Its Been a Rough Week…

This past week has been one of the more difficult times of my life. For those unaware, my mother passed away in her sleep on Tuesday morning. That one simple event started a cascade of events that I was not truly prepared to undertake. Ain’t that just like life to do that?  Set things in motion that you were not really prepared to deal with?

Growing up, my mother was the parent I gravitated towards. When I ran across something I could not figure out – I ran to her. My younger sister was the exact opposite. She was definitely the child that spent more time with my father. As children are wont to do, I eventually moved out of my parents’ home, and into the waiting arms of the United States Air Force. I learned independence in my first few months, which did not go well with my mother’s desire to control and guide my every step in life. In my second year in the Air Force, I cut off any communications with my parents. It did not help matters much that I was in Fort Worth, Texas and they were in Shreveport, Louisiana….just a five-hour drive one way. It only made it easier to pull me back home. To try and remedy this, I changed my location sheet (a way that you can manipulate where the military sends you on permanent duty assignments) to Europe. I did not want to end up in Italy or Spain, so I made sure that Germany and the United Kingdom were at the top of my choices. I was assigned to Sembach Air Base, just to the north and east of Kaiserslautern. My mother rejoiced.  She, being German and with family far to the north of there in Koblenz, immediately started picking out my future wife. I made the stupid choice of picking my own wife here in the United States – and rushing a marriage less than a month before moving overseas.  But that’s a conversation for another time. My mother was meddlesome, interfering, and very disapproving of everything I did in my adult life. When I left the military and grew my hair past shoulder-length – every homecoming opened with “Nice to see you, Tommy. Get your hair cut.  It looks terrible.” Compliments become few and far between. Open insults became the norm. My time at home faded into short hours with nearly a year in-between each visit. I grew on my own – without the comfort or approval of the one parent I was closest to.

Over the past six years, I have reached out and tried to repair the relationship as much as I could. Her mental faculties started to slip the last three years, and she was diagnosed with dementia. Over the last three years, it was difficult to even hold a simple conversation with her. I was confused at alternate times with my father, and with my son from my first marriage. Rarely was my name ever used in conversation. My visits became a bit more frequent though, and I grew used to my mother’s constant babble of incoherence. But she was also in pain from arthritic joints that had crippled her. She could go nowhere outside of the home, and my father had to carry her from location to location in the house. Occasionally, something else would flare up – and my father would take her to the hospital to be seen by a doctor. Moving her in and out of a vehicle and driving her back and forth became an event that was nearly similar to moving a full military Battalion several miles down the road. A year ago, her condition deteriorated so much that she spent nearly two weeks in the hospital. My dad warned my sister and I that the end was coming soon.

I wasn’t prepared then. I was definitely not prepared for it now. On Tuesday, I spent a large part of my work burying myself into my work – so I didn’t have to process what my father had told me at 7am that morning. On Wednesday, my mind was on driving up there. On Thursday, it was helping get my father into a position where he could easily handle some of the changes he was about to make. Yesterday was spent driving. Here it is – Saturday, and I am finally starting to process all of this. Towards the end, my mother and I were definitely not close. Her ideas of how I was to handle my life and the choices I made were far afield from where I was. I didn’t hide my Paganism from her – that met with the same disapproval as many of my other choices. But at that point in our lives together – we had found a way to be disapproving without being insulting about it.

Will I miss her?  Of course I will.  Of course I do. If that were not the case, I would not have shed tears this morning as I beginning processing my life without my biological mother. We had our fights and arguments – some seriously epic moments. But even where I disappointed her with my choices, I know she loved me as I was – her son, her first-born child. Our relationship was eventually filled with land-mines that I danced around cautiously sometimes, and purposefully stepped on with all the force I could muster. But in the end, I know she loved me, and I know she knew I loved her.

In accordance with my mother’s wishes, her body was cremated, and her urn will be placed at the funeral grounds there in Hot Springs that she and my mother chose. Also, following her wishes, no funeral was held, and no memorial service was created or attended. She has moved beyond the veil – and her express desire was that her husband, son and daughter move on with their lives. And that I shall do. It may not look the way that she wanted it to – but I will succeed, because that was another wish of hers.

 

Works For Me

Back in my earlier days on my Pagan path – I always wondered how other Pagans would perceive me. Was I doing the right things?  Was I doing the rituals correctly? Was I following the steps that I should be? Then, I was sent overseas by the United States Air Force and essentially cut off completely from everyone I knew that was Pagan. I quickly found I had to do for myself.

One of the practices I started early on in that “exile” was to take walks in the woods. It wasn’t that big of a stretch for me. Being stationed in Germany, where the locals spent a lot of their free time walking through the woods – it was a manner of assimilating myself.  Plus, I had grown up there in my youth – Volksmarching was a weekend event that was always looked forward to. In a manner of speaking, I was reliving my childhood, while combining that with my love of being outdoors, as well as my Pagan aspects of being in Nature. It felt “right” then – and still does today. Granted, with my new job – I am having to rearrange the way I approach my walks – including walking in less than ideal weather. But I find ways to get that together.

But lately I have wondered…do I do things because they are expected of me as a Pagan?  Or do I do the things that I do because its what I expect of me as a Pagan? Perhaps, the two easiest places to look into are ritual and magick.

I have made no secret that I am not into scripted, formal type of rituals. My idea of ritual is far more spontaneous and typically takes place somewhere that I would never have imagined myself doing so – such as the parking lot at work. Some folks would not even call it ritual – but it works for me. I’m not walking in a circle, but rather calling to the quarterly directions – albeit sometimes softly or using my inner voice – and then reaching out to see if there are any local spirits around. Sometimes there are, sometimes there aren’t. I always leave a small amount of whatever food I have (typically crackers) for the creatures in the area, and tip some of my water out (usually at the base of a tree, bush or flower) to give back to the land. Like I said, fairly informal.

American Eagles Gold Mine Near Cripple Creek, CO

American Eagles Gold Mine Near Cripple Creek, CO

Magick – well let’s just say that I have no strong connection to the concept of magickal workings. Perhaps the closest I come to this is the idea of prayer – and even then, I am extremely careful what I put into my focus. I don’t look to help out my favorite sports team, or for something that I want to be gifted to me at the next Yule or Solar Return (birthday). Instead I focus on things far more important to me – such as the healing of areas of the earth that humans have carelessly done harm to (and I know that I cannot make the necessary changes by myself – and that it takes actions to do this. Its the actions going into motion that I am trying to put my energy towards). or even towards people finding peaceful intentions to their fellow human beings. Yes, I served in the US military for eight years – that doesn’t mean that I like the idea of war or conflict. I honestly would like to see a day where people treat one another with respect and dignity – regardless of whatever distinction or difference you can dream up or point out. I am extremely reluctant to perform direct magickal workings – simply because I do not want my intentions to become something I had not anticipated.

So, I know that much of what I do and practice is likely different from other Pagans.  Nine Hells, we’re all distinct human beings with our own manner of perceiving and working with the world around us. But I also realize that I do not practice my style of belief through a step-by-step process or a paint-by-numbers scene. If that works for someone else, so be it.  I am quite happy for them. I still – and likely always will – make my way through my spiritual life through a system of trying. If it does not work for me, I let it go and find something that does. Essentially thievery, if you will. Or borrowing.  Or whatever descriptive you want to add to it. Makes no difference to me.  I know what works for me.

In the end, I am reminded – I follow this Path because it works for me.  I take the steps that I do, because they work for me. I am not that interested in how others may perceive my beliefs and practices. Nor am I worried about how they approach their own – provided its something that works for them….

 

Watching My Stone Fly…

The last nine days have been a period of…well…let’s call it a “period of adjustment”. Prior to the start of this month, the longest commute that I had was twelve miles…one way. The closer campus was a commute of eight miles…TOTAL. Any given week, I was on campus for four hours in a single day…MAXIMUM. Most of my work took place in front of my computer at home. Then I took a full-time position at the college’s main campus, and my life has been like a snow-globe that’s been shattered. My commute is now 40 miles…one way, through some the shittiest traffic patterns in DFW. I have a huge office (the first ever in my career), a huge desk, and spend nearly my entire day there – thirty-eight hours a week. In my third week of work, I will have worked more hours in less than twenty-one days than I normally worked during a semester as an adjunct instructor in the classroom.

I know, I can hear it through my iMac’s speakers:  “Waa, waa, Elf-boy! Suck it up!” But this is not about me whining on about the changes in my daily routine. I knew that this was going to happen the moment I agreed to take the job. What this is, however, is about the adjustments I am having to make to accommodate a very major change in my life. And its not the only adjustment that I will make to my life. Those adjustments will come on a daily basis, but not with the major upheaval that this one has done to me.

I tend to look at things in a manner similar to tossing a stone into the still waters of a pond. The stone, moving through the air, changed the way the air molecules were located between the stone and the water. The change is somewhat minor, at least to our eyes, because we cannot comprehend the ripples that the stone made in its passage from our hand to the surface of the water. We don’t see the air molecules displaced from their current location, as the stone pushed its way through them. We notice the passage of the stone as it passes through the water, because we can physically see the displacement of the water’s volume, as it alters itself in the container – the depression in the land where the water has gathered – the force of the stone’s passage through the is denoted by a splash of water, and the current of ripples moving outwards from the stone’s entry point. If we could see the molecules that comprise the air mass that the stone traveled through on its way to the water mass, we may be able to discern the ripples that the stone created. In fact, if I threw the rock closely past your cheek, you may feel the small current of air that occurs as the rock passes through the air mass near your cheek. Its not readily noticeable, nor does it occur for a long period of time, but it is there nonetheless.

I would posit that the same conclusion can be reached concerning adjustments and choices that you make throughout your life. For instance, this afternoon you decided to eat lunch at a local sub shop. However, thanks to the storm from last night, the electricity at the sub shop has been out all morning, and they are still closed when you arrive for lunch. You see a local hamburger place nearby, and the line is extremely long (since they have electricity working). If you choose to stay in the line, you may be late coming back from lunch, which may force you to miss the 1pm meeting. However, if you skip lunch, you may make the meeting – but your low blood sugars may cost you any concentration you needed to focus on the details of the work project that pertained to you and your department. Your original choice required an adjustment – and each adjustment comes at a potentially serious repercussion. Either choice will cause big ripples – depending on your boss’ demeanor, attitude, and/or mood – or perhaps how many critical details you may miss concerning your department’s work needs.

So, my life has meet a series of these adjustment points – and I am trying all sorts of things to see which adjustments will work best. And as I find one that works, I adjust my daily schedule to meet my needs. I honestly had never considered any of this before…have you??

 

Pagan Unity – a Slight Revisit

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

DFW Pagan Pride Day 2013

A few days ago, I noticed something changing in me. Or perhaps a change in the way I deal with certain parts of the world around me. Politics, Technology, the way I see thing settle into place in the world…a lot of things. I have no tolerance for the empty platitudes of politicians – with a Governor’s race coming up around the corner here in Texas, I find I have zero interest in any of the candidates. In fact, I am starting to see myself voting on one or two issues on an entire ballot, and abstaining from the governor’s race altogether. I have not really explored the “whys” of it all – there are certainly many other things on my to-do list that are far more productive and positive exercises for me. I guess the only explanation I have is that I have seen the pattern of the politicians – they talk a good talk at the elections, but after the vote is finished – they pop right back into their ruts of ignoring the electorate in favor of the lobbyists. I guess I just don’t want to feed that pattern any longer.

Its been interesting to be out of the classroom, where I was wrapped in the concepts of theory for some of the time. Theory is not a bad thing, but sometimes it bangs into reality – and there’s not many pieces to pick up after the accident occurs. But it has brought a lot of interesting questions to mind – and over the next week, I will be slowly re-visiting some of those that I have posted about previously.

Today’s topic is a little interesting to come back to – Pagan Unity. With Pagan Pride Day breathing down on us here in the local DFW area, its an interesting (at least to me) moment to stop and remember the event from the previous two times I attended. Last year’s event, I helped out with the Committee – and did whatever I could to help out. So my perspective was more from the inside then the outside. I did not attend any of the three rituals for the day – nor did I attend any of the workshops held. I helped out – the best that I could – in handled the area where chips and drinks were sold. Not an experience I relished – and one I hope not repeat this year. When I was working the Greeter’s Table, I did get to see a LOT of people I had not seen in quite some time. That was absolutely great! But I certainly did not get enough time to chit chat and clown around with them as well.  All that will change with this coming Pagan Pride Day event. I plan on being far more social – and I also will be carrying my hand-held recorder with me to record people’s feelings about the event. Another thing that I did not do at the previous event.

However, I did manage to watch a LOT of interactions amongst folks.  It was really great to see a lot of folks talking – about whatever. The smiles that people had on their faces over the entire event and meeting people.  Just fantastic energies to feed off of.  And I was so damn naive about all of that.  I know its a small tangent, but let me explain a bit.

Last year’s Pagan Pride event was one of the first I had experienced where people actually talked with other people. Previous public gatherings I had attended over the years, had essentially turned into major cliques claiming various geographic areas – and no one speaking to anyone outside of those groups. So, when I saw the exact opposite thing happening at last year’s event….I was agog over what was taking place. I was seeing the “theory” of Pagan Unity happening right before my eyes. Or was I?

In my idea of Pagan Unity, Pagans help one another – not because of what they believe, but because they CAN. But instead of seeing that happen after Pagan Pride Day, I saw more folks retreat back into cliquish modes. At first I was a bit disappointed. But then, after reading a book that discussed the modern-day Pow Wows that take place all over the mid-West – I saw some of the same stuff in those descriptions. In a sense, Pagan Pride Day events are not about vitalizing stronger connections between folks of dissimilar beliefs. Its more a gathering of the tribes – a place where people can talk freely, with no strings attached to what that connection is.  If it goes beyond that, that’s between the folks in question…

All of this has had me rethinking large pieces of what I see Pagan Unity as being. Its a social thing. We talk. We have a coffee, a soda, or a beer. We meet in various places to drum, dance, and blow off steam – to let the mundane world take a short-time backseat to our various perspectives of being a Pagan. We don’t have to make ties that connect our beliefs with others – that can happen, but its not necessary. We don’t even have to like the other Pagan that we have met – for whatever reason. We merely have to respect that they interact with their environment differently. We can come together on issues that we agree upon – our reactions and actions seeking solutions will be different – after all, we ARE different people.

This year’s Pagan Pride Day will be my last as a part of the Steering Committee. Its nothing that happened between myself and any other member of the Committee. I simply do not have the time year round to help out in any substantive way – other than running an ad or two on the podcast over the course of the year. I will still help out – and may possibly even have a booth with recording equipment next year. I think its a worthwhile event, and one I hope to see continue long into the future. I have other areas to focus on – my Druidry studies, my new job, the podcast, this blog….all of that takes time. Time, I barely have to myself as it is. But I am very proud to have helped out for two years…and I really think these folks are some really awesome individuals.

If you are sitting here wondering when the DFW Pagan Pride day is – and where:

DFW PPD, a free event, will be held Saturday, September 27th, 2014 from 9 AM til 5 PM at Arlington UU Church, 2001 California Ln. Arlington, TX 76015

You can find their website at : http://dfwpaganpride.org/ Check them out…be there!  Look for me!  I’ll be there somewhere too…recorder in hand!!

Positive v. Negative – Designing My Personal Universe

Over the past week-plus, my life has been literally turned upside-down and shaken like a snow globe. Three days prior to the start of a new semester, I accepted a full-time position in the college’s Institutional Research department, which effectively removed all my classes from my control. I interviewed for the position on a Tuesday, and the next morning I accepted the position. After that, my status in the school’s system changed nearly instantly. Just a lesson in life for me, everything can change in the span of a single eye-blink – literally.

If only that could work with a lot of what is presented in the rest of the world. A single police shooting in a St. Louis suburb spawns several days of turmoil and anger, spurred on from the wraith of black v. white racism that has haunted the United States since the 1960s and 1970s. An uptick in the violent struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis, a fire that gets fanned every so often from what appears to be very small issues – at least for those of us outside of that conflict. Aggression by Russia against one of its neighbors, which includes land-grabs, inciting and arming “insurgents” and the seemingly accidental downing of a civilian jetliner. And none of this covers the parade of nightly shootings and assaults that festoon the daily morning news broadcasts. Nor does it include the constant barrage of anger, vitriol, accusations, and outright slander that is on display in local, county, state, and federal elections here in the United States.

It does not take a lot for folks to see all the negativity that permeates the world around them. I sincerely believe that a lot of what happens in the above noted scenarios comes from people feeling frustrated in their daily lives, and that negative feelings are so easily accessed. It does not take a lot for anyone to reach for feelings of anger, hatred, and resentment. It certainly does take a lot more energy and effort to move past those feelings and find more positive manners of reflection. After all, you have to push past the negative aspects, and attempt to see everything from another perspective.

“So, Mr. Smart Elf,” I hear you saying to me, “How do we get past the issues in Missouri, Israel and the Ukraine? How do you spin those in a positive light?”  My answer is simple – I have no idea. I do know how I can deal in the issues within my own life. I am no longer in a position of instruction with the college. But I know that in my new position, I can help the college grow, become stronger, and find new patterns of looking at the entire environment there. “How dare you compare your loss of a teaching job to things far more important to the world?” Yep, that’s the typical sentiment I hear – particularly from people who hold one or more of those issues as being “extremely important”. When I do not hold the same world view that someone else does, that’s the typical attack vector.

To be completely honest, I don’t hold my loss of a teaching position to be of greater importance. But it is an important focal point in my life. And one where I can affect a measure of immediate change. When I was in the Air Force, one of my shift supervisors once told me that it wasn’t the manner in which you fought that made a difference, it was knowing which fights you could make a difference in. The ones where you couldn’t make a difference, you observed and waited for the time when you could make a difference. In other words, I had to learn to pick the fights to fight. The same thing applies to issues around the world. I can get angry about certain issues, we’ll use the Ukraine issue as an example, but there’s nothing I can do to make any change there – short of quitting my job, selling my house, buying a ticket there, and volunteering to fight in the Ukrainian army. And even then, I am unsure that I would have any affect on the outcome one way or the other. I can (and do) write letters to my Congressional representatives, asking them to draft legislation to bring the United States firmly in on the side of the Ukrainians. And there’s still a measure of doubt as to how effective that may be. But I can make a difference in my place of employment, by becoming an excellent analyst. In a manner of speaking, its a way of analyzing the pattern and determining not only where my own thread is in all of that, but how much the pattern is dependent on that thread.

The other side of me has moved towards reading the news every couple of days – rather than nearly every hour as I had been doing. And choosing to fill my time with things that hold more meaning to me. Again, I am not trying to say that none of the events that I mentioned are important – just that none of them is going to fill every moment of my day with thoughts of what I can and cannot accomplish. Again, in a manner of speaking, I am choosing to design my own corner of the universe. And I am choosing to set aside the easier emotions of negativity to find a way to access a more positive manner of thinking. Perhaps others may consider me to be deluding myself with this approach – and I not only respect that, but can accept it as their chosen perspective. Its a shame that typically will not run in the other direction as well.

 

006 – Welcome to the Backwaters of Pagan Podcasting

In this episode, I talk about my recent job change, along with my philosophy on data analysis. I also provide my own perspective on some news bits as well. Musical feature is “Soul Quest” as performed by Jim Faupel and Paul Newman.

Jim Faupel’s music can be found at http://www.jimfaupel.co.uk/home/default.aspx .  Paul Newman’s music can be found at https://paulnewman.bandcamp.com/.  As always, if you like the music you hear on the show, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE buy it from the artist, so that they may continue to provide us with such rich and wonderful sounds!


Contact Information

Email: elfster@gmail.com

Google Voice-mail: (972) 514-7315

Skype: tommyelf22

Twitter: @t_elfster

Direct Download:  http://traffic.libsyn.com/paganpath/006_-_Welcome_to_the_Backwaters_of_Pagan_Podcasting.mp3

And the Crow Said

I am constantly reminded that Life is all about change. One of my favorite quotes comes from the TV show “The Highlander”:

“Life is about change, about learning to accept who you are: good or bad.”

–Duncan McLeod to Methos

And it is so very true. This morning, I find myself in a place I have not been in five years:  not teaching a college class. Honestly, its quite a frustrating moment to realize that. I have gone from being a professor to being an Assessment Analyst. Gone from teaching students to notice patterns in business data and practices, to utilizing that same instinct of pattern searching to assist the same college I taught for. And its a transition. One I am slightly uncomfortable making, and absolutely terrified at the prospect of starting.

To say that this has been on mind for quite some time is an understatement. I have heard people talk about those moments, when you are trying to get to sleep, and you find yourself staring at the ceiling in that darkness with your thoughts racing a mile a minute. That exact scenario has played out for me quite a few nights now. One in particular has now stood out in my memory – my dream from Saturday night.

The Dream

Crow in Trinidad, CO

Crow in Trinidad, CO

I have an Inner Grove that I consistently utilize in my daily meditations. Its a small meadow in the middle of a heavily forested area. In the center of the meadow are four things – three trees in a single line (Birch, Oak in the middle, another Birch on the other side), and a large rock about the size of a Volkswagon classic Beetle. I usually find myself sitting on this rock, lounging in the warmth of the sun during the day or basking in the ghostly shine from the Moon at night. At this particular moment, the sun is out, and my mind is wandering to my thoughts of terror concerning my upcoming job change. In the middle of my thoughts, a Crow hops down from the branches of the Oak. Its not uncommon for Ravens to be a part of my dreams, so I am not startled at all. I nod quietly at the Crow, and start back towards my thoughts. And then the Crow speaks. This is extremely uncommon for me, the Crows never speak in my dreams. They caw at me, and occasionally bring me items, like buttons and bits of colored yarn. But this Crow clearly startles me with what is said:  “Everything you have done, leads to this moment.” And he flew away. When I awoke from this dream, I spent several minutes jotting down things – particularly what was said, so I would not lose what was said. Dreams have a funny way of dissipating from my memory very quickly after I awake, so I have taken to keeping a Dream Journal in the drawer of my nightstand.

During the interview, I was to give a presentation., which I did. At the very end of the presentation, I made a statement regarding my philosophy concerning data analysis.

If you look at the data and see only the numbers, you only get half of the story. Underneath all the numbers are countless stories. Stories of people, stories of lives, stories of dreams. In order to make sense of the data that is presented through instruments such as surveys and questionnaires, you have to dip into those stories. You need to understand the people from which the data is collected from. You don’t need to be an expert on them, nor do you need to interpret their dreams for their careers. You do need to understand where they are coming from – to find the relationship that starts the pattern that is recognized in the data.

For me, this is pure Druidry applied to a discipline that is as cold and unfeeling as data analysis. And from what I am told, this was the statement that cinched the interview for me.

And there’s a lot to think about — but let me take a step back to the Crow’s message in my dream. I have done a lot of stuff over my career. I have worked in nearly every position one can work in Information Technology. I have taught students about Information Technology and how it applies to their lives. I have three degrees – a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with an emphasis on Database Management, a Master’s degree in Information Systems Management, and a Master’s in Business Administration. Each of those areas will provide me with immeasurable experience and first-hand knowledge of the discipline I am about to undertake. I had just never thought of the jumbled steps in my career and collegiate studies to be inter-locking towards a particular job. Until the Crow said something.

I know that each step is going to be difficult to take in this position – particularly as I mourn the loss of my previous position of being a professor. I loved being in the classroom, I enjoyed talking with the students, making the material come alive and sing its song to each student in a unique voice that they could hear. But now, I get the chance to let a new song be sung, the song of the data that the school gathers from the students. I have the opportunity to sing my philosophy in an environment that should…nay…an environment that MUST look beneath the numbers and sing the story of the students, the faculty, and the administration folks. A collegiate environment is one geared towards study – the teaching of the students and the learning facilitated for the students. But put in those simple terms, its not alive. There are countless stories of students who place parts of their lives on hold, so that they can earn collegiate credits towards a diploma. A diploma that should propel them onwards into environments where their knowledge will walk hand-in-hand with their hard-work ethic to help them achieve their dreams. There are even more stories of faculty members who have stepped away from much higher paying jobs in their field of study, so that they can help facilitate the future through the students. And yet, these faculty members will most likely never see the achievement of many of those dreams – and may never even be aware of the dreams that their students harbor. How to get these stories in front of the data? I certainly have no idea how to make that happen – at least not yet.

Walk softly through the desert sands
Careful where you tread
Underfoot are the visions lost
Sleeping not yet dead

Hang on – Winds starting to howl
Hang on – The beast is on the prowl
Hang on – Can you hear the strange cry
Winds of change are blowing by

 

–Jefferson Starship, “Winds of Change”