Politics have never meant that much to me. When I was younger, political causes were simply something that the “adults” did…arguing over which person made more sense than the other. For me, it was never about the person, but about the issues. And growing up, there were two issues that were near and dear to my heart: the environment, and halting the possibility of nuclear war.
My love for the environment came from growing up in Europe. My family would go on 10 kilometer walks nearly every weekend. Volksmarches or “People marches” is a form of fitness walking, where people walk 5km, 10km, 20km, and even 30km over a predetermined route. It was a manner of fitness that I still use to this day. Walking through my neighborhood is a form of meditation for me, and I am firmly convinced that it came directly from this. The setting was typically through a forested area of Germany or through a series of fields near a small town. It was the beauty of these areas that I enjoyed.
My other issue came from a completely different place – through the music that I listened to. Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, and a whole host of other bands would perform songs against Nuclear War scenarios. Being the son of an active duty United States Air Force member, this typically put me at odds with my father. Not because he wanted nuclear war, but because these bands were protesting against the military forces that maintained these weapons. I still remember my father coming up to my room one evening. I was nineteen and struggling to get through college. It was fairly obvious that my career path was going to lay outside of college – and ironically, it seemed that the US military would be providing that route towards a career in computing technology. In my typical rebellious youth mannerism, I was dragging my feet on getting enlisted in the Air Force, and apparently my father had suffered enough of my waffling. With a few cans of liquid courage under his belt (beer), and the next one in hand, he came up to my room to talk to me. I had several album sleeves scattered throughout the room, and in his insistence that I go down to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) the next morning, he picked one up and told me that I needed to remove this “fantasy garbage” from my life.
That started a nearly ten year period in my life where I pushed my father and my mother as far from my life as I could get them. That one moment strained my relationship with my parents until a few years ago – when I started to make my peace with them. And I am glad that I did, for just as I had started to piece that relationship back into something more resembling a parent/child relationship – both of them slipped beyond the veil. My mother’s health was the catalyst in that. I watched her slip from normal health into a world of dementia and pain for three solid years. I watched my father reduced to the role of caretaker in her life – her health placed ahead of his own. I did the best I could to help, but was typically rebuffed by my father who handled every necessary aspect until my mother passed on in her sleep one night. After that, I stayed in closer contact with my father – always calling to see if there was anything he needed assistance with. Sometimes, he accepted the offers – more often than not, he gently rebuffed my offers. This year, during the Gulf Coast Gathering, I received a call from my sister telling me that my father had died of a heart attack.
There are times that I think of my father and mother and how they helped to shape certain aspects of my life – and how some of their actions cause me to take other roads – other avenues. And after a time, I will eventually come to this one moment in my life. My father standing over me while I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, notebook open, my pen in hand — and telling me that I needed to discard fantasy from my life. And that next heartbeat, where I froze my entire soul from him – encasing it in an icy protective mold. I couldn’t give up having Fantasy in my life. And besides that, protection of the environment, and stopping the threat of nuclear war were VERY REAL issues for me. I would not allow even my father to shake those core issues from my life. And when I joined the United States Air Force, I would not even let the military shake those core issues from my being.
And Fantasy. Fantasy kept me alive. It kept me with hope in my heart. Without it, I would not know the saga of Frodo and Samwise in their quest to destroy the Ring of Power and bring peace to Middle Earth. I would have never know the courage and heart of Bilbo Baggins. I would never have known the conflicted world of Vanyel, and how hard he struggled with who he was, and what he would become. I would never know the struggles of Talia as she earned her Whites or the secrets that the Companions held. I would never know the struggle of Neo in rejecting the Path of the One, and choosing his own Path. I would never know the concepts and aspects of religious and spiritual beliefs that were tied up into these stories and characters, which opened new ways of seeing the world around me. Understanding connections and connectivity I had never imagined was there – and likely never would have explored. If I had given up on Fantasy, I would have most likely never have explored those avenues and become the person that I am today.
It is Samhain, a time we remember those who have departed from this world, those who have crossed beyond the veil. I still struggle with the passing of my mother, and my father. Every day, is a new step into a world without them. And they have been there with me, since the very first steps that I can remember. In my memories, they are what stands in the background of nearly every moment of my youth. And while I love them very dearly, it was my struggle to find myself – apart from them that makes me who I am. Yes, I am Edsel and Barbara’s son — but more importantly, I am me. And despite my father’s angry statement that Fantasy was something I needed to expunge from my life, its a part of what has brought me to where I am now. Without it, I would have never stepped into the concepts of Zen as I have. Without it, I would never have investigated very deeply into the concepts and ideas of Paganism, and found the stronger connection of Environmentalism that connotes as my core between the physical and spiritual parts of me. And without that, I would never have stumbled onto the Path of Druidry, where my footsteps are so much more firmly grounded.
Fantasy and heavy metal music are a part of what led me along the Path I have been on, but in the end – I’m the one who walked the footsteps. I’m the one who reached out in curiosity to experience. They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will open the door — but the student still has to walk through it.