensory organs but it is often unclear what exactly they sense, as it may be heat, air motion (sound), vibrations, taste or smell.   They use fine hairs called sensilla for sensing and these are concentrated on the antennae, the mandibles and the cerci.  The cerci are two prongs at the rear, either side of the ovipositor.  Short Horn Grasshoppers have Tympana which is an organ for hearing and is situated in the abdomen.  Long Horn Grasshoppers hear via the knees of their front legs.

They have strong mandibles for manoeuvering and cutting the food they eat.  They generally eat grasses, cereals and leaves and only one species will only eat one type of plant.  Most will eat from several different types of plant during the course of a day.  When they eat food they do not chew it as such, it undergoes chemical digestion process before entering the Crop where it can be stored.  From there it goes to the Gizzard which has toothe like features to continue mechanically breaking the food down before it enters the stomach.  They excrete dried pellets.

Grasshoppers have green ‘blood’ because it does not carry oxygen and it is known as haemolymph.  This haemolymph carries protein and sugars etc but is also the liquid that fills all of the interior of the body.  They have tubular hearts which pump the haemolymph out but their circlatory system is not closed and haemolymp gradually returns due to pumping actions caused by movement.  They take in Oxygen and release Carbon dioxide directly through their skin and transport it via trachea and can control the flow of air through their body by air sacs.  When they moult they also moult their trachea, even though they are internal.

They have massively developed hind legs which they use for leaping.  They first crouch down and they must thrust their legs towards the ground with just enough force and speed and then they pause before jumping.  Muscles are limited in the way they can respond, it is hard for them to respond with power and speed.  Grasshoppers have an area just above the ‘knee’ of their hind legs which acts as a spring, the pause after the crouch is important as this is when the spring is being pulled tight.  The initial acceleration is as much as 20g.  In the air they tumble around but some larger species jump as far as a metre and reach a height of 25cm.

Grasshoppers are known for the noises they make and they do this in different ways depending on the species.  Some snap their Tegmina in flight and use them to make a crackling noise, particularly flying locusts.  Others rub their hind legs , which act as a rasp, against their tegmina or their abdomen, which acts as a scraper, to make a type of noise called stridulation.  Every species has a unique song but experiments have found that songs do change as individuals in an area with high noise levels will alter their song so it can still be heard.  Males sing to identify territory and to attract a mate

Grasshoppers are coloured in order to blend with their environment.  Experiments have shown that some Grasshopper species will walk under water happily and have stayed submerged for as long as eight minutes.  There is also a parasite of some grasshoppers which affects their brain and causes them to seek out water and drown themselves in it.  The parasites then leave the Grasshopper and live in the water.

In many parts of the world Grasshoppers are eaten as a source of protein and fat, although they can contain tapeworms.

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So what does this all mean for the Grasshopper as a totem for my Moon of Territories?  Well Grasshoppers leap forwards, they don’t go very far for a while and then, they are gone soewhere completely new, and they can not jump backwards.  This has been a thread in my life.  I moved away from home at 17 for a gap year job, then I upped sticks a year later to the city.  I remained there for four years and when I left, I left behind friends, relationships, a way of life.  I spent a year back with my family before making the huge move to another place to start all over again.  Even once in a place I have tended to take temporary work and drift from job to job.  I worked for a college on and off for years, but always in different roles.  Until I started my current job, I had never had a  job that lasted for more than a year.  Early on I learnt that going back does not work for me, things are never the same and what was right in the past will never be right in the future, not in the same form anyway.  When I have gone back to a place, something has to change when I do, different friends, different occupations.

Staying still, like I am at the moment, requires that there be movement in other areas of my life.  This combines with my Nomad and really influences the way I learn.  Periods of little movement then really quick movement and progress.  I also love Breaking Masks for this reason because it really helps with the impetus for movement within me.  I thought this movement was a sign of the Locust but it is not destructive and I wonder how the Locust aspect works.  Maybe if you got enough Grasshopper people together, amazing things would happen, quick decisive change and progress, expeditions to other countries, scientific breakthroughs, I don’t know….  Maybe just sometimes Grasshopper really gets behind you and everything comes together perfectly…

Looking at Ted Andrews book Animal Speak he says it is really important for Grasshopper people to listen to their feet.  They have a knack for finding the sunny side and movement is really important.  Sometimes leaping into the unknown can be hard but Grasshopper helps.  It may seem like they do not make much progress in life for long periods of time but then everything changes in one go and they may even suddenly overtake others who had been running ahead of them.  It would be unfair to expect Grasshopper people to move like others or for others to move like Grasshoppers.

This not only happens in movement but in growth, periods of moulting between different forms.  Oh how I have felt this process in my life!  When I have fought the moulting and failed to understand it at all it has been very, very painful!  The moulting is not just external but includes the internal structures that supply air, or breath to the Grasshopper.  If Grasshoppers live long enough, they will learn how to fly and be enormously creative, laying huge amounts of eggs.  They are also very musical but I am not sure this is in a typical way! 

Vibration is very important in terms of music to them, because it is probably this that they hear.  The thing I love about the drum, is how I feel it all through my body.  I often do not hear very well when I am sat at my desk at work.  People a few feet from me can speak and I will have trouble working out what they are saying.  However, one person tries to creep up behind me most days but I almost always know she is there.  The only times I fail to hear her are when then someone else I am aware of is moving in the same space.  I am like it with sound in general and if sounds are wrong I will wake alert from a deep sleep.  The house I grew up in was timber framed and old and would make expanding and contracting noises, sometimes quite loud, but they were part of my place and sooth rather than wake me.  The staircase that led up to my room branched half way up and laso led to my parent room.  People could go up and down to my parents room all they liked without waking me but as soon as they so much as touched one of my steps I would be awake and aware.  My territory is it seems very well defended by the ways in which Grasshopper hears.

There is a community out there that I am part of.  Sometimes I feel more a part of it and other times I feel less a part of it.  I know that meeting everyone in the flesh will cement my place in the community and it makes me nervous.  I feel that stepping fully into the community will open doors inside me and opening them makes me nervous, I am not ready.

But this part of the community, the bit online here, I fully belong to.  I had not realised what my Teacher, Lisa was trying to create.  I was always a little bemused that I could not comment on her posts because to me that was the obvious way to have a dialogue as a blogger.  I didn’t get that this needed more than a few lines in a comment, because the conversation needs to take place between two peoples space and not firmly in one persons space.

I didn’t get it until Jihad took one of Lisa’s posts and took her thoughts and told his own story and it made me realise that I had completely missd the point!  He took some thoughts from her and was inspired and told his own story and added his own thoughts and in turn inspired more people.

In terms of the change of outlook Jihad describes, I am not there, I am not ready, and that goes hand in hand with my nervousnes about meeting everyone.  But I do know that some of my attitudes have changed.  Last night we met up with some old and close friends and we were talking and I suddenly had one of those moments of realising how much my attitudes have changed, what I see as being logical and obvious is as a result of those changes within me, and they are not obvious and logical to everyone at all.

We were talking about the outrageous wages and payoff the head of our local Council is receiving as he leaves.  It led to me saying how I didn’t want to have one of those sorts of jobs, to reach that high, to earn that much.  One of the girls was bemused.  I tried to explain that having more, having a job like that comes with obligations to spend, to have more, to get more caught up.  She got a little shirty and replied the Boss of her company was very down to earth and wore jeans and t-shirts.  I realised that she did not get it at all and even more tricky for me, she aspires to climb some way up that slippery slope herself.  It was as if my opinions were an insult to her dreams.

After an awkward moment, we moved on. 

This group of people are like family to me, we are a little tribe of eight (soon to be nine!).  I moved away from my family a long time ago and while I love them dearly and wish I saw more of them, all these families I have don’t entirely get me, they are not quite like me.  As a child I would look at my family and wonder how on earth they ended up with me!  I seemed so different and I could not find me in them.  A long time has passed and i can see how pieces of them, of my Ancestors, recombined to make me, to make something different.

My husband is also completely different to me, but on some basic level we are the same.  It is our differences that make us a strong team but that basic similarity that keeps us here together as one.

I am finding that on this basic level the shamanic community I have found here in Cornwall shares some of this basic sameness.  This community is perhaps a little different from my online dreaming community as many of the people there do not follow a shamanic path but are exploring shamanism to expand their own pagan paths.  I don’t have a problem with this.  Slowly the skills and techniques of Shamanism will spread into the local pagan communities via the people who have a foot in both communities.  We need to find a way to work with this land here and the pagan peoples of this land have much of this knowledge.  For me, I want this knowledge and to combine it with Shamanism.  I want to know what plants that grow locally I can use for smudging for instance. KR touched on this a while back on FB when she spoke of her experiences in Hawaii.

But the people within this community who do walk a Shamanic path, I have started to feel a deeper connection to, as a Dreamer.  They have started walking my dreams and sometimes we talk in them and it made me wonder why I do not dream with my online shamanic community in this way.  I may dream the similar themes but they as people, do not walk my dreams with faces I recognise.  I have begun to think that this physical meeting and working together is fundamentally important.

Odessa talks about her experiences finding this community and how she dreamt them before she met them.  Maybe it is different for different people.  Maybe I will only know I have dreamt them when I meet them.  I don’t know.

All I know is I am working on it, I am learning, my Wheel is turning and someday it is going to take me to Canada, but not yet.

I have always been fascinated by Grasshoppers.  As a child at school, I remember standing by the bank, covered in long grasses and catching them in my hands to look at.  Of course, as soon as I opened my hands enough to see them, they would jump away.  I was always gentle with them.

I had been wondering about the Grasshopper as a totem for this Moon when I went to my drum circle.  After the circle I heard a bird calling which sounded exactly like a Grasshopper.  It turned out to be the Grasshopper Warbler and I took this as confirmation I had got it right.

I normally write about the totem of each Moon at the beginning of each but this time, despite liking Grasshoppers, it has taken me two weeks to get to it.  Last night I was thinking about why I was dragging my heels as I went to sleep.  In the morning I had my answer and the answer was Locusts.

I remember seeing footage of Locusts as a kid and finding them terrifying.  The voracious swarm destroying everything in it’s path….  However a few years ago my husband and I went on holiday to Lanzarote one November and our visit coincided with that of a swarm of Locusts.  They had been blown over from Africa and many were dying as they ran out of food.  They were bright pink and most of our encounters were with a few isolated individuals.

One day we drove up into the mountains where there a little agriculture and we came across the remains of the swarm in a high up valley.  The valley dropped steeply from the village down a series of switchback bends but you could stand at the top of this drop off and look down.  The swarm was flying over us down the drop off and I have never seen anything like it.  In that moment there was respect and beauty, terrifying respect and terrifying beauty, but all the same….

So Grasshopper….  My next step is to get to know Grasshopper a little better,including it’s darker side, but not tonight, I need to go to bed!

As normal, I have so many thing I have been thinking about but not the time to write them…

French has been calling me and poking me…  I never got a language GCSE despite learning three languages at school, with French being the one I studied longest.  Getting Glandular Fever stopped all that for me and I forgot pretty much everything I ever learnt.

At the beginning of the year where I work decided to strengthen our connections with France.  One day the other week, my Boss out of the blue asked us if any of use fancied learning French.  It is tricky now because we often have to deal with individuals who speak no English and given we work in a dangerous environment, not being able to communicate is tricky.  We quickly found that French classes begin again with the new school year in September…  But a seed was planted.

 

The next day there was a drama and for an hour or two there was the possibility of a flying trip to Paris to deliver something.  It didn’t happen but when I got into my car to go home my ipod, which was on shuffle, decided to play me a random French song I don’t remember ever having heard before.

I am learning to listen when I get a push like this, synchronicity always has a purpose…  I remembered an old online friend telling me that he learnt English by reading Lord of the Rings with a dictionary.  He wanted to read it as it was originally written so he just sat down and read it…  I like this idea.  I ordered two books, one a French blockbuster translated into English, the other and old classic fantasy book I have read many, many times.  I also ordered a dictionary.

I began and immediately discovered how much easier and simpler they make the exercises for you in French lessons…  A paragraph a day is about all I can manage but it is strangely rewarding.  I like puzzling it all out and the more people tell me that I am doing it the hard way, the more I like it *laugh*

I also remembered that I had a Picture book with stickers for kids to develop vocabulary and I have started working with this as well.  i do a page and then make a list of the vocab and take it to work and stick it on the side of my pc.  I do a lot of data entry and it is semi-automatic now so a list there is ideal…  And the book is web linked so I can hear all the words being spoken too.

We went to PC World last weekend and I discovered French language software.  It wasn’t cheap but Amazon sell it for a fraction of the price, a mere £10.  So now I have a variety of exercises, vocab, speech recognition, cd’s for my car, exercises for my ipod… 

Of course, there is a part of me that wonders why French, why now.  Maybe I will find out sometime, maybe not.  Maybe my French ancestors want to speak to me.  i was very surprised when I discovered the distant branch of the family that was called Galienne and came from Guernsey.  Maybe it is just about honouring them.  Maybe there are things I will need to do, dreams I need to have, people I need to visit, where French will be important.  Maybe I need to give my brain a different way of thinking that comes with a different language.

Maybe I just need a challenge.

Today I am missing my circle.  I would have gone out of duty and because this is my community but the truth is, I am not sad to be missing it.  To many people this is probably the best circle of the year.  Instead of being held at one of the usual venues it is held at a very special chapel.  A walk along a valley, away from everything takes you to an even more secluded spot, tucked under the hill, where a spring bubbles into a wheel house and then flows underneath the altar stone of the chapel and out the other side, down the hill to a pond before seeping into the river.  A perfect place to celebrate Spring.

My problem is that last year I found this gathering too popular.  The circle was too big and many people were not respectful.  The drumming was not harmonious as outside groups tried to dominate and people who chose not to participate fully disrupted things by chatting outside.  The activity our circle’s leader would have led us through would have been perfect, with fewer people, and people who were respectful.

All the same, I am sad I am missing out on the opportunity for beauty.  Last year I journeyed with my Dragon and we danced the elements.  I ended up with a similar journey in the Autumn and I feel this is something I should repeat again in the coming days.

Instead I am going to go to a Baby Shower and I am so looking forward to seeing my friends.  i think celebrating the coming birth is so very much the perfect thing to be doing right now…  Unusually my friends have decided not to have the sex of their baby identified.  Names are not already pre-choosen and colours are neutral, not set in the pink and blue definitions we like to saddle babies with.  I think this is a good thing, I am not sure I would be able to resist knowing if it were me.  I like to peek ahead in the story, I often can not resist reading the end of a book before I should and I often wish I had some better idea of where my path is taking me.

I think those moments of doubt and anguish I sometimes suffer would be easier if I either knew it all already or had more trust that things were going to go exactly as they should.  Most of the time I do trust but sometimes, I just can not keep it up.  I do sometimes get snippets of the future, little hints but they are too obscure to be much help!  What they do do though is reinforce the importance of some small event or aspect.

For instance last weeks Hawk turning out to be a Herring Gull was an important thing for me but my husband actually making this mistake was important too.  The mistake was what brought this learning into my life.  I very much doubt he would have ever though of picking up a dead Herring Gull, round here they are often seen as vermin.  They nest on houses and sometimes attack people walking to their front door.  They steal food from peoples hands.  They are also masterful riders of the wind, graceful and beautiful in their element.  Anyway, a few days previously I remember I had a dream where the story was all about one animal but the image did not match at all.  I think it was about a Meerkat but the Meerkat looked rather like a Duck. When my beloved dog died a few years back it became obvious that an important dream I had had a few weeks previous was in fact advance warning.

So I am very definately stuck in the here and now.  I can visit the past and gain surreal glimpses of the future but it is only in the here and now that they have meaning to me.