What Are We to Each Other?

Last night, I was adding some data to a baseball stats database that I am creating. I had the internet radio player on and was listening to something called “The Moth Radio hour” which I happened to stumble across while looking for some kind of background noise. Krista Tippett, the creator and voice of the podcast “On Being” happened to be on. She was talking about her late grandfather and how her experiences with his “preacher” occupation had led her to ask some of the questions that she does. During that, she was stating some of the questions that she regularly goes through in her head, and she stated one that really intrigued me. I even stopped entering data to sit and contemplate the depth in relation to some of my own communities – the Pagan community and the Polytheist community.

What are we to each other?

A lot of what I do, particularly in my journal writings is a lot of navel gazing. Or if you prefer, a much narrower focus than a question like this. I have my own approach to the two Gods and the single Goddess that hold interest in me. Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas all particular interests within my life. Each have provided – and continue to do so – lessons that I have needed to learn. But there are other teachers that hold places in my understanding of the world around me.

I podcast occasionally. I write blog posts where I get the chance to set out my perspective on daily life and many other topics. I read posts by many Polytheists where they detail their perspectives on approaching the Gods, the Goddesses, the Spirits of Place, and the Spirits of Ancestor. There are, literally, connections and interconnectivity that is made everywhere.

I have had the chance to meet so many people whose works, music, and talks have inspired me in so many ways. And I have had the chance to meet people who say that I have inspired them to search within themselves in a direction that they had never thought of. And there are those that I have never met, and yet have made a connection with them. Stepping back to Tippett’s question, who are these people to me? And the unanswerable side of that question – what am I to them?

For some, to some degree, I am a consumer of their goods, their output from their talents. I get free pdf copies of books, but I still go out and buy the books from the authors. Many of the musicians have provided their music to me for free. I still go out and purchase their music. Many of the folks who have provided me with copies of their talks, I have added myself as a “patron” of their materials through websites such as Patreon. I do this, so that these folks get compensated and can continue to share their talents with world around them. For them, I am a believer in what they are doing. I want to see them become successful at this, so that they can continue to produce such lovely and inspiring works for everyone.

Some of them, I have been lucky enough to cultivate a friendship with them. I have found them to be wonderful, giving, and caring friends. Some have only shared small parts of their lives with me, while others have welcome me into their lives as a family member would. To whatever depth that may be, I treasure each and every one of these people. I am fiercely protective of them, as I consider them all to be a part of my wider family, no matter the degree or depth of our shared bond.

But all of this showcases the depth of the connectivity that I have achieved with some folks in the Pagan community. What about others? The people I meet at Festivals, Gatherings, Rituals, and Conventions that I can only nod to in passing? Who are these people to me? Who are these people to you?

Being only one person in a communities as wide and diverse as Polytheism and Paganism, I cannot (and would not) attempt to answer for anyone else. For me, these folks that I walk past in Conventions, meet only once at a Ritual, etc etc — these people are family to me as well. But far more distant. Being that they are somewhat unknown to me, I am slightly more wary of them. But they are Pagans, as I am. Or maybe not. They could be sympathetic monotheists attending a Ritual or Convention out of curiosity or a desire to broaden their knowledge. But to me, they are no different than I am. They are people, struggling to make their way through life in the ways that they understand, comprehend, and find as a capable method for themselves.

In the end, I have to fall back to the concept that was derived for the most part from the Hippy movement – Be kind to another. As an individual of an alternative lifestyle, I know that acceptance of what and who I am is somewhat minimal by many within the so-called “mainstream” society. But none of that changes how I approach the rest of the world. I accept that people will follow concepts and teachings that seem most comfortable to them. So long as they do no harm to others, I am perfectly fine with it.

Who are these people? These fellow travelers on similar Paths to my own? Who are they to me? Well, they are people that think somewhat similar to me. Some of them approach the Gods and Goddesses in a similar vein as I do. Many of them are finding, experiencing, and defining the connectivity in their own worlds, just as I am. Regardless of similarity or disagreement in who we approach things in our lives – they are just as I am, and I should treat them with dignity and respect, even when they do not do the same for me. And all of this runs deeper than human beings. Animals, plants, rocks, soil, the planet, the stars, the Gods, the Goddesses, the Spirits of Place, the Spirits of Ancestor — all creation deserves that same dignity and respect. I might still be puzzling out some aspects of who all of this is to me, but regardless of that connection – there has to be dignity and respect at its core. Even if nots given in reciprocity.

One Step at a Time, One Issue at a Time.

I still remember the mantra.

One step at a time. One issue at a time. Take things in the order you need to. Solve each issue, so that you can solve the next issue.

Back in Air Force Basic Military Training, this was the mantra that one of our drill instructors taught us. TSgt Moody was a very strict disciplinarian. Her point to all of us – fifty-two young men – was that we could beat the Confidence Course (an Obstacle Course that we had to finish in under a specified time), if we tackled each obstacle one at a time. If we were focused on the Tower (the obstacle I hated because of its sixty-three foot height), we might make mistakes on other obstacles ahead of it.

In the end, I finished the course with two and a half minutes to spare. I did so by following her mantra. Each obstacle had to be overcome, beaten, conquered before I could think of the next one. When I finished the course, I felt that I had accomplished something with a tool set I had never realized I had before:  my own sheer will.

Not even a year later, I found myself applying the same mantra to doing something that completely terrified me. My first duty assignment was at Carswell Air Force Base, and my first job was working in the base telephone switchboard until my clearance would be granted. Aside from answering and placing telephone calls, as well as providing phone numbers for folks that asked for various base locations, I also had to conference commanders together for radio and secure conference calls. These were people with ranks like Colonel and General, extremely high-placed individuals on the base. Trying to insure that they were pleased with my performance was stressed by both my duty section supervisor and the civilian workers who had been in this position for years. My first attempt at making a conference using both secured telephone connections and over-the-air hand-held radios was a sheer disaster. I was literally terrified of these upper-level commanders yelling at me. Shortly afterwards, it dawned on me, this was just another obstacle to overcome. I studied the steps needed to make the conference calls. I learned each motion. And when the second call came in, I connected all the commanders in what was considered record time. One step at a time. One issue at a time. Until resolution. That methodology has allowed me to remain calm in the face of most issues. Some people think I’m frenetic, but the reality is that I am calm inside. I solve one step at a time, and move on to the next one. I try to resolve the issue at hand.

On the morning of November 9th of this year, I woke up and checked the news. What I had realized the previous night had turned out to be true:  Donnie and Mikey had been elected to the positions of President and Vice President of my country. It was an election I had somewhat feared, but had braced myself for, nonetheless. I was in a state of shock for about three days. To this day, I still refuse to acknowledge the Republican nominee as being my President. Sure, some can see that as childish, but its no different than what was done when President Obama was elected to both of his terms. Its now the end of the month of November.

Many of the people I know are scared and upset over the election of this turd as President. And with good reason. He made statements during the election about changing laws regarding the equal treatment of people. He made demeaning statements against people of color, people in non-traditional lifestyles. Since he has been elected, he has made statements about changing laws regarding free speech rights. In short, he has turned the concept of human rights in this country back to what is nearly the 1950s. But that’s just his statements. There’s still the changing of the laws.

Remember the mantra?  One step at a time. Sure, Donnie can make the statements that he wants to. That’s free speech. Changing the laws?  That’s a different step. And that’s where I, as a veteran and a taxpayer of this country, draw the line. He can make all the statements that he wants, but when he starts to change the laws – that’s where stuff gets real.

Right now, I am grounding myself into my own daily practices. I venerate my Gods and Goddess daily. I continue to draw experience and strength from the connections with my local area. In short, I have gotten back to doing the things that make me the Pagan, the Druid, and the person I am. I wear a safety pin to signify that I am safe for those needing me. I will also not stand by when someone is berated or even physically attacked by others. I will step in. I will let the blows rain on me rather than them. I will fight back to keep us both safe. That’s my first steps. Where the next steps come from, I’m not sure yet – but I am ready to take those that are necessary. I won’t speculate how far that might be – I’ll worry about that when the situation comes about. In the meantime, I focus on the now.

One step at a time folks. That means assessing where you are now, and what needs to be done now. Once that is completed, what is the next step to take? Or is the issue resolved? If there is nothing there to take action on, reaffirm who you are. Be the person that you are. If you are a Polytheist, connect back with your Gods and Goddesses. Reaffirm those things that make you the Polytheist that you are.

Some of you are stronger into politics and stuff like that than I am. Be sure of what steps you need to take in that world as well, if that’s where you are. For me, its time to start scouting through all the people out there to find a political candidate I can believe in. Someone who stands with me on the issues that are the ideological pillars of what I believe. And once I locate someone who is close to that, I will begin trying to see how to get this individual to the forefront of the Presidential run in 2020. The race for 2020, as far as I am concerned started on November 9th. Time to handle the first step — find a candidate to support.

Remember….one step at a time. I cannot change who is President. But I can resist to the best of my ability. I can be a protector for those that need it. And above all, I can continue to strive to be the Pagan, Druid, and Priest that I am meant to be, which will keep me grounded in the right direction for everything else. Because THAT is what I am. No apologies. No explanations.

Do You Hear Me, Do You Care? What Are Words For?

About a year and a half ago, I started journaling what I actually do throughout an entire day. Every day, somewhere near my bedtime, I have spent a few minutes noting what I managed to do throughout the day. Two days ago, I realized that I was getting close to the completion of my Bardic Grade studies, and thought it would be interesting to take a short step back and see where things have gone – not just in my studies, but within me. Naturally, I stepped over to this little journal of “things done” and started reading.

I spend a lot of time at my computer keyboard. From just a short reflection, I would say a rough calculation is a little more than two-thirds of my average day. Of course, a lot of that has to do with my job as an Assessment Analyst. I spend time pulling data, analyzing trends, starting studies, and looking at the trends developed from those studies. Seemingly, I am prized for my analytical abilities. But there are certainly times I wonder.

Pursue it further and another thing you’ll find
Not only are they deaf and dumb they could be going blind and no one notices
I think I’ll dye my hair blue

Two of my three degrees are within the field of Information Systems. Back when I started my Bachelor’s degree (2000), the field was growing and expanding its base of ability. The knowledge sets were already in place, though several other aspects would eventually grow from all of that. Data mining, once feared in the mid 1990s by the general public, had taken hold in the background of the daily processes that people brought their daily world around. The Information Age had truly started. Big Data at that time was a slippery, somewhat unknown concept. Of course, that has changed, and Big Data is now a firmly entrenched aspect of everyone’s daily lives, even if they are not aware of it.

The explosive growth of social media was the final piece of the Big Data puzzle. People wanted to declare themselves online. Facebook profiles gather all kinds of information that is willingly supplied by its users. But that’s something for another conversation. The more insidious aspect of social media is what people post. Quite a few years ago – and still in some aspect of “vogue” – was the process of taking pictures of the meals that individuals were about to eat. I never really understood all of that, but those posts are data-mining gold. It shows trends of what people eat, their tastes, and the timing of their dining out experiences. And that’s ust a small example.

But there’s another aspect of it as well. While our social media habits provide all kinds of data points to corporations on what we – the general public – are willing to consume, where, and when; we also talk about topics with our social media friends. We post our opinions on our Facebook walls about all kinds of topics. Sometimes, conversations ensue in the reply threads. Sometimes, arguments erupt. But the frequency of that is not always that great in comparison to the number of posts that are made.

But what becomes of those conversations, debates, and arguments? Are opinions changed? The probability of that is extremely low. More often than not, we seek people who agree with our perspectives. Those that disagree, tend to be shouted down, rather than listened to. Or even worse, they get removed from the Friend’s List and are blocked from being able to see what we post. In essence, we turn Facebook into a social media echo chamber that we calibrate accordingly through the culling of the herd through unfriending and blocking.

And given the wide use and acceptance of social media as a way to stay connected with the majority of our friends, we are starting to lose the concept of critical thinking. We do not want to hear dissenting opinions. We want to hear the people that agree with us. There’s no thought or credence given to the other side of an argument.

When I taught in the classroom, I did my very best to provide space and time for the opposite point of view. I cannot say with certainty that I did a great job at it, but I know that I tried. After all, I am just as human as anyone else. I do have my biases. And I am just as guilty of creating a Facebook echo chamber on my own wall. I am not claiming to be a saint in all of this, whatsoever.

We are currently in the heyday of the Information Age. You can turn anywhere and get stories about this point of view or that one. Information flies past us on every neews site, news aggregation site, podcast, streaming radio station, instagram post, and what else might be out there. This past election cycle is an example of all of that. The problem is not the amount of information, but rather the veracity of that information. There are news parody sites that are held up as factual information. There are many people out there that distort the facts to provide backing for their own opinions. Many of these people make a living off this disinformation. The result of all of this is a growing degree of cynicism concerning the information that is available to the general public.

I might as well go up and talk to a wall
’cause all the words are having no effect at all
It’s a funny thing am I all alone
Something has to happen to change the direction

What little filters through is giving you the wrong impression
It’s a sorry state I say to myself
What are words for when no one listens anymore

I am not sure that there is any way to change this imbalance to the information world. At least not in a way that keeps the freedom of the information we have. Certainly laws can be created to staunch the flow of disinformation, but who gets to decide what is disinformation and propaganda and what is not? Recently, I posted a story about a Water Protector who may lose her arm after being hit with a concussion grenade. I was told by an acquaintance that it was merely propaganda. That she was actually part of a group of these “violent protests” that were creating bombs with propane tanks. Now, I am not going to get into the veracity of what I am pointing to here. The point of the example is this – the storyline as I received and disseminated it came from within the camp of the protestors. The storyline that my acquaintance was using to refute my point came from the Morton County Sheriff’s department – the opposite side of the protest. There was no neutral party covering this to report one side or the other. Why?  Because the mainstream news media has ignored the Dakota Access Pipeline protests since the protests started. With no news coverage, there is no third-party neutrality to accurately report the news. Thus, both sides of the story are susceptible to inaccuracy and exaggeration. Which is more accurate? When the veracity of something cannot be determined, the cynical attitude of what is or isn’t news begins to creep into the equation.

Media overload bombarding you with action
It’s getting near impossible to cause distraction
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug
What are words for when no one listens anymore

My mundane job falls into the world of Information Sciences. The vast tornadic whirlwind of information, disinformation, accurate facts, propaganda, and the deafening sounds of the world-wide echo chamber came about from my realm of study. We scream into the digital winds from our keyboards, comfortable within our homes, and the ergonomic chairs of our office environments. Others take the streets, attacking the basis of the economic world, determined to bring down what they have come to perceive as the deadly corporate beast that threatens to destroy and enslave us all. We are all affected by words. Words that come straight from the Tornado of Information. Accurate or not, this spinning vortex informs our worlds – immediate and distant. And it is this beast of Information that I fear. More than a Trump presidency. More than fascist tendencies from people, governments, and mobs. And while others may disagree, this Tornado of Information is a product of the Storm. And, in my opinion, it is the immediate effect of where we are right now. And while I would like to offer a way to destroy or tame it….I have no idea how that can be done. Because this Tornado of Information is derived from a human trait that has always been difficult to tame and destroy – gossip.

My lips are moving and the sound’s coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
You look at me as if you’re in a daze

It’s like the feeling at the end of the page
When you realize you don’t know what you just read
What are words for when no one listens anymore

What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin’ at all

(*) Quoted material comes from the song “Words” by Missing Persons.

Thankful for Hope

Here in the States, we have reached the time for Thanksgiving. Traditionally, it is a time for being thankful for what we have in our lives, until the following day when we all head out to the retail stores to beat the crap out of each other for cheap(er) prices on various items that we did not really need in the first place. Or at least that’s the theory.

Thanksgiving is also a time that lends itself to levels of gluttony where food consumption is concerned. For me, no thanks. I am fat enough already. I could be mistaken for the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey at my current weight.

This is also the time frame where families get together, to remember that we are all related to one another, and that we should be nice to each other. That is, until the inevitable talk of politics kicks in, and the dining room table breaks into a war zone where Trump supporters form to one side, the lone Hillary supporter to the other, and the Sanders’ supporters block the way to the kitchen. By the time the stuffing has slid down the wallpaper, someone is packing to leave early. And thus, the traditional family fight begins the holiday season.

In all those aspects, I guess I am lucky. The physical, geographic distance between myself and my DNA relations is great enough that I am just considered the “odd family member that lives too far away.” My extended family tend to live on other continents from me, so that travel is generally out. So it is really just a stay-cation for the holidays. Sure, there is a copious amount of food that still gets made, but it is not for a single meal. The design is to be enough to last through the entire weekend. So there is no need to gorge. And Black Friday shopping is typically limited to a handful of stores (if at all), along with a trip to the barber for my twice yearly haircut. So, Thanksgiving is a typically quiet affair for me.

But there are things to be thankful for. I still have my health – as it seems to be for the moment. I still have a paying job – as it seems to be for the moment. And while I hold them at arm’s length, I do still have DNA family. I have the right to follow the religious beliefs of my own – for the time being. And I have the company of Crow, Coyote, and Fliadhas. I am thankful to be able to be who I am, what I am, and continue to become what I am meant to be. And for me, that is more than enough in life. I do not need to drive my enemies before me, nor do I need to hear the lamentations of their women. That works for Conan the Barbarian, but not for me.

This election cycle has certainly drawn some long, deep, and difficult divides between folks. It has emboldened some to showcase their hatred and disdain for others. It has driven many to places of hiding, seeking shelter, and being wary of so many around them. The election of Donnie and Mikey has struck the tower bell and started sounding the alarm that things are changing. The coming times have the hallmark of being truly perilous times. Times that will test many of us in ways that we never thought possible; ways that we thought were better thought of in a generation or two in the past.

I can understand the trepidation. I can understand the fear. I can understand the inability to see or focus beyond what seems to be bad. But deep down, deep within, there is always a reason to be thankful. Even if the thanks are for some of the smallest things. As Jyn Erso has been heard to utter on the commercials for Star Wars: Rogue One — “Rebellions are built on hope.” And in my own estimation, one of the best ways to stick it to the incoming administration is to just continue to be yourself. Do not let any of this change who you are. Be you. That is my two pence into the pot. If you happen to be the lucky winner, do not spend it all in one place.

 

Bloggers, Authors, Podcasters, and E-Zines – Oh My Gods!

Every so often, I get a question about who I read, or who I listen to, or who I recommend…so I thought it might be time to open up a bit more about that in a blog post.

There are a lot of choices to go after within the online and social media realms where Pagan folk are concerned. Most of it really matters on what you want to read or listen to. I’m not a Wiccan or a Witch, but I do read some of the blogs in that area. But for the most part, I focus on the writings of those whose bend is closer to Druidry. The same goes for podcasts – for the most part. But my musical tastes are a bit more eclectic. So, let’s explore a bit, shall we? (Besides, this is a lot more fun and way more interesting than trying to pick apart the Presidency of a guy who has not even been sworn into office yet)

Bloggers/Authors

I combine blogger and authors together – mostly because most of the authors I read also write blog posts. Its no secret that I lust after brainy women. And these first three are not only some of the smartest people I know and read, but they are also among some of the nicest people I have ever encountered. Nimue Brown, Cat Treadwell, and Joanna van der Hoeven all have great books and awesome blogs. These three ladies dispense quite a bit of daily wisdom, wit and every once in a while some awesome shenanigans. Each one has her own distinct style, coupled with a mischievous slice of fun thrown in. All three have books that I constantly refer back to in my own journal writings, especially when I struggle to remember exactly where I read a particular statement. Every one of the physical book copies from these three that I own are dog-eared and the spines show heavy usage on my part. I owe quite a bit of the Druid that I am to each of them.

While these three form the biggest trio in my readings, there are others that I read quite frequently as well. One is the blogger – and now author – John Beckett. His very well done, and frequently updated, blog – Under the Ancient Oaks – is great reading. I am lucky enough to know John in the face-to-face world. And while our individual approaches to Druidry are somewhat different, his blog posts provide topics that will get me contemplating thoughts, processes and topics in ways that I normally would not. And sometimes, its not his main point that I wind up thinking about. Many times, I find myself following a side comment or minor point into an area where I spend more time turning over the rocks and stones I find.

And there so many others that I could drone on and on about. The wonderfully fun Kristoffer Hughes, T. Thorn Coyle, Morgan Daimler, Elen Sentier, Brendan Howlin, Rachel Patterson, and a whole host Moon Books authors; as well as the awesome Moon Books editor Trevor Greenfield, who posts such wonderul thoughts in the Facebook groups for Moon Books. Then there’s also the Pagan blogs over at Patheos, the site Gods and Radicals, and many, many others. I am beginning to realize I could make a HUGE blog post on this in its own right – and still leave off a massive number of people. So consider this to just be the start.

Podcasts

At one time, podcasts were the “hot” item. Nowadays, podcasts tend to come and go fairly often. But let’s face it – just like writing a blog, podcasting is hard work in its own unique way. There are quite a few podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis. Druidcast by Damh the Bard is definitely one of the tops, but so is The Wigglian Way run by Mojo and Sparrow. Mojo is literally the smartest Pagan I have ever had the chance to get to know. Just listen to the episodes for TWW, and you will find a guy who is genuine in the way he approaches daily life. And that laugh of his…just awesome. And there’s Sparrow, the lady with the sexiest voice on the podwaves. And quite the activist. These two are some of the most awesome people on the podverse. Between the stuff that Damh brings up on Druidcast, and all the hilarity, fun and knowledge that comes through on The Wigglian Way…you easily have two-plus hours of awesome combined from these two with every new episode. And then there’s Down at the Crossroads. Chris Orapello is easily the Graham Norton interview experience of the podverse. He brings a wide diversity of people and topics to the show, along with awesome music and brainy thought. While podcasting is not quite the “hot” area of social media it once was – one listen to each of these three shows, and you will understand why I call these “The Big Three”.

Even More

I would be remiss if I didn’t add the online magazine Pagan Dawn to this mix. I buy my copies through my Apple news-stand app, but I do believe that physical copies can be had. Check with their website here to see how to get their issues. This is one of the most guilty pleasures I have for a weekend. Sitting on the back porch, listening to the waterfall (I have a waterfall effect in my backyard pool) run, drinking coffee, and reading articles from Pagan Dawn is something I could just not do without. The writers that are brought forward in the articles are some of the best “food for thought” that I have found in a magazine of any format. I generally keep a “notepad” app open on my iPad while I read, so that I can add my own personal notes for later review or research. I am quite sure there are more Pagan ‘zines out there as well. If you know of any – pass those along in the comments. I am sure I am not the only one that would want to know more.

Back in the 1990s, I remember that there were a few “glossy” magazines available at the local “occult” shop. There were also the National and International Email exchange services, such as PODSNET (Pagan Occult Distribution System) and many others. All were aimed at discourse of one type or another. People could debate with one another, share tips, even have innocent (and not so innocent – Merry Meat) fun. The limit was your ability to write evocatively. In the late 1990s, systems like PODSNET disappeared as the internet gained favor as the communications methodology.

Today’s internet has changed the manner in which we all communicate with one another. Quick, short chat messages, video chats, audio chats have all bitten into the old writing methodologies. But thanks to many of the above named individuals, web sites, bloggers, and authors – the written word still has favor in some form. To balance that out, we have video bloggers, podcasts, and other formats that have opened other avenues. None is any better than any other…the favor of its usage comes from those that choose to be the receiver in the communication paradigm. I’m old-fashioned in a sense. I like the writings…but I also have favorites among the others as well. Just remember, keep looking. There are new bloggers, writers, authors, podcasters, vloggers, and ‘zines coming. And all of those people are just as human as you or I…and they are easy to talk to. And who knows? You might make a lifelong friend too….

 

Vacations, Writing and Centering -One Method of Refocusing Myself

One of the things I have really enjoyed is going to various locations – some considered sacred – over the course of the past few years. I am fortunate enough to be able to do this, thanks to my job. Over the past few years, I have visited Glacier National Park, Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn mountains, the Rocky mountain range, and Carlsbad caverns to name a few. Each was a special moment, which I treasure deeply. And I have goals for a few more.

Tai Shan is no secret for anyone who knows me. I have yearned to climb the mountains pathway and see the sunrise from its peak for quite some time. Coming in two years, I may get that chance, as it looks like my college’s Honors program may make a trek to Japan. There is no way I will get that close and not take the opportunity to go. On its face, it is somewhat pricey in nature, but it certainly is on my radar.

Then there’s the trip back to England for Stonehenge, the Tor, and various other places. All of these are locales that I want to visit without a group (for the most part) so that I can spend as much time as I want at each one. Not sure how all that will work out (if at all), but its something that I need to look into. Plus there’s several locations in Ireland that I would love to see, but just won’t have the time (or flexibility) to do so.

14224720_10205751176018782_59571031270202389_nLastly, there’s all kinds of places within the United States. Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. The Redwood trees in California. Further trips to Glacier, Yellowstone, and a return to Medicine Wheel that I promised during my first time there. Closer to home, there is dinosaur tracks to see, a trip or five into the woods in Arkansas, and trips to the Gulf regions. My lovely little red caravan gives me the capacity to do these North American trips.

Like I said, I am lucky that I have the capability to take trips such as these. Many others cannot. But, these trips are more than visiting locations that I view as “sacred” or “beautiful”. Its about getting outside of the four walls of the house. Its about what I consider to be a fundamental aspect of Paganism for me: being outdoors with the dirt between my toes and fingers.

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself getting caught up in the media spin-cycle of the US Presidential race. I would spend far too many hours watching TV or reading online news. I even wrote quite a bit of it into my journal. And yes, I do go back and read what I have written. While doing just that, reading my journal, I started to notice a thread of sorts. I was not headed outside nearly as often as I had before. Not even for walks. I was caught up in something that had nothing to do with who I am as a Pagan, who I am as a Priest (as much as I think I *might* be one), or how I honor my Gods, my Goddess, or my Ancestors. In other words, I was off balance.

I never really noticed it, until a few days after the election. And once I recognized it, I started working towards correcting that, and finding my balance again. Instead of putting on National Public Radio when I got home, I put on Grateful Dead, Rush, Phish, Pat Metheny – any music that I identify readily with. I made time for meditations. I consciously put myself in a mindset to visit my Dream Crows before I went to sleep. I got back out to visit my Stone Circle. And I wrote.

Writing has been the really odd part. I have never considered myself much of a writer. I even decided to start in with the National Novel Writing Month, trying to cram three different projects into this idea. That failed miserably. I have since abandoned the idea, as I had become obsessed with word count rather than writing quality. Many of the journal entries that I wrote during that week-plus (about nine days) are really lacking in coherence and quality. Its a great concept for just writing something to be writing something. But its definitely not for me.

But everything has been about balance. About striving to find my center and cling as tightly as I can to it. Because wobbly, off-balance me is no fun to be around. I obsess on issues. I do not communicate beyond those issues. I become a very one-dimensional, one-note person. And that’s just not me.

There is not a whole lot of advice I can dispense concerning all of this. Find your center. See how far you are from it. Strive to get there. Make plans for ways to de-stress and regenerate your feelings towards the world around you. For me, that’s travelling to locations. And that means goals. Set those goals. See how to achieve those. And find a way to achieve those without risking the core of who you are. I have been a Pagan for over thirty years now. I have quite a bit of experience in knowing what works for me, and what does not. There is no way I can predict that for you, or even if this type of process will work for you or not. But trying it and making it work for you, is up to you.

 

Continuing to Live

Came into my office this morning, started my coffee machine, and then flipped on to my current playlist on my iPhone. That playlist is every single mp3 I own by Rush. As I boot up my work computer, the sounds of an audience starts to fill my small Bose bluetooth speaker (the only tie to sanity I have here at work), and I start a cup of coffee. The song “Force Ten” starts, and I get hit right in the face with a lyric I needed to hear:

Look in
To the eye of the storm
Look out
For the force without form
Look around
At the sight and the sound
Look in, look out, look around

Tough times demand tough talk
Demand tough hearts demand tough songs
Demand

I keep hearing the whispers in my dreams, in my meditations, and even when I am just staring out into the farm fields near the college and my house. And the sound is something I cannot get out of my head, a refrain that reminds me of where I am.

We will ask more of you than ever before. Stay focused.

Not really what I have been expecting. I am working through my Bardic studies, and spending even more time meditating. My focus has been on my studies, and moving forward with where I should be. Not much of my time has been spent with the news since Thursday of last week. I catch the occasional news story, but for the most part – my focus is on being the Pagan I am.

I guess sometime last night or this morning on the drive into work, I realized it. My focus SHOULD be on my studies. My focus SHOULD be on meeting my goals and needs. I have made the assumption that the Flidais has been whispering in my ear about being a protector and a watcher of what is happening around me. But I already know how to do that. Its literally in my DNA. She’s not whispering about that. Her words are geared towards following my studies. Her ragged whisper is about continuing to go where I should be. To continue to be the Pagan that I should be. To move forward. To continually progress in becoming the Priest (there’s that word again) I should be.

Certainly, I could spend plenty of time worrying over what Donnie and Mike may or may not do in their elected roles. But its not worrying I should be doing. Having me cowering in the corner, full of anxiety over what might be done is exactly what those two would want from me. After all, if I were afraid of them, I’m easier to control. Rather, I will continue with my daily life – and I will be watching. I will keep an eye on what they try to do, and intervene where I can or need to. But spending my time constantly worrying over that, takes me away from what I should be doing. It takes me away from the work that I am supposed to do. And that does no good for anyone, and lends power to who Donnie and Mike are.

Yes, I talk about it constantly…the storm is here. Yes, we need to band together as community so that we can make our way through these times. We also need to do the things that we need to. For me, that means communicating more often with the Gods and Goddess that have laid Their claim. It means spending more time with my Dream Crows, listening to their messages and their lessons. It means getting outside, and listening to the Wind, feeling the Earth beneath my feet, the cold Morning Dew on my feet, and the hearing the crackle of the Fire. It means carrying on with the things that need to be done. And always keeping an ear to the ground and an eye to my surroundings for when I am asked to intervene.

In the Air Force, we kept bomber crews in a certain location – away from the rest of the base. Typically, they were kept in a facility that was akin to a dormitory, called the “Alert Facility”. They were available for their aircraft at a moment’s notice. In essence, they could get to their bombers and get these planes off the ground before a nuclear strike occurred. That is fine for a military unit, but we are not a military unit. We need to have our weapons nearby. We need to be ready to use those when necessary. But we need to also do other things that are necessary for us, the Gods, and our communities. We need to continue to live.