After driving for four solid days on America’s interstate system (and some of its back roads), I found that spending time in the cab of a pickup truck by myself allowed for a lot of time for thinking. And with no one to bounce ideas or concepts off of…I eventually had conversations with myself in my own mind. Most of those conversations came about because of unique moments. Such as the moment when I realized I was driving into the mountains (more like very tall hills, but who is really counting?) near Mammoth Cave National Park, and my revolving music playlist started up with “The Hills They Are Hollow” by Damh the Bard. I had to pull over into the next rest area, sit outside on a picnic bench and marvel at the world around me.
The mountains have a huge appeal factor for me. Just being in the mountains makes me feel at home, and a lot calmer than I am out here on the plains, where I live. During this part of my trip, I was driving in a narrow construction zone with eighteen wheelers and other traffic zooming around me (I was driving the posted speed limit). I know I should have felt nervous, but instead I felt calm and assured. In a similar construction zone on the east side of Memphis, Tennessee (the previous day), I was extremely nervous and agitated with the same type of traffic around me. I know I am in kinship with the Spirits of Place in mountainous areas.
That kinship with Spirits of Place is something I have started to explore in more depth. Each time I go into a mountainous area, I spend time just being outside – hiking, sitting, walking, standing – just being. Opening myself to the moment and the feeling. There is really no way to describe the feeling I have – other than being calm, and clear-headed. Anything that is happening elsewhere in my Life is on hold during that time. I am right there, focused on that moment – drinking in all the sensations and experiences I can.
Quite a while back, I had mentioned somewhere about a conversation I had with a fellow coworker. His questions were concerning where I get my moral authority from. My response was that I certainly don’t get it from a book. At one time in my life, I had my feet firmly planted in the Christian faith. But during that entire time, I never felt comfortable with the mandates and rules that came from its pages. Particularly when I was told that the Pastor or Preacher or Priest needed to “interpret” what was written there. I was even more uncomfortable, when I realized that the Bible was considered to be “divine inspiration” even though it was translated into the English from the Latin and was translated into the Latin from the Greek. And when I started to realize that passages in the Bible could be countermanded with other passages from the same Bible – I began to not trust what I was told to believe in blindly.
I understand my own moral code. I should not kill others out of spite or simply because they are different. I should not shun others who are different either. I trust people when they give me reasons to trust them. I should stop people from harming others. I should strive towards finding peaceful solutions to issues as a primary means. I didn’t need a book to teach me this. I only had to place myself in the shoes of the other person and think of how I would want to be treated. Call that the Golden Rule or whatever you want to…I just know that is where my compass is.
I follow the Old Gods. That does not mean that I think everyone MUST follow the Old Gods. Nor does it mean that I have a grip on how others should follow the Old Gods. Nor does it mean that I understand the relationship between others and the Gods and Goddess I am drawn towards. My relationship with Them is as unique as it is between any of Them and others. I am not the Gatekeeper to Polytheism…and if there ever was such a position – I wouldn’t want it in the first place.
But all of that, coupled with being out in Nature – particularly mountains – is what makes me feel alive. Every single moment of every single day. On the worst days I have experienced to the most incredible experiences that I cannot even begin to describe. And driving through the mountains in Tennessee and Kentucky made me feel that exhilaration. I felt “at home”. I felt “calm”. I felt positively alive. I wanted to stop the truck on the side of the interstate and climb up into the woods around me. I wanted to feel the leaves of the trees in my hands, and the warmth of the sun-soaked soil between my toes. I wanted that moment of ecstasy. I settled for sitting on a picnic bench in a rest area along the interstate. And it was enough.
And during all that time, I could feel the soft warmth of Fliodhas’ hand on one shoulder, Crow’s claws digging in slightly on the other, and the warm fur coat of Coyote in my hand at my side. And I could hear the words in my mind: “There’s deep, old magick in these mountains. You should explore more.” And I certainly shall….