For the first, two weekends, I was unable to come down, both for Beltane as well as troubles with my car. I went through some serious Central House withdrawal!
Helen has continued moving in and Cathy has been digging a pond by the side of her house with the help of Roo, the daughter of one of our priestesses. Roo did a great job (and most of the digging, I am told). She deserves Kudos for that. Yaay Roo!
I helped Cathy finish it off, not an easy job, since the soil itself is very rocky, as you might expect for being located at the foot of an old mountain! The soil is also pure clay. I do hope Helen can use it for her projects. One day she hopes to hold pottery classes at the Maetreum.
We lined the pond and anchored the lining with some of the many, many rocks unearthed during the process. They’ll make a nice, rock garden. We got the fountain going, added some water plants and – voila! We’ve got pond!!!!!!!!!
Helen also had a pond liner and some solar panels for it that she has donated to the Maetreum. By the end of the summer, we’ll likely have another pond by the temple grove, too!
The other big project for the month was getting the tons of junk (and occasional antique treasure) that the honorable opposition left behind when they abandoned the property unearthed and outside for our Memorial Day yard sale. If you’ve ever worked as a janitor or custodian for an institution of higher learning (or even just walked or drove by the dorms) when the academic year is over, you know what I mean!
This year, we also held a bake sale, selling Cathy’s delicious scones (Made the ol’ fashion way with real cream!), Jamie’s brownies and my bread. We also offered free coffee. That was certainly a hit. Free coffee and cheap goods. What a deal! But more to the point, it was a great opportunity to repair our reputation in the community. A few neighbor women stopped by and chatted with us for awhile. It was wonderful that at last they felt safe enough to do so.
In the end, the yard sale was a great success. We got rid of a lot of stuff - especially the $^%&! Pool table, dog house and a few of the computers - and made several hundred dollars! This, along with several donations from several sister priestesses, will go a long way to getting us back on our feet financially. There was a serious, financial mess that was left behind by the takeover. We are now well on our way to solving it. Thanks to everyone who gave contributions, who helped out with the sale and everything else!
On the 27th, the day after Memorial Day, I accompanied Cathy to a hearing at the Catskill town hall regarding our “disagreement” with their stance on our tax-exempt status. Fortunately, there were only a few other people there contesting their taxes, and we didn’t have to wait until late at night for our turn like I had feared. The two other people who went ahead of us basically gave sob stories about how their increased property taxes were hurting them financially and were begging for a break on them.
When our turn came, Cathy gave them hell as only she could. And why not? As far as I’m concerned, she was perfectly justified in doing so, after what we saw in the Town Attorney’s opinion. She reiterated the points that she made on the main Central House page. We were not given this material, even though we were entitled to it – I had to do a FOIL request to get it (since they didn’t know who I was, I figured that I would be the best one to do it). In a situation where a locality disagrees with the federal government regarding the tax exempt status of an organization, the burden of proof is on them. The legal opinion that they based their ruling on is full of distortions, events taken out of sequence and complete ignorance of our religious symbols.
For us, something as prosaic as a pine branch could be a religious symbol, or a table linen with embroidered bee motifs, or a vase full of violets, or even (well, especially) that stuffed toy lion in the living room! When I went into the hearing with Cathy, I was wearing no less than 53 religious symbols on my body. I don’t think that the town officers could have picked them all out. Heck, unless you had a familiarity with the Cybelline faith as well as other goddess traditions and even the writings of Z. Budapest, you would likely miss a few!
I sincerely hope that they will restore our tax exempt status after all that. None of us want to drag them into court, but we may have to. We’ve just come out of a nasty fight with some mentally ill antagonists on our own ranks and right now we need another fight like we need a hole in the head. We really just want to be left alone to practice our faith and carry out our mission in peace.