Howling Into the Wind: Labels

Basic. Intermediate. Expert. Beginner. Level One. Baby Pagans. I have heard and read all these terms applied to magick and to practitioners of various Paths. I dislike every single one of them. Seriously.

I do understand their use though. Particularly in structured teaching environments. After all, at one point in my life, I was a collegiate professor. The concept is quite simple. It’s a concept of progression, pure and simple. Within the collegiate setting, the learning structure is setup to provide concepts that are mastered at each class level, and then built upon in the next. To use some of the vernacular that I am trying to discuss, think of it this way. You take a Wicca 101 class to understand the basics of what Wicca is, the simplest aspects of the ritual aspects, some divination techniques (maybe) and perhaps even some spell work. Once you finish with that, proving that you absorbed the information provided, you take the next steps towards more “advanced” techniques and concepts.

The same aspect holds true in…say, computer programming. You learn the basic syntactical rules of whatever language you are learning, along with how simple concepts such as loops, logical flow, and input/output. The next class builds on those concepts, while introducing more complex structures such as modular program flow or object programming. At the end of the progression of courses, if you pass, you will have gathered enough information that you can extrapolate on what you have learned to create your own techniques within the programming language. At least in theory.

Not a difficult concept to understand, eh? So why do I have a beef with all of that? I come from a collegiate background, certainly I can understand why such a systematic approach works well. Well, I do understand the approach. I will even admit that it works for me, to some degree. But I take slight umbrage at the terminology.

Underneath the veneer of these terms, an undercurrent of arrogance can occur. I am better than you because I am taking this ‘Intermediate” class within this Occult School of thought. Or to even utilize some of my own Order’s own perspective – I am better than these people in the Bardic grade because I have progressed to my Druid grade. The idea that one is better than others, simply because one has managed to progress to a certain level – well, that stuff tends to grate on my personal nerves.

Right now, I am in my Ovate grade within OBOD’s system. I have managed to get through my Bardic grade. That does not make me better than any single member of the Bardic grade. All it means, in my eyes, is that I have managed to accumulate the knowledge that I needed to within the Bardic grade. I am no better or less than any member at any level within the Order. To think otherwise, would be creating a classist state for the Order. In other words, I would be expecting to be treated as being better than those in the Bardic grade, simply because I was an Ovate. I certainly would expect to be treated differently as an Ovate than a Bard, simply because I am part of the Ovate grade. There are different expectations of members of each of the grades within OBOD, but no group is any better than the others.

So, I have a personal distaste of the perspective of classism when it comes to what one is or is not capable of within magick and Paganism, based solely on what they have learned or experienced. Sure, the concept of progression in what can be done makes sense. However, labeling it as “Basic”, “Intermediate”, and “Expert” can and does lend itself to an aspect of classism, which then lends itself to simple arrogance.

So, what do I propose that would be better? Or different? Honestly, I am not proposing that anything would be better. That is not a paradigm that I want to operate within. I am not trying to say that one technique is better than any other. What works for one individual does not work for another. For those that follow Major League Baseball, you will understand this example. Batting is a simple technique of getting your hands positioned correctly to be able to connect with a pitched ball. Every hitter develops a timing technique and a batting stance that allows them to (a) see the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, and (b) shrinks the strike zone to make it harder for the pitcher to throw a strike to them. Not every hitter adopts a stance that has them hunched over the plate, like Pete Rose did. However, whatever stance they adopt, is the one that they are comfortable with.

I see much of this in the same light. For some folks, this classist concept of learning magick works for them. They understand the progression. They are used to the procession of material from their mundane lives (typically within the Education system). It works for them, and that is a good thing. My preference is different. I work with material as I need to. I learn what I need to work with. Sometimes, it can be clumsy, but that awkward approach also helps me to learn.

If I am being completely open and honest, it is not the methodology and the approach that turns me off. Solely, it is the vernacular that creates my disdain. For me, the terminology is what creates a classist perspective, particularly when it has the denotation of one being better or more superior to another, simply because of what knowledge has been accumulated. But to be even more frank, I am not sure what verbiage could be utilized and applied that would not leave similar classist stains behind.

Yeah, perhaps I am howling into the wind, hoping for an echo from the canyon that is up-wind. This is not something I can find a solution for – even within my own personal thinking. Aside from remaining on guard for a potential under-current of classism or arrogance carrying me along, all I can do is hope that others do not succumb to those waters. After all, I can only control what I do, what I think, and what I feel. To do otherwise, in my eyes, would be unethical, as well as inappropriate.

–T /|\

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Everything Will be Fine…Eventually

Every day brings change. Each time the sun rises over the horizon, I am reminded that the day that is coming into focus will be different than any of those that came before. Sometimes, those changes will send Life in a different direction. Sometimes, those new directions will have you looking around at those still with you on the journey and seeing new faces. Sometimes, many of the faces you thought would be there forever are no longer there. You adjust and move on.

A short while back, I wrote about how my Druidry was not providing me with the focus that I needed. Not because it wasn’t working for what I needed. Rather, my Druidry was based on some silly notions of what Druidry was from an overly romantic and idealized perspective. Many folks read this and thought that I was abandoning Druidry. That was not the case. I’m taking the time to inventory what I need from Druidry and discarding the pieces that I don’t really need. In short, I am stripping my Druidry down to its nuts and bolts, so that I can build it back in a manner that works for me.

A few friends, particularly my more overtly Christian ones, felt that this was a moment to step in and hawk their brand of belief.

“Your Druidry and Paganism has failed you.”
“Your misplaced faith has put you into the position of mental depression you are encountering.”
“If you had a more rooted faith, you wouldn’t have the relationship problems that you have.”

Yes, I have had a lot of this hurled at me, particularly in the last few days. The reality is that my Druidry and my Paganism have not failed me. Neither are a cause of the mental depression that I am working through. Neither have a hand in the relationship issues that I have. To make another point, suggesting any of those three only suggests that attempt at bringing me to their faith has the trappings of a used car salesman than that of an individual trying to show how their faith works for them in their time of need.

I do; however, grok their perspective and, to a certain degree, understand their intentions. We don’t agree on religion, theology, spirituality, sports, politics, or how to hold a fork when eating. However, they are friends and only want to see me happy and smiling. So, I try my best to not be overly harsh when I emphatically put my foot down and say “no”.

Yes, I am currently going through rough times in my life. As I have said many, many times before – I have good days, I have bad days. Most of my days fall somewhere between those aspects of the spectrum. I do not really pay much attention to how I may seem to others, but I probably don’t laugh or smile nearly as much as I usually do. I probably seem to be more serious than I usually have been. I am likely a thousand times quieter than my Puckish self is usually. That is how it seems I am internally. That probably shows quite a bit externally too. Since that is not my normal mood as described by others, I am sure it shows more often now than before. Everything will eventually be fine. Just not right now.

My Druidry, my Paganism, my beliefs did not bring me to this spot. None of that caused the way that I feel. In the end, these will be some of the anchors that will bring me back to where I used to be. There is no failure in any of that which brought me to where I am now. My emotional scars that I tend to come from elsewhere. Those scars will heal in time. Right now, they are fresh and extremely painful. My Druidry, my Paganism, my Spirituality will help me to heal over time. But first, I must feel my pain. My pain will allow me to learn. And to be honest, no one can learn this for me.

I still have the same hopes. I still have the same goals and desires for where I want my Druidry and my Paganism to take me. However, the overall scenery has changed a bit. I have talked about how my depression feels like an all-encompassing darkness, where I cannot make out the features of anything around me. This morning, as I write this, I am watching a fog crawl into the area of central Tejas that I am in. I am reminded that the darkness I find myself in is much the same as the fog. It slowly crawled into my life. It will slowly clear as well. And in time, it may be back. Maybe less dense. Maybe more. I can’t really say.

So, for me, Life continues. I am not sure of the form it will take. But I know my Druidry will be with me through all of it. I know that my Paganism will continue to be with me. Not because I am a part of those elements – for I am. But because I am adding those elements to who I am. No offense to my Christian friends, but I have no need or use for your beliefs in these dark times in my life. I appreciate your desire to see me happy, but your beliefs are not going to do that. That is solely my job. My Druidry, my Paganism, my Spirituality – these all provide me with the connections that I understand and can use as I move forward. Without these, I would be completely rudderless in my own sea of despair. And I have no desire to float aimlessly through my Life. I have my purpose in my mind. I have my own goals that I have set.

Everything will eventually be fine. Right now, I have my own emotions to work through. I have my own mechanisms to explore, expand and repair. But everything will eventually be fine.

–T /|\

Too many hands on my time
Too many feelings
Too many things on my mind
When I leave, I don’t know
What I’m hoping to find
When I leave, I don’t know
What I’m leaving behind

 Neil Elwood Peart / Gary Lee Weinrib / Alex Zivojinovich
Photo by Inzmam Khan on

My Darkness

Every day brings a new challenge. Every day brings a new perspective to see the world from. All of that can be marked down as being true. Except it is hard to see when all you encounter is darkness. Not that night-time darkness that your eyes eventually adjust to. Rather, that jet black darkness where you cannot even make out your hand when it is two inches away from your face. You have nothing to reach out towards that you can see. Any obstacle is completely unseen, and presents not only a tripping hazard, but has the capability to severely injure you if it has any pointed aspects or extremely sharp edges to cut you with. Welcome to my form of depression, in words.

Most of my understanding of the world around me comes from observing the perspective of other objects in relation to me. Door handles. The edges of tables. The hands of friends that I can reach out for to steady my balance. The steering wheel in my truck. My staff, if I am carrying it with me. All of these are things that I can reach out for to steady myself, to provide balance, to allow me a moment to regain balance. In that inky, black darkness, I have none of those things. This throws me off balance, and kicks in my fear that I may hurt myself in just trying to move. Thus, beginning my own internal paralysis.

There is a lot more to this scenario that describes my depression, much of which I won’t go into detail here. However, I do know the shape that my darkness takes in my everyday Life. Chaos. I am an ordered person. As an Information technology troubleshooter, my professional career is defined by an ordered flow of “if this, then this” which helps me identify where issues are located at, as well as determining how things get fixed. My personal life follows a similar Path.

When I take trips, I make lists of what is needed to be packed, the order that things go into the truck, and what I need to do to get myself into the truck and on the road. I know, it sounds boring and rote – and it is – but it is necessary for me, so that I don’t leave something behind. Yet, I always manage to do so. 😊

Over the last four months, my life has been turned inside-out, upside-down, and shaken hard to make all the loose change fall out of my pockets. When that was done, Life tossed me to the side, where I tumbled end over end. When I finally came to a stop, I was disoriented. I had no idea which way was up. I had no markers available to me to help re-orient my posture. The entire world also seemed to be spinning and tumbling out of control as well, which made things even more difficult. To put it into a single thought – I was lost.

During these four months, my Gods stepped back from me. That added another void where I had expected some aspect of stability and an ability to re-orient myself. I had none. That made things even deeper and darker for me. I began to realize what someone who had lost all their senses would feel like. What a scary world without sensation could feel like.

Due to a lot of personal issues, I was driving constantly through the backroads of Texas. Rarely did I stop between destinations because of COVID, and even then it was just to stand at a gas pump and fill my truck’s tank. A few weeks ago, I was driving back after a snowfall, which is rare for central Texas. Looking through the windshield, I could see the white-covered landscape.

There were very few vehicles on the road with me, so I stopped when I saw a little picnic area at the side of the road. I turned off my truck and got out to walk around. Just like the snowfalls that I remembered from winter walks near Vogelweh Housing near Kaiserslautern, Germany, the air was quiet. Like the whole world had drawn in its collective breath, and was quietly breathing slow, small breaths – not wanting to disturb the peace. I brushed off the seating at a wooden picnic table and just sat, taking in the scene.

That moment of serenity was a salve that I needed. My world got quiet. The wild whirlwind of chaos stopped within me, and that darkness parted enough for me to see strands of light. Once again, I heard Crow in my mind. “You need to be your own rock of solitude. You need to find your own peace. Through all of that, We are here. To reach out, you need to go back to your basics. Reconnect with yourself.”

For me, approximately 120 days ago, my life had radically changed. Everything felt like a whirlwind. Now the whirlwind has ended. What’s left of me is scraped completely bare, like a tornado had come through. Now, I can feel the quiet and calm after the storm has passed. Much like my Druidry is being rebuilt, I am now left to rebuild me as well. Slowly. Quietly. Without the chaos.

The darkness is still there though. It will always be there. It is not something I can remove completely. That’s because it is a part of me. That darkness is me. As I rebuild, I also must find a balance that works with it. That will take time, discussion, and patience.

I am not without tools or help. I am seeing a counselor, who has been of immeasurable assistance in understanding certain aspects that I have encountered. I also have Cat Treadwell‘s excellent book Facing the Darkness on my iPad as well. Where my counselor has trouble equating some of my Pagan perspectives to what I go through, Cat’s book bridges the gap in a most excellent and proficient manner. I am sure that I will find other tools to add to my rebuilding efforts. However, none of those can do what my friends do for me – provide balance, support, and unconditional love. Without that…without them, I would truly be lost forever.

–T /|\

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That’s Too Many Battles….

Well, we have all seen the pictures and the images of the so-called QAnon Shaman. The entire outfit looks outrageous on the news. Many non-Pagans have likely been chuckling through it all. “Look at the weird guy in the weird outfit.” “What a typical, goofy Trump follower.” However, a lot of Pagan folk have been fairly upset by the image, and most particularly by the stylized descriptive of a “shaman”. I have read in quite a few places where folks are saying that this guy is a good example why gate-keeping in Paganism should be necessary. That this guy is an example of someone who needs to be told that he isn’t doing “Pagan” incorrectly.

I’m still of a different mindset. I believe that Paganism needs no gate-keeping. Certain traditions and mystery schools certainly do – and should. To be a part of that, you promise to adhere to the aspects of what that Tradition or mystery school is about. But general, everyday Paganism? No. At least in my mind. Others will disagree.

For me, I don’t have enough time to walk around policing Pagans over what I think they should or should not be doing. I have my own Spirituality to tackle. I have my own relationships with my Gods to work on. Add to that, I have other aspects of my life that are turned around, upside-down and inside-out. I have plenty enough on my hands to deal with. I certainly do not need to be in the middle of how others approach their Spirituality, no matter how superficial I may find it to be.

As you can tell, I am not a fan of gate-keeping within the general Pagan community. My personal perspective is that if I am busy trying to right myself after my own stumbles, I certainly do not have the room to critique others on the way they walk on their own Paths. To be honest, when I do encounter gate-keeping, I tend not to have a fond look upon it either.

Ok, so this so-called QAnon Shaman was wearing an outfit that didn’t just border on cultural appropriation – it scratched out the line and traveled right across it. Sure, call that type of shit out for what it is. But let’s also remember, people can – and do – cross the line into cultural appropriation without even realizing that they are doing so. Slamming them like an NFL linebacker eats a running back for lunch might not only be a little harsh, but it can also drive someone away from a Path that they are just exploring at this moment.

Now, I am not excusing this QAnon Shaman for his outfit or even for his actions. Nor am I slamming the folks calling for gate-keeping for their views. I’m only trying to point out that when encountering such an individual for the first time, it might be best to approach them lightly. To point out that…hey, that outfit disrespects several First Nations peoples, their traditions, and their Spiritual Paths. Or…hey, this might not be the best approach towards Paganism, if that’s where you are trying to go with this. Can we talk?

So, is this QAnon Shaman guy a Pagan? I don’t know. I certainly don’t care. Am I disgusted by his outfit and his actions? Certainly. I don’t really have any super-nice things to say. But to be honest, beyond that…I can’t really say much. I already have my hands full. As the saying says – choose your battles. I already have enough battles in my life. I know when I need to put some more of them back. As for others, who feel they need to be gate-keepers for Paganism…well, I don’t agree. But my hands are still full. This is also a battle I have to put back as well.

I do not write this blog to tell you how you should be doing your Paganism, or your Druidry. I write this blog to talk about how I do it. Not so you will do the same things that I do. Rather, in the hopes that you find inspiration from what I do to find your own way of doing things. For you to discover new aspects of connectivity to the world around you. I am certainly not here to make the rules for anyone to approach their own Paganism or their own Druidry. In my mind, that would be dishonest with my own approach.

–T /|\

Picture by John Beckett, who takes amazing photos

Blog Stew

It is Friday, and yes I am aware that I am a day late getting this out. No, I am not changing the blog schedule. Posts will still happen on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and once on the weekend…or as close as I can stay to that schedule. Life will still, sometimes, get in the way.

So, this morning, I am drinking my cup of coffee, and trying to figure out what to write. I am still working my way through my Gwers lessons. I am still putting my Druidry back together into something that fits better to me. At this moment, nothing is different from what I have explained to this point. So, there’s nothing new to add or share here. With Druidry being a mystery school, there are some things that I just cannot, should not, and would not share. Sharing certain aspects would remove the individual experiences for others…and I would not want to rob anyone of that.

For me, that leaves a handful of smaller topics that I just cannot write full essays on, and many of which are not truly Pagan in nature. So, I guess I can write some of these into some form of a blog stew – so to speak.

These last days of President Trump’s four years in the White House have become some of the zaniest stuff I have ever seen. I don’t talk much about politics for a single, simple reason: my opinion is my own, and should hold sway over no one but myself. But the last ten-plus days have just been incredible stuff. I never, not even in my most incredible nightmares, believed I would see a mob swarm the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Nor would I have ever believed that those people would be trying to stop the electoral process, or even attempt to hold members of Congress hostage (this has been alleged in the news through several sources). Yet, here we are – a little more than a week since that moment. There is nothing that I can say that will change the minds of people who cheered on what happened. For me, it was a repugnant moment in our collective American history. Those who defaced, destroyed, and defiled property should be held accountable to the highest extent of the law. Many of them were heard on video telling Capitol Police Officers that the Capitol building was “their property”. I agree with them. But it is also my property as well. Like them, I pay taxes. My taxes help to manage the upkeep of the property, pay the salaries of those that are there, and serves as a symbol of my government. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to destroy windows, doors, and artwork there. None of that gives me, or anyone else, the right to assault Police Officers or to make violent threats against the politicians that are there to conduct business on behalf of every citizen of this country. I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions that get made there, but becoming a violent hooligan is just flat out wrong. So enough on that from me…

I don’t watch much American football. The fact is that I find the sport to be boring. However, my family’s roots are from the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky corner of the United States. My love of my ragged Major League Baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, comes directly from that. So, when I saw that the Cleveland Browns had made the playoffs and would be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round…well, I had to watch. In the three some odd hours of the game, I kept looking up from the crossword puzzles I was working on. It was nice to see the Browns win. This coming weekend, they play the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that tends to be stated as “the best” football team in this current season. So, apparently the Browns don’t stand a chance. That was also said about the Browns/Steelers game – that the Browns had no chance. There’s always a chance. Right?

I have written about my struggles with my own mental health issues. Primarily, the focus has been on my decision-making processes. However, another area that I have been working with my therapist on is my self-image. This is rather hard to type. I have a lot of problems seeing myself as someone worthy of anything. I run from success. If you read enough of the blog, you will find areas where I self-denigrate and utilize self-deprecating humor. But in all of that, I did not realize that I had an unbalanced sense of myself between my work-self and my personal-self. Much of my sense of worth comes from the work that I have done for a living. This unbalanced aspect of me is not the easiest thing to realize, much less try to re-balance within myself. I write about stuff like this, in the hopes that someone else reads this and realizes that my issues are like theirs. So that they know that what they are feeling is not something unique to them, and that it can be worked on. People talk about the aspect of self-love, which is important. However, one of the first steps – in my opinion – is to determine where and how self-loathing is appearing in your life. Identification, again my opinion, is necessary to figure out what to do. That’s where I am. Yes, I will blog a bit more about it going into the future.

Last, let me finish this up with some fun stuff. Reading. I have been asked what I plan to read going into this year. My answer? I have no idea. In the past, I have set down a list of books that I was going to try and read through the year. All that really did was ramp up my anxiety, and made reading feel more like a chore, rather than a fun and informative experience. This year…I have no idea what I am going to read, much less how many books I plan to read. However, I will write mini reviews over on GoodReads on what I work my way through. I am not the world’s fastest reader either. So, don’t expect a ton of stuff to start pouring out of me there. The way I look at this now, if I read one book this year – I accomplished something.🙂 Reading should be fun, not some chore I need to tackle.

So that’s it. Nothing much more than that. I could talk about the Major League Baseball off-season, but that could be three or four posts in length, and this is not s sports blog. Posts like this…few and far between.🙂

One last thought….this came via my Facebook Memories from 2012 on this day (15Jan). ” The faery-dust of magick comes from your own belief that the impossible is possible.” In my mind, it certainly is.

–T /|\

Photo by Timur Saglambilek on

Nothing More. Nothing Less.

Well, I finally did a restart on my Ovate grade studies. Back in late March or early April, I had essentially brought myself to a stop with my studies. Not because I really wanted to, though it could easily be surmised that it was in the back of my mind. Rather, it, and a lot of other things that I had been doing, were brought to a stop because of all the issues with COVID-19. From that point, all the way through December, I lamented the loss of some of the more social aspects of my Druidry. Sure, there were online gatherings, Zoom calls that could be made, and a lot of solo work that I could do; however, much of my Druidry is based on being social. Sort of a weird perspective for a solo Druid to have, huh? At the end of December, I made the decision to take a step back and restart.

Restarting my studies is nothing new for me. I think I did this at least five times during my Bardic grade studies. Some of that was beneficial for me, it allowed me to provide a better perspective on what I was doing. Some of it was detrimental to my studies, as I started to feel bored with rehashing the same material once again. So, when I started my Ovate studies, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t do a restart. If I got stuck, I might back up a Gwers or two, but I would not restart from the beginning. That was before I started pulling my approach to Druidry apart and refastening things again. This time; however, I decided to take a more methodical approach to my restart – a process I had never done with all the restarts in my Bardic grade.

In all my Bardic grade restarts, I would get stuck at various points in my studies. To try and remedy this, I would take a backward step of a few Gwers and go through where I had been in the hopes that it would restart my thinking process. Hopefully, this would allow me to move past my block. Sometimes that worked. Other times, it made my block even worse. When things would be worse, I would start all the way back at the beginning. When you do multiple restarts in that fashion, constantly going over the same ground you have already covered more than once….yeah, it gets monotonous very easily. Plus, that monotony can easily grow into frustration, and that frustration can be fed back on to yourself – starting a rather vicious cycle of self-doubt.

This time around, the restart comes as a result of me looking into my own approach to Druidry, removing things that were silly romantic notions, and then putting everything back together. One piece at a time. Now that I have a clearer focus of my approach to Druidry, a restart of the grade’s lessons seemed appropriate as well. I am not ditching the observations that I have made along the way. Rather, I am augmenting those observations with what I know now. Some of it will have changed. Some of it may not have. What has changed will be noted. What hasn’t will also be noted with how I found my original notation to continue to be true.

Now with that said, let me explain how difficult this can become. Starting over means coming back to the beginning and walking in the same footsteps that you did before. On the one hand, you take the exact same steps, finding nothing new, and continually berating yourself for kicking off such an exercise in futility. That can result in a bit of negativity towards yourself and short-circuiting a solid, fresh, positive approach to what you were trying to do in the first place. Or, you find that you don’t quite “get” what those first steps were, finding a completely different approach to what you had already done, which makes you begin to doubt everything that you have done – essentially eroding your self-confidence. This second point is the little down-the-drain cycle that I found myself in with all my restarts in the Bardic grade. In the end, I trashed all my previous notes, restarted my Bardic grade from scratch, and pushed my way through all the blocks. It wound up being the best approach that I had, and my persistence in making things go wound up being what I really needed. In my case, every restart – including the one that worked – could be recanted as me over-thinking things.

My restart with the Ovate grade has been one of necessity, especially since I had spent time rebuilding the basis of what my Druidry is to me. That rebuild has forced me to see things from a much different perspective, and that very different approach really mandated a restart. And that brings me to where I am now.

To be open and honest, I don’t believe that the process of working through the Gwers materials is really meant to follow the constant start and stop process that I have been going through. Yet, here I am. With my habitual over-thinking, every stop can be an invite to over-analyze the “why” of things. My challenge at this point is to bring that to an end. To not start analyzing why I came to a stop, and just find a way to get things going again. For me, that can sometimes be quite a formidable task. But I do the very best that I can. Sometimes I will manage to get things going again, sometimes I won’t. The key, for me, is not to beat myself up over the feeling of a “lack of progress,” while also trying not to compare my progress to others. My studies are my own, at my own pace. For me, these are the ghosts that I spend most of my time fighting while moving through the Gwers.

In the end, that’s the truest key. Moving at the pace that is most comfortable for you, while not comparing yourself to others. These studies are the same for every individual, but what you squeeze out of these studies is very much your own. I know it can be tough to see it from a position of individualization, but it certainly is. The kind of Druid that you become through these studies is completely up to you. For me, that’s the primary key to everything – you will become the kind of Druid that you need to become. Nothing more. Nothing less.

–T /|\

Photo by Steven Hylands on

What Do I Hope to Get From This?

Through the process of reworking aspects of my Druidry to fit me, and not the other way around, I have hit one particular point that has become more and more important to me through each passing day. Boundaries. Not just creating my boundaries, but enforcing them. Every day, I run into another moment where I did not realize that I was allowing my boundaries to be bent or violated to a point where I was actually uncomfortable. Some of that…not all of it though…came from romanticised notions that I had of what Druidry was to be for me. So, lately, much of what I have been doing is a two-fold process of rebuilding my notion of what modern Druidry looks like for me, and how that interacts and informs my boundaries that I set in place for myself.

Since I started talking about this process of reworking my way through my own Druidry, I have had a few inquiries into what that process looks like. Well, reworking my way through my druidry had to start with one primary point – what am I looking to get out of the studies I am undertaking in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). After that, I needed to take a stronger look at what kind of Druid I was wanting to be. Lastly, I will need to take a look at what may or may not lie on the road beyond here. All of that will help me to enforce what boundaries I hope to enforce within my life. As much as I want to say that I can divorce my Druidry from who I am, that’s just not a true statement. However, I am the one that provides the definition of what Druidry  means to me, and how that defines and shapes who I am.

What Am I Getting From This?
What Do I Hope to Get from This?

I decided to add two titles to this particular section, because it is a two-fold question. What am I getting out of these Druidry studies? And what do I hope to get out of these Druidry studies? These two questions form the goals of where I am headed. And honestly, once I finish the Ovate grade – and if I get accepted into the Druidry grade – I will have to ask these questions again. Because goals change over time. Goals change as you change.

So, what does working through these Druidry lessons provide for me? Well, I am handed a different way of looking at things. A different perspective of the world around me through the same window I have been looking through. I am also provided with some tools in approaching that environment, as well as tools for approaching my own self. Many of the lessons provide challenges for me to work through/with, so as to open my eyes to a different way of seeing things. Honestly, I can’t go into too many more specifics, not without ruining the experience for others. That’s part of what a mystery school is about – keeping the specifics to yourself, so as not to spoil the entire experience for others. Because we don’t experience the same thing the same way. As for my hopes of what I get from all of this – well, my own personal expectations comes from wanting to find another way to see things. Because sometimes, we need a new approach to help us to see and understand what is in front of us. Thus far, my Druidry studies have constantly and consistently brought a different approach to me with which I work with.

I think its important to add here that all of this is my singular approach to my studies. Others will have different needs of their studies and will have different aspects provided to them through the materials. I can honestly say that no two people will get the exact same experiences from any set of studies that they undertake. Whether those be Pagan or mundane in nature.

What Kind of Druid Am I Looking to Be?

This particular question is part of why I stopped and started dismantling what I have already learned. My idea of Druidry and what I was seeking to be was a romanticised notion of what Druidry is. I wanted to be the Druid that stepped in to solve disputes, that Druid that had answers for others. Truth be told, that’s the romantic, druid, peace-maker, bullshit that really doesn’t do anything for me, except to place me in a spot where I should never be. In fact, that romanticised aspect of Druidry only helps feed into a mindset where my boundaries are constantly and continually violated in the name of the needs of others.

I’m not sure I have this little adage correct. But a long time back on my Pagan studies, I was told that one cannot be of adequate help to others when one is in need of the same help. Or something like that. For me, at this point, the best kind of Druid that I can be is one who points you to the help that you need. While I am picking up the scattered (and sometimes broken) lego pieces of who I am, it is really difficult to be in a position to help others with finding ways to put things together in their own lives. My desire is to be a mentor to those first starting in their Pagan Paths, helping them sidestep some of the major potholes that are out there, and getting them to the mentors/teachers that they need. I am not the final stop for any learner (no teacher really is), but I remember quite well how confused and alone I felt on my Path in the very beginnings. The kind of Druid that I hope to be is more of gentle guide/mentor, helping others to find their own Paths that work for them. That doesn’t mean that anyone who comes to me for that kind of assistance would automatically be pointed to Druidry. Just because this is the path for me does not mean that I think it is the path for everyone. Hardly.

Now that’s where I hope to go with my Druidry. At the moment; however, I have the cart that is my Spiritual Path at the side of the road. I need to repair a few things before I continue.🙂

What Do I Hope to Have Happen Beyond This?

This is probably the trickiest question that I could ask myself right now. As I noted before: goals change as you change. However, where I am right now is where I will focus from. I hope to finish my Ovate grade and be allowed to continue into my Druid grade. I hope to finish that grade as well. After that, I am not sure. Maybe studies with another order – most likely not ADF. ADF’s focus is far more along the lines of ritual than I wish to go. However, I hope to maintain good and friendly relations with ADF members going into the future. They are just very different Druids than I am – and I am well aware of how different their direction is from my own. I hope to become a functioning Priest of some sort through my studies with OBOD or even within another Druidry order. However, that part of my Path is so far into the distance that I can hardly make out the footsteps that I may have to traverse at that point. That is an approach that I just cannot foresee at this moment. Beyond all of that, I have stronger ties that I need to make with Crow and Abnoba going into the future. My approach to Druidry is not going to blunt my relationship with my Gods, even when They have become quiet at this point along my Path.

Final Thoughts

Much of what I have explored here are personal perspectives and goals. Much of this is still evolving in my thought processes. None of this is really “final” in my mind nor will it ever be so until I pass from this plain of existence. And maybe, not even then. For that part of my Path, I have no idea what will take place. Sometime in the near future, I will need to stop, and take some time to reevaluate all of this. As I said, goals change as people change. I can say that much of this is not the goals of where I was, say, ten years ago. I am not the same Pagan I was ten years ago. I am not the same Druid I was ten years ago. I am not the same person I was ten years ago. My perspective was different then. My connections to the world around me were different then. Some of all that is still the same, but not much of it. We grow. We change. We evolve. We understand things differently over time. So, in the future (not so far away), sitting down and seeing how things have changed, how my goals have altered, how I have grown – all of that and more will need to be reevaluated. But for now, this moment, this is where I am.

–T /|\

Rebuilding My Druidry

Towards the end of the 2020 year, I wrote several posts that discussed how my Druidry needed to change in order to work better with where I am, and where I intend to take my Spirituality. To put it into a more appropriate context, this is a lot like trying to add upgrades to a car. Much like that process, the first steps are to tear things down completely, see what you have to work with, and then rebuild from the base up. For me, I have essentially just disassembled everything within my Spirituality, and am now working through what I have available to me.

In a previous post, I discussed how my Druidry placed me in a position of danger. This came from a perspective of seeing Druids as “peacemakers” and that Druidry was about trying to soothe over ruffled feathers from any direction. While there are likely folks within Druidry that will see both of those as correct perspectives for their Druidry, it’s not for my own. The first steps for me in this entire process is building my new boundaries of where I will allow my Druidry to take me, and where those boundaries will limit who gets to cross through into what I do.

I have spent countless hours thinking about and slowly developing my personal boundaries. For those who think its an easy and seamless process – bully for you. For me, its not been an easy process, and is continually being shaped as I progress through what I am doing. My personal boundaries are in place for me, not for others. Coupled with my own identification of where my limits are at, it means that my Druidry will not allow me to be reckless or overly open with my own personal energies. This is a major change for me. I cannot just extend myself for any individual any longer. For me to be anything for anyone else – I have to be something for myself first. Think of it in terms of making sure that you have things covered for you before you try to cover the same things for others. A good example of this is when flight attendants will tell you to insure that your oxygen mask is on before trying to help others get theirs on.

There is more to all of this, though. When rebuilding a car, all of the body parts are taken to a particle blast to remove paint and expose the bare metal. By doing this, flaws in the body work can be uncovered and repaired. Bad repairs will also be exposed, so that those can be dealt with as well. This is a process I am still working through. For instance, as I pointed out, my ideals behind what Druidry is – in respect to what I do in my own Spirituality – have now been challenged. And found lacking in some respects. Now, I am going through the process of repairing some of this additional shit that no longer applies. Well, not really repairing. More like removing. By doing so, I am rebuilding the body of what my Spirituality is by finding the definitions that really speak to my Spirituality, uncovering the concepts that have primary meaning to who I am – and finding how these apply to who I am.

So, what kind of Druid am I? Well, I’m still me. I don’t really like the idea of pushing the definitive aspects of myself into a single descriptive hole. I’m just me. The kind of Druid that I am? Again, I’m me. Currently, I am studying under the system provided by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). But when I am done – wherever the end of that road winds up being – I am still just me. What I learn through OBOD is good material. Will I use all of what I learn? Probably not. But I will adapt what I learn that is useful for me. Will I learn from other systems? Possibly. Will I learn from other Paths? I already have. Some of what I have already learned is what makes me who I am today. Some of it, is just knowledge that I have squirreled off to the side. It’s not a part of my Spirituality, but its a part of a toolkit that I can pull out when I need to, and alter as I feel I need to. I am not bound to any particular methodology.

Not that long ago, Shadow had referred to me as being like the Mandolorian on the Disney+ tv series. I do what I have to do to get things finished. Sometimes, it’s not the most polite way to achieve the ends to that means. However, it’s the toolkit I had in hand at that moment. I’m not on my Spiritual Path to make other people happy. But I have certainly walked my Path in that matter. I can’t do that any more. At least I can’t do that, and stay true to who I am, and where I am meant to walk. I have to change the ways that i have done things in the Past, so that I can continue forward. That goes for my Spirituality as well. I am finding that my Path is starting to dip to areas I had never considered before. A darker side of the forest, if you will. For me to walk here, I am going to have to be far more true to myself than I have been.

I still have a long way to go before I can start fine-tuning the motor, before I can paint the body, before I can work with the interior – but this is a start. Yes, I will continue talking about the steps that I take, here on the blog. Yes, I can guarantee you that there will be many people that will disagree with some of the things that I do and some of the changes I make. But I can promise you this – what I do will be true to what I need to do. Your mileage will definitely vary.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: 2021 and Questions to Ask

I am writing this post as the 2020 Year starts to wind down. The coming year holds a lot of promise and hope, but the reality is that we will not find either until we find that in ourselves. The removal of Donald Trump as President may solve a few things and relieve some of the pressure in various areas. COVID vaccines will hopefully help bring the virus under control and allow us some degree of normalcy in our lives, which we haven’t seen since March. But let’s consider both aspects as symptoms that allowed various things to come to fruition in our lives just a little faster. COVID removed some of the immediacy that we had in some relationships while forming new ones that we never saw coming. COVID also brought some realities of our lives to the forefront that we had never considered. In the end, some of that happened for the good of things, and in others created utter devastation that we could never have imagined. After all, life is short. We need to live with no regrets.

2021 is not going to be better just because Joe Biden is President. The only way it gets better is when we start to take stock of who and what we are. Me? I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. I’m me. And I have my own problems that I have to figure out, for myself. My world is different now. In complete darkness, I am trying my best to pick up the shattered pieces and rebuild something that resembles a fucking life. So, for me, 2021 is not about hope. It’s not about the promise of things getting better. 2021 will be about finding myself again. 2021 will be about being able to look in the mirror in the mornings and see some kind of day that I can move forward in. And I sincerely believe that we will be doing much the same thing as a collective society.

Who are we? What are we? What are we going to believe? As a collective society, we are going to have to take a few moments, catch our breath, and consider quite a few things about the world around us. Racism is not dead. ‘Us v. Them’ is still alive in every corner of our lives. Discriminating against others because of differences – whatever those differences are – is far more pervasive than we thought. You can see it right out your front door if you look deep enough. But finding it, pointing it out, getting others to see it – that’s the easy part. Thanks to the last four years, we’ve all seen it. The bigger question is ‘what now?’

I am really the wrong person to be asking where things are going or even how do we get there. I’m an idealist. I prefer to see the good in people. I expect people to defer to doing the ‘correct’ thing, the necessary thing. And typically I’m disappointed every single fucking time. It’s gotten to the point that I no longer hope for people to do the right thing. I expect the worst. And with my state of mind, I can expect some really, really bad shit. Stuff that I really don’t care to entertain in my thoughts whatsoever. Because I have seen the worst that human beings can do to each other. And it’s not pretty.

So all I can really do is answer the questions from my own perspective. Who am I? Well, that’s easy. I’m a Pagan. I believe that the natural state of the world is best when mankind stops fucking with it. I’m a Druid. Because I believe the concepts laid out in Druidry are some of the better starting points in how we can deal with one another on a daily basis. And I’m me. Because I believe that individuality is important, particularly in a modern, plastic world that emphasizes that everyone should be the same in their daily approach to Life. Being you is more important than anything else. Your uniqueness brings more beauty, life, and sanity to this world than anything else possibly could. That without you, the world loses a little of its vibrancy. What am I going to believe? Well, I am going to believe in you. That your presence; however small you may believe it to be, brings everything together. And that without you, the world loses a bit of its beauty. Yes, this even goes for me…digging my own way through the deeper recesses of who I am. I believe our differences make us stronger, and that does not dilute the so-called “purity” of what we are as humans. Our diversity is our strength because we can see so many different perspectives. Some even diametrically opposed. Those differences allow us to find unique, stronger solutions. But only when we listen. Right now, we have closed our ears to that perspective…for whatever reason.

2021, not 2020, offers us a chance to move in a different direction. But like a large ship on the ocean, it takes a while to make a new directional change. We’re not going to shift ninety-degrees immediately. It will take time. It will take effort. It will take conscious thinking on everyone’s part. And it will take forgiveness. Not just of those who voted for Donald Trump. That’s small stuff. We are going to need to forgive our collective selves. Forgive ourselves for allowing things to happen, and then get started on doing things right. No pointing of fingers. No assigning the blame. We can deal with that much, much later. We are hurting now. We need to bandage the wounds and start the healing process. We can figure out who is to blame much later on.

Again, we need to decide who and what we are. Are we a mob demanding immediate justice? Or are we people who seek to first find healing and help for those in need? For me, it’s obvious…I prefer healing and help first. Those in need should always be first and foremost. The next question…is how? That’s where the rubber meets the road.

–T /|\

End of Year Thoughts

Well, we’ve reached the point where the blog goes dark for a short while. There won’t be anymore posts for 2020. I will; however, be writing during the time that I am not posting. Yes, I will be doing what I have said that I don’t do – creating a small army of posts that I can draw from. I just won’t be posting what I write. The idea here is to give my brain a little bit of a rest, and make posting to the blog feel a little less like a chore. Ya know…to stimulate the creative juices, so to speak.

Let’s take a look back at 2020. Don’t grumble. 2020 definitely was a bad year. But even in a bad year, there are lots of lessons to be learned from what has happened. Both personal and on a wider public scale. Some of it hurts to talk about. Some of it…well, we really do need to talk about it.

Why don’t we come to terms with the facts
There’s a method behind all this madness
We must be blind not to realize
We’re all victims of chance now
Talking ’bout what everybody’s talking ’bout
I wanna talk about, we gotta talk about it

Dweezil Zappa, “Let’s Talk About It”

In Dweezil’s song, the lyrics state that we need to talk about it, so let’s talk about it.

Probably the largest issue that faced us all was COVID-19. No, not President Donald Trump’s antics and statements. I’ll come to that in a minute. However, COVID-19 was the most disruptive aspects of our lives from somewhere in March to today. In that time span, this virus has changed the way we deal with one another on a daily basis. Well, for most folks it has. There are those that continue to call the virus a hoax and refuse to follow the concepts of masking-up, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing. “Don’t want to be afraid of a virus.” Yeah, I can understand that, but only to a point. As I have stated over and over here on the blog – I have underlying health conditions that require me to be a bit more cautious. Contracting the virus could literally kill me. But from this particular issue of combating the virus and staying safe, comes two more points to consider for this post. First, the division that these safety procedures have created between those who follow the safety protocols, and those who deny that the virus is even real or as deadly as has been reported. Second, what happens if these deniers do not get the vaccine that is currently in the early deployment stage to the public?

I have been in three distinctly different areas of Texas over this time period of the virus’ existence. Denton (a small city located just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess), Hillsboro (a small, rural town located just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess), and the huge metromess of Houston. Thinking of the size of each population, I would have expected to find more people not following the COVID-19 safety protocols in Houston. However, the exact opposite has been the given here. With the sole exception of a single day that I happened to shop inside of a local WalMart. Everywhere else I have been, the large majority of people are masked and practicing social distancing. Its actually the smaller-sized community that was the opposite side of things. When I have been in Hillsboro, I have routinely seen people not wearing masks, gathered in small crowds, and not socially distancing at all. Denton, which is a fair-sized college-based town, seemed to have similar levels of not following the protocols that Hillsboro had. What conclusion can I infer from all of that? Well, its not scientific or based in numerical aspects. However, I would conclude that the more rural areas treated the virus far less seriously than the environments where more people happened to reside. The larger the community, the more serious the measures following COVID-19 safety protocols were taken. Not scientific or fact-based at all…merely my own observations.

The second largest issue, and the one that seemed to generate more opinion and perspective throughout social media was current President Donald Trump. Whatever the Donald did, it was scrutinized, criticised or praised from nearly every corner of the World Wide Web. His followers proclaimed him as a stealthy genius. His critics offered up a cartoonish image of an over-sized infant pitching a titanic tantrum. The reality of his four years as President are that he was ineffective on most subjects, and where he was not, he stumbled to get to the right footing. Here, at the end of a Presidential election cycle, the Donald is raging against the outcome, claiming he was cheated. Interestingly enough, this position of crying foul has been rather common in American politics for nearly two decades now. The difference is that no one has continued to cry foul over the recount processes. American politics used to be about accepting losses at the polls, vowing to win in the next election cycle, and moving on with life until then. However, our election cycle did uncover one extremely ugly truth. We are far more divided amongst ourselves as Americans than united. In my opinion, because we cannot accept the losses and move on as Americans, we have created the largest two-party rift ever in the history of this country. We can thank Donald Trump’s usurpation of the Republican party for that, as well as the Republicans for being led down that path by their collective noses. And to some degree, similar rifts have occurred in the political world around the United States as well. Folks, when political and ideological rifts like this occur…major wars are typically not far afield.

The next big issue, for me, has been the challenge of handling my own mental health issues. Yes, I have depression. That depression has fed into other aspects of my life, and has made things difficult – if not impossible for me. While I still scoffed at the idea that I had mental health issues, I have sought out help. I never felt like I was depressed….even though I had no personal experience with the feeling, and thus no perspective to work from. I have friends who have been diagnosed with depression. I have friends who battle their own demons daily. Many of them saw their own struggles occurring within me. They spoke up. They asked – even begged – for me to seek help. Again, not having anything to gauge my understanding of what depression was and how it felt – I still scoffed. But I knew all of these people were speaking out in concern, and love. It took convincing, but I have taken that first step – seeking help. If you have that “lost” feeling, but don’t consider yourself to be depressed because you don’t know what depression feels like – do what I did, and seek help. It might not be depression, but a different perspective can always help you find your way back.

The death of Eddie Van Halen was an extremely difficult moment for me. When I first found out about rock and roll, one of my cousins had played the first album for me. Jokingly, we would refer to Eddie and Alex as “lost members” of the Van Hook family. Eddie was an original guitar hero of mine. The sounds he could elicit from a guitar were just incredible stuff. I had never heard sounds like that before. A few years later, I would “discover” Randy Rhoads’ playing with Ozzy Osbourne’s first solo album, and Eddie was replaced at the top of the guitar player pile. It is fairly well documented that Eddie was an asshole to many people, particularly Michael Anthony – the original bass player for the band. Nonetheless, his talent and creativity with a guitar have always been incredible. The music industry lost a talented player in 2020.

My last, “gotta talk about it” moment of 2020 was the May 25th death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police department. So many protests were sparked throughout the country from this single incident. And even with COVID-19 running rampant, people still came out to protest. People wanted the officers, particularly Officer Derek Chauvin, to be brought to justice for such a brazen, disgusting, public display of police brutality. Many of my friends chose to take to the streets of their local municipalities to show their anger and disgust over what these officers had done. I absolutely agree with many folks who are asking for police reform, banning brutal tactics such as kneeling on the necks of individuals who are considered to be resisting arrest. Furthermore, I am a firm believer that many of the incidents that occur could be handled better by the officers by using deescalation tactics. Particularly in stops where the officer is Caucasian and the individual being stopped is a Person of Color. Police Officers are emblematic of their communities, and should provide proper levels of decorum to the individuals within their communities. I can assure you, if officers treated everyone like a valued person, rather than as something akin to an animal, I believe far less of these various stops would be violent in nature. Notice I said far less, not all. I am also not in favor of defunding the police departments. Rather, I am in favor de-militarizing the police departments. Just north of Hillsboro is the slightly larger town of Cleburne. Here, their police department has a military-style assault vehicle decked out in the police department’s normal vehicle colors. While I do not think that the city would have need for such a vehicle…I would certainly be interested in what the declaration was that made the purchase of this vehicle necessary. As for defunding, no thank you. Certainly, police budgets need to be heavily scrutinized and funding cut for unnecessary needs, such as these urban assault systems. But let’s remember that the police department needs to be funded so that officer can be paid for the services they should be providing to the community. And that appropriate training for them also needs to be funded, so we can have police departments that are truly in a position to serve and protect their local communities.

Now, you are probably noticing that much of this is fairly political in nature. That’s correct and intentional. This is a Pagan blog. I am a Druid. I try to stay between those lines as much as I can. I am; also, a member of the wider aspect of society. I watch. I observe. I listen. I form my own opinions on things. The Gods know damn good and well that many people are not going to agree with me on a lot of this stuff. I am not worried about that one bit. Because everyone has to make up their own minds and find their own footing around topics such as those above and so many others. This year, 2020, I made a promise to myself not to delve too deeply into politics….knowing that a Presidential cycle was underway. I also tried to stay outside of the Black Lives Matters issues, even though I do fully support them. Why? Because all of you reading this are adults. You can read. You can watch and listen to the news. You need to make up your own minds, and my opinion should carry very little or no weight in your personal process. You are intelligent, caring, loving, and understanding people – for the most part. I have always believed it is important for you to derive your own perspective through your own research. Yes, I understand that reading my blog – essentially my own personal opinion – is a type of research. but as I pointed out above…I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. And I try my best to drive between those lines the best that I can. But as this post is meant to showcase, I do have opinions and perspectives on stuff. Sometimes….I say something.

See you sometime on January 2nd or 3rd.

–T /|\

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Feeling Disconnected at Winter Solstice

As I am writing this, I am watching and listening to the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) “Online Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan Ceremony“. As Eimear Burke, the Order’s Chosen Chief, noted – an online ceremony is not what anyone would have envisioned for this time of year. Certainly, an online ceremony is not exactly the type of connection that I felt I may be having with the other members of my Order. The feeling I have in all of this is that of being a touch disconnected. A feeling of everything not being what I have had previously, during the celebrations I have attended in the past.

Many people would assume that this has a lot to do with my current state of depression and dropping mental health. Certainly some of that has played a part in my feelings of being disconnected. But only a small part. Whether I want to truly admit it or not, I’m a social creature. I need face-to-face connection to feel that deeper connectivity. The last time I saw any members of my Order was in March of this year, at Austin WitchFest, when I happened to cross paths with John Beckett. The last event of the Order that I attended was back in March of the previous year, as this year’s Gulf Coast Gathering was cancelled due to concerns over COVID. Prior to the cancellation, I had debated whether I would attend, knowing the dangerous aspects of contracting the virus, given my health conditions.

The lack of connection with the members of my Order has taken its toll on me. Not so much as a Druid though. Other factors in my life have done that for me. However, I’m in no danger of leaving Druidry behind. Rather, I am in the process of redefining its purpose within my daily life. A process that will take a good bit of time. What I miss the most is the interaction with the members of my Order. This is what 2020 and Covid have essentially robbed me of. However, kicking my feet and wailing to the wind won’t make things different. Certainly, I might feel good after doing such things but none of that solves a single thing.

The Order’s Winter Solstice celebration is a nice moment for me to take in. However, it is a difficult reminder of what I do not have within my Spirituality at this moment. It is also a reminder of how many people are always there by my side. In the upper right corner of the screen in the OBOD video, is Kristoffer Hughes, someone who has always known how to bring a smile to my face one minute, and a shocked look to my face the next minute as he picks me up and squeezes the air out of me with his big bear hugs. And there are so many others that my mind brings forth. Papa Bear, Kathleen, Gabby, Wanda, Frank, the two Jacobs, Wendy, and everyone else that have made the Gulf Coast Gatherings into an expression of family. As well as putting up with my ridiculous shenanigans during camp. These online celebrations are always moments that remind me of what is missing within my own Spiritual life.

I am also reminded that life changes every single day. That what has happened yesterday is not likely to happen in the exact same way today or even tomorrow. That what happened an hour ago can be diametrically different than what happens right now. That what is happening now in this time of darkness, both COVID and my own depression, is not likely to continue. Each step we take is different than the footfall we just left behind. Somehow, some way, it is a matter of groping in the dark until we can find something to hold on to, something to gain strength and balance from.

We have reached another Winter Solstice in our lives. This one looks and feels different from any of the ones we have known, though it really is not. Our disconnected lives here in 2020 only provide an unfamiliar backdrop.

The central and essential thought of Alban Arthan is renewal. We let the past behind us and greet the new. The world is undergoing constant change and we must change and adjust, too, in order to be able to survive. Change is inevitable. The German poet Heinrich Heine said: “Nothing is so permanent as change”. In this knowledge, humankind celebrates festivals since times unknown, giving people the opportunity to let go of the old and to embrace the new things which life would certainly hold in store.

Things may feel different. The times may make us feel disconnected or out of sorts. But even in an online ritual, we can find even small bits of comfort and serenity. If your Druidry is like mine, rooted more in the people you are with than in the period of the Wheel of the Year that you are in – you have likely felt much of the same disconnected nature that I have. Try to remember, and this goes for myself as well, that all of this is only for the moment. It is the here and the now. Not the future. It may take time, but we will eventually get back to a time where we can gather together without the fear of inadvertently infecting those we love and cherish with a virus with such deadly consequences. We just have to be a little more patient than we anticipated. We have to remain safe, protecting ourselves, and in so doing – protecting others as well.

This is the time of the year to let go of things in our past. This is a time when the days are short, and the dark of the night is a little longer – until the Solstice. Then the reverse holds true. In a manner of speaking, I am starting to see where my current bout of depression is a time frame leading to a Winter Solstice in my own life. Where darkness will have a shorter reign. Where light, and hope can be seen on the distant horizon. All I need to do is what our ancestors did during this time of the physical year – endure. For me, its difficult because I have no hand to hold. I endure the darkness on my own. But we can envision holding one another’s hands…being the unseen support for one another. Because together, we not only endure, but we will flourish. All we need is patience, and our own self-understanding.

A long while back, I used to hold a morning and evening vigil for the Sun. I would get up before the sunrise, and greet its sudden arrival over the horizon with a cup of coffee in my hand, and wonder in my eyes. In the evenings, I would say my good night, as it slipped over the horizon, allowing the Darkness to have its turn in my world. But I always asked the Sun as it set for a promise that it would rise again in the East. The Sun has never failed in keeping that promise. Perhaps, I need to take the time to re-establish this little vigil. The same promise from the Sun holds true at the time of Winter Solstice. The Sun has promised to make the days longer from this point on. Every year, that promise has been kept. I see nothing to suggest that it will be different going into 2021, or even in my own life. It takes patience, time, and faith. I do my best with the first one. I have no control over the second one. The third one is completely up to me.

–T /|\

Thinking About: Climbing Trees

Back when I was working through my nearly decade-long trek through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids’ (OBOD) Bardic grade (ok, it was seven years), I would run into periods that I would call the “calm seas”. Some folks refer to this as “the doldrums” which I thought would be interesting to look up and refer to here.

The Intertropical Convergence Zone, known by sailors as the doldrums or the calms because of its monotonous, windless weather, is the area where the northeast and southeast trade winds converge. It encircles Earth near the thermal equator, though its specific position varies seasonally.

(Found as a description for the Wikipedia page for Intertropical Convergence Zone during a Google search for “doldrums”)

According to some of the information on the Wikipedia page, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” describes just how the doldrums could play havoc on ships during the so-called Age of Sail. It’s an interesting perspective, when you place it against the studies, lessons, and other aspects of one’s Druidry. About six months ago, I hit that same wall here in my Ovate studies. This time, instead of retreating and trying to restart from a previous point, I have let myself sit at this spot for six months. Several times, I have picked up the Gwers I am stuck on, only to make zero progress. I have reached my doldrums within my studies.

Back during this period (several periods of this) in my Bardic studies, I questioned whether I was on the right Path or not. This time, I know that this is the Path I should be on. However, this time I have a better idea of what the issue is. It’s my approach to my own Druidry. A few posts back, I detailed a point where my approach to Druidry set me in a position of physical danger. I took on a role I thought was correct – without being sure that I was not setting myself into unnecessary danger. But that wasn’t six months ago. Six months ago, I hit a brick wall. A few months later, I realized that it was my approach to Druidry that had me at a halt. It’s taken me a few more months to realize that this is what has me stalled.

See, my life is literally upside down right now. or at least that’s the way it feels. It could be sideways or even right-side up. My problem is that I don’t have the proper footing in my own mind to know what the correct orientation should be. Until I can manage that, I may not be able to find a straight-forward path through my studies. However, it is good that I know what the issue is. That allows me a starting point to gaining my perspective again. Once I can manage that, my forward progress through my studies will be capable again.

Why do I write this? Well, this is just one perspective of what happens when things go wrong. Sometimes, Life is going to get in the way of your studies. Sometimes, your studies are going to get in their own way. When that happens, you are likely to find yourself at a full stop. Take that stop. Grind everything to a halt. Then pick up each issue, one at a time, and find solutions. When you manage to clear the tracks for the studies to continue, take a deep breath and move forward. There is no time limit to your OBOD studies. There is also no need to compare yourself to others on their paths within OBOD. Everyone’s journey looks different. Everyone’s progress will be different. That’s because we are all different. The speed you move is the speed you move. Don’t agonize and beat yourself up over the speed of your progress. And when you run into roadblocks, don’t accept defeat. Solve the roadblocks, take a deep breath, and keep on with your studies at that point.

Yeah, all that sounds a lot simpler than it really is. My current roadblock is dealing with my own depression, coupled with a need to rewire the way I make decisions. Both of those have added minor issues that I also have to work through. So, there’s a lot of things to do before I can get my own Ovate studies train back on the tracks. But I will manage things and get moving again. It’s a goal I have set for myself. First, one step at a time. One issue at a time. One solution at a time.

So, maybe you’ve run into some issue. Let’s say it’s rough. Well, let’s sit down right here and now. You and me. Maybe it’s extremely frustrating and aggravating. Maybe you’re super tense over things. Let it out. Cry. Kick your feet. Pitch a fucking fit. Just let it all out. Once you feel you have released all that tension, let’s take a few moments and re-center your energies. Let’s ground, and center. Whatever technique works for you. Then let’s sit for a few minutes and just listen. Hear the nearby cars driving by? The birds chirping from the limbs of the trees or over in the bushes? Or if you have music playing, listen to the instruments, the voice, feel the rhythm. Anything to bring your mind to the here and the now. When you’re ready, stand up, and let’s start walking forward on your chosen Path. See, it’s a good thing to let go of the tension. Once you let the tension drain from your muscles, you can start focusing on what you need to do to get past the things as they stand. Then, you can focus on the things you had to set to the side.

Right now, my life is difficult. Difficult because I am unsure of any decision that I make. At this moment, I have decided that it is time to sit down on the ground and cry. I have reached out for mental health counseling to help me through this moment. Someone that can listen to me objectively and is not part of anything going on. Soon, I will need to stand up and move forward, with this counselor’s advice, and their unbiased perspective. After that, I will find myself moving forward, unsure of what my world is going to wind up looking like.

For me, these are not the “doldrums” – these are the “dark hours.” I am in the depths of the forest, climbing the tree to see above the canopy of the trees. I know that Bilbo saw the butterflies but could not see an end to the canopy of trees. I have no idea what I will see, I only hope that when I breach the canopy that the skies are daylight and not night. But climb the tree I must.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: Moving Forward From Here

Druidry has been a part of my daily life for around a decade. There are times that it has been at the forefront. Other times its been on the back burner. And others – all sorts of locations in-between. Over the past two months, my life has been undergoing a massive amount of change. Some of it was planned. Some of it wasn’t. There were plenty of decisions that were made in that time frame as well. Many of those choices were made through a lens provided to me through my understanding of Druidry within my life. Some of those decisions were not the best ones that I could have made…laced within the perceptions I had of what Druidry was.

I’m not some ambassador type. I’m not here to solve conflict in peoples’ lives. Nor am I meant to make everyone happy and pleased with the decisions that I determine for myself. Yet, I have done that. That all drives back into a narrative that Druidry is about being the Peacemaker. But that is also not me. I am built more in the vein of a Protector, not a Diplomat. I may not be a physically strong specimen, but I’ll step between an abuser and their target.

As many of you know, I am currently going through some difficult times within my life. It can definitely be hard to be anything for anyone else when you are tearing yourself apart. My depression has certainly become the dark forest that I have always feared. At times, its difficult for me to figure out which way is ahead, and which one is behind. Many of the markers that I have counted on to mark my path, just have not been there. That includes my Druidry.

I have reached out to professionals for help. With their help, I have started to understand some of the places where I am broken, and which places are just bent and needing to be reshaped. At this point, my Druidry has not been a focal point of my life. I am not reaching out for connectivity to the world around me, as much as I am reaching within to find the connectivity of myself. In doing this internal process, I have started to re-evaluate where and how Druidry connects me to myself. I’ll worry about how Druidry connects me to the world around me later. To put in a different sense, I am learning to re-wire me.

I wrote in a previous blog post how people who know me the best – those who have been and are a part of my daily life – started to notice how much I was pulling inside of myself. How much I started backing away from everyone. How my demeanor was more akin to an abused animal waiting to be hit than it was to who I have been. They all asked me to get help. They all tried to steer me towards seeking assistance in dealing with what I have now come to define as “the dark hours”. The stubborn parts of me said that I was alright. That I didn’t need help. That my beliefs could steer me through all of this. None of that was true. I needed the help, and denying it not only kept me in the dark hours, but also was an indicator that I wasn’t listening.

I did; however, realize what was being said, and reached out for help. I have been learning a few techniques and processes to help me with my decision-making, and with my ability to process information. I am not completely better, but I now have some tools to work with. Moving forward will be a slow process. The scarier part is who will still be there, standing by my side through all of this. I can’t predict the behaviors of others, but I do know that some people will and may already have, left my life over these changes I have made. Everyone has their own choices to make.

So, circling back now, where does my Druidry fit into all of this? Well, many of the studies that OBOD has, deal with working with the Inner You. Once I manage to figure out where, how and why Druidry is a part of who I am, I plan to step back to some of those lessons, and approach things with a new perspective. First; however, I have to build a basis of who I am. Am I still the Protector that I envision myself to be? Certainly. That’s always been a part of me. But how that particular role fits into my everyday Life…that’s up for my internal discussion and debate.

I did get asked about how I am looking at all of this mental health work in relation to who I am. I see it as needing to stop, take a good look at the overall engine, and see what needs to be re-tuned to make it run better. I know that my process will be slow…and may likely continue through the rest of my life. For anyone seeing that as a “bad” thing….it’s not. There will be good days. There will be bad days. There will be many, many days somewhere in-between. What I am learning to do is manage those days…so that I can be a better person. One who continues to get people to laugh, smile, and enjoy themselves. Not the brooding, withdrawn individual I had become. My Druidry fits in there somewhere. I’m just not totally sure where and how…just yet.

–T /|\

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Podcasting, Blogging, and Skipping Down the Path

Every once in a blue moon, I get an email from someone who has just run across an episode of one of the two podcasts that I ran. There’s a lot of praise for what I was trying to do, but there’s also the final question of why I stopped podcasting. There were a lot of reasons behind that choice. But the biggest one was trying to come up with topics to talk about or finding connections with folks to interview (depending on which ‘cast you are talking about). I was “ok” as a podcaster. Nothing spectacular, but I tried to convey how much fun I was having stumbling through audio edits and just talking at a microphone. I truly enjoyed doing those podcasts. However, I had to give it all up at a certain point. The real constraint was time.

I was unemployed for two years during my time podcasting. Doing the podcast episodes was fairly simple during all of that. I just picked a time when I was alone in the house, and recorded the episode. However, once I started teaching (the job I managed to get at the college after being unemployed), I just never had the free time that I did before. Those time constraints made getting episodes out really tough for me. In the end, I felt I was letting everyone down with the quality of what I was putting out. That, for me, was the final nail in that coffin.

Now, don’t get excited thinking that I am about to raise one of the two ‘casts from the dead. Nope. Not going to happen. Not until I get someone willing to get on the microphone with me. And to be completely honest, I am not looking actively for anyone to fulfill that role. However, the email I received asking about future shows really brought me back to some of the fun times I had putting the ‘casts together.

On “From the Edge of the Circle”, I had more fun putting my warped sense of humor on display. I created a pair of fake commercials (and they were so obviously fake) poking fun at parts of Paganism. I would run this as “brought to you by” moments, which was my way of poking fun at the lack of funding that I had for the show. Even when I was unemployed I paid for the show out of my own pocket. In fact, during the entire time I ran either podcast, I only received one donation towards keeping the show going. It was a touching moment, but as I said – I had no funding from others and very rarely even mentioned the concept of money. So my fake commercials were my way of poking fun at this. I also created a spot in the last episode, which let Mojo and Sparrow of The Wigglian Way take over the podcast for a moment. It was a fun way for them to inject themselves into the episode. Especially, after I mentioned that Sparrow could read the phone book to me with her sultry voice (which she did on one of their episodes).

The days that I was podcasting were fun. All of us that were Pagan podcasters didn’t see the others as competition. We were equals who all provided unique voices to the wider Pagan community. If you didn’t enjoy me, there were other podcasters that might meet your tastes. I always found it to be a great thing when listeners would find their way to the other ‘casts. We poked fun at each other, we even took up other shows’ topics and provided our own spin on what had been said. None of it; however, was said in a mean-spirited way. We truly enjoyed one another.

When I left the podcasting world, I left a lot of that camaraderie behind as well. I still love my fellow ‘casters, but here in the blogging world, it doesn’t have that same feeling. Too often, I have seen disagreements over topical information turn into down-right bloody feuds. There seems to be a need to drive statistics with topics designed to draw distinct differences between others. The “I’m right and your not” perspective reigned supreme in a few of those moments a few years back. I do; however, have some of that “we’re in this together” with Cat Treadwell, Nimue Brown, and a few others. We may not always agree about how we each approach a topic, but we’ve always found ways to communicate those differences in a manner that emphasizes support, not disagreement.

Now, I get the perspective in the blogging world. Clicks matter. When I first started podcasting, I was a fanatic about my download statistics. Until I started to realize that the downloads didn’t matter. What mattered was whether the person downloading the podcast found something that they enjoyed, something that provided them with the information that they were looking for, and/or provided them with a perspective that they wanted to connect with. Now, I do pay attention to the click stats here with the blog, but I generally try not to look at them too much. Why? Because, sometimes, y’all scare the shit out of me. When I see the stats, there are usually around ten to twenty clicks a day. When I see somewhere above fifty clicks per day for a particular post…well, my heart starts to race. See, I have difficulty dealing with success like that. It just scares me to think so many people are reading stuff for whatever reasons. But I am digressing here…..

I do enjoy sharing parts of my life here through the blog. For me, this is similar to talking to a microphone. Except that I get to do so by typing on a keyboard. I get the chance to gather my thoughts a little more clearly – though, my writing skills do need to improve. That’s why Shadow edits. So my simple mistakes get caught before you see them. However, one thing I have enjoyed in writing this blog is the creation of fellowship that has come about with other bloggers. Much like those days with the podcasters, I have found a group of folks that have really become special parts of my life. As I said, I know there’s supposed to be competition between bloggers – trying to attract more clicks than others. However, none of that really matters that much to me. Everyone provides a different viewpoint because we are all unique individuals. We all have our own Path to walk. And sometimes, we can walk it together. Or go skipping down the Path, locked arm-in-arm, singing bawdy tunes to the skies, and laughing our asses off. Because part of living…part of finding your own Spirituality…finding those like-minded folks…requires laughter and fun.

–T /|\

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Keep the Bubble-wrap On

I don’t watch the news very often these days. For the last four to five months its been the same recycling of COVID numbers and overdone political posturing by both the Democrats and the Republicans, leading up to the election. However, I caught this morning’s (Sunday) news about the possibility of COVID-19 vaccines coming to fruition, and I felt like a ray of sunshine had appeared through the rainy clouds outside. For me, an individual with pre-existing conditions, hearing that working vaccines are on the near horizon is an answer to an entire Spring, Summer and Fall of prayers and hopes. The mere thought that there could be something that may provide some relief from all of this is something I had not dared to dream of.

All of this time with COVID has brought me to some perceptions that I would not have come to otherwise. That there is a substantial group of people out there that will adhere to a cult of personality over what science tells us. That these same people will put their willful ignorance over the protection of the more vulnerable members of their families, just because some political figure makes the statement that wearing masks “makes you weak.” But I was also shown the other side of that coin as well. People immediately around me did their utmost best to be mindful and protective of me. People not immediately around me were also willing to do the same. Cancelling plans (or even discussing the cancelling of plans) that involved travel and potential risk to make sure that risk was not translated directly to me. Its a humbling perspective, particularly when they are discussing these potential cancellations and are doing actual cancellations – for me.

2020 has about eighteen days left (as I write this). We all have made statements about how terrible this year has been. And it has. Many of us have lost loved ones to complications from COVID. Some have contracted it and survived – telling us how horrible things were with this disease ravaging their systems. And we haven’t even started discussing the long-term complications that the survivors are going to go through. But 2020 has also shown us what kind of people we are. We have learned lessons in how to be selfless for others. And those of us who have been set at a point of being protected by those who chose to be selfless, have learned our own lessons in humility.

Life can be hard. And sometimes, we are too close to the trees to realize the forest. I’ve been there. I’m still there. Yes, we still live in a time of COVID. I am fortunate enough to have people who give a shit about me, even when I am too wrapped up in my own mind to realize what they do for me until much later. I know that they will continue to do their best to keep me protected. Not because I ask them to, but because I am a part of their lives. A part that they care about greatly. It’s quite humbling to realize that. It’s also bringing about a greater responsibility for me as well. I have to be more cognizant of the choices that I make in my own daily life. So that my actions don’t put me into the very risk that they are trying to protect me from. I have to think smarter. I have to do better. We all do.

Yes, the vaccine is on the horizon. But that means that we have to be even more vigilant over the threat that COVID sets in front of us. We are in the last mile. We need to be more aware now than ever before. Not just for us. For those who protect us daily with their own actions, thoughts, and self-imposed limitations. For those who continue to not wear masks, those who continue to deny the science, those who choose not to be protective of others….we need to be careful around them. We are all responsible for our own actions, for our own thought processes, for our own feelings. I can’t force others to behave the way that I do, or to be as protective of others as the ones that do so for me. I can; however, avoid those folks as much as possible.

When all of this COVID stuff started to happen, the news media noted that individuals with pre-existing conditions were most vulnerable. Diabetics were among those listed in that category. Shadow commented that she wanted to “just wrap me in bubble-wrap and keep me home.” In that amusing way, she was announcing that it was important to be protective of me. I am quite sure that others have felt the same way about those in their families who have similar conditions. The vaccine is almost here. But its not time to take off the bubble-wrap.

During the pandemic, I have made a few choices that put me at risk in a way I should never have done. All I can do is apologize to Shadow and others for doing so. I got lucky and nothing happened. Lucky. Others, who have done far less risky things, were not. For me, I was careless. I was stupid. Please don’t take unnecessary risks. Now is not that time. Remember all the people who are protecting you are also counting on you to do the right thing as well.

–T /|\

Bad Poetry Thursday (Late): I Am Here…and Still Awake

Listening to the sound of the rain falling
The patter tattooing the concrete outside the window
I can hear the sounds of cars whooshing on the highway
As everyone heads out into their lives with direction

I have felt so lost, surviving on a tide pulling me out to sea
Drifting aimlessly along the shore line
Not sure of where I am going or what I can do
Further and further away from where I want to be

Here, I try to sleep to the distant sounds of the trains
Nothing of what I am used to hearing or feeling
Sounds of video games in the next room
Or the bells from the cat’s collar as she runs down the hall

Yet, I am here….and still awake.

Being away from home is never an easy thing for a lot of people. The bed feels different. Even if you bring your own pillow, the sheets don’t have the same feel. The blankets don’t have the same feel. And if you have animals that like to hang out on your bed, nothing smells like them. The noises outside are different. Even the air in the room can feel different. For me, I try to fool my body and mind a little bit with white noise. Typically, I do this by leaving the television on with the volume down fairly low. But, the commercials tend to be louder…so there’s sometimes that jarring moment in the middle of the night when a particularly loud commercial comes on. With me trying to work through my own internal and mental issues…all of that just adds on to a lot of other things. With my mind racing, I tend to turn everything off and just listen. This morning, it’s raining. Not very heavy. But I can still hear it when I have the window cracked open. That act of listening helps me to focus my mind. And this morning, my mind is on home. I miss being home. Just a few days longer.

–T /|\

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Thinking About: Steps in a New Perspective

Dealing with depression is not something new. Many of my friends have had and/or are continuing their battles with depression. For me; however, that’s a different story. The likelihood that I have been waging my own battle for much longer than I have realized is most likely pretty high. To be honest and open, I managed to get really good at hiding many of the things that I have uncovered in my life recently…even from myself.

Thirty days. Everything can change. In a little more than thirty days, I have turned my life upside down. Everything changed. And some of it, not for the better. But in that time span, I also found out more about myself than I had wanted to know. About parts of me that I had kept below the water-line. Things that I am now finding myself trying to address the very best that I can. And it’s not easy. I am not stepping forward to face my demons. I’m stepping forward to face something a thousand-fold worse. Me.

When I had some of the people closest to me remarking that I was depressed, I initially didn’t want to believe that it was happening to me. How could it happen to me? I didn’t feel depressed, even though I really had no clue what it was like to be depressed. It took a little while for me to realize that they were all correct. I might not understand how it felt to be depressed, but they understood what it *looked* like to be depressed. And for me to cross those last steps to not only recognizing that perspective but completely agreeing with it – some drastic, and seemingly hurtful, steps were made to get me to see. But those were taken out of love and caring for me. Those steps were hurtful because I had to be shown what I needed to see. Because I needed to recognize what was happening to me. And to recognize that this was hurting others close to me.

In trying to do more personal research on the perspective, I have very few resources within Paganism. Cat Treadwell‘s excellent book “Facing the Darkness” has been my primary resource. Exercises within the book have been helpful in getting me to realize some of the destructive behaviors I have created to insulate myself from the truth of how I feel. But I needed to dig further and find more information. I ran across a blog from 2012 on DruidLife, written by Nimue Brown. Titled “Of Depression and Druidry”, one particular quote immediately found its way to my eyes.

As a Druid I have to stay open and aware. I cannot look away, ignore my responsibilities and pretend that all is well in the world. As some ambling ape-descended biology, I can’t always sustain that and keep moving. I have good days, and bad days. My body has a finite capacity for coping with distress. I try and generate hope. I do not always manage this.

–Nimue Brown, (

I am only taking my initial steps into all of this. Trying to find ways to make my way through the swampy bog of my mind, while seeking solid ground where I can build a better understanding of who I am under all this protective muck I have created. But to read this, that there are good days and bad days, is very helpful towards allowing me to relate to issues I will deal with every day. It has taken time for me to realize that much of what I want to be within my Druidry will need to get set to the side while I deal with the bad days. That sometimes my brain will short out my ability to do the best that I can. And I will need to learn to recognize those days and find my own coping skills and mechanisms to make it through those times.

In many ways, I am a newborn in the woods, all over again. I am learning to interpret, find and walk those trails all over again. This time with a different perspective. One I had never thought would exist. Currently, I am still stumbling along the Path, tripping over the exposed roots that catch the toes of my boots. I still fall flat on my face in the dirt. It will take time for me to get used to seeing the terrain differently. And for now, that Path is empty. I walk it alone because I have to. In time, there will be others that will walk beside me. Who they are, when they arrive…that doesn’t matter. I have faith that they will. Right now, I work inwardly. Soon, I will work outwardly. Soon, I can help others as others have helped me. Because we are not in this alone.

When the dark wood fell before me.
And all the paths were overgrown.
When the priests of pride say there is no other way.
I tilled the sorrows of stone.

I did not believe because I could not see.
Though you came to me in the night.
When the dawn seemed forever lost.
You showed me your love in the light of the stars.

Cast your eyes on the ocean.
Cast your soul to the sea.
When the dark night seems endless.
Please, remember me.

–Loreena McKennitt, “Dante’s Prayer”

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A Chance to Be Me, Once Again

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Thus begins my favorite Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. The poem itself is a wonderful metaphor about the one thing we all have in our lives – choices. Do we do this? Do we do that? How do we decide? What logic should we apply? Shall we flip a coin? Or just go whichever way seems to be more appealing? We all face moments like these in our lives. Several times over. Sometimes in a single day. Or even in a single hour.

Whatever the time frame and whatever the methodology that we use to make those choices – we make them. And sometimes, after we make them – we wonder why we wanted to go down this extremely difficult road we are on. Why didn’t we choose the other direction? Or later on in life, we wonder what would have happened if we had made a different choice at that time. And I cannot tell you the number of times I have done this. In the last few days. Yes, the good old “what if” game. But here’s a hint, that game will do nothing but erode your confidence in the choices you made.

Given enough time, that erosion can eat away at who you are, and the way you approach everyday life. The constant second-guessing can pull you back from making future choices. It can leave you second-guessing the easiest and most mundane choices in life. What kind of smoothie should you get at Smoothie King? Add-ons? Do you want the sweetener or not? It can become bad enough that you don’t know what to do with so many choices.

In the Information technology world, this can sometimes be referred to as analysis paralysis. Where you turn over every choice in your mind so much that you spend all your time trying to figure out what to do – rather than making a choice. You find yourself not making a choice – or at least not making a choice on time. And that lack of making choices can erode your self-confidence too. Don’t scoff. This is part of what has happened to me.

In my past, I was known for quick assessments of situations and then making quick, decisive choices of how to repair the situation as best as possible. One Friday night in the bunker at the Air Force installation I was stationed at, our command post’s outside communication lines were not working. Somewhere between our bunker and the primary communications relay that was three-hundred-plus miles away, we had no communications sync. Our command post was the airborne early warning system and radar facility for the southern European portion of the NATO theater. Within five minutes, I determined that our lines were dead. I looked at the overhead outbound lines and saw the German civilian communications lines next to ours. A quick test showed that those lines were still working. Our traffic could easily be routed through those lines and remain as encrypted packages. So I had our lines in our duty section cut, right next to a cut in those lines. We spliced the good civilian lines to our lines and the command post was back online. Four hours later, when our lines were repaired, we returned the communications patch back to what it was meant to be and everything worked as it had been. The fix was unorthodox and not precisely legal. However, it was about results – which is what I was known for. I was confident that the fix would work. I was confident that the temporary patch would not be around past the end of our shift. And I was prepared to take the punishment if any was to be meted out. Decisive, minimal analysis of risk v. reward, confident in what needed to be done.

In the past six months to a year — current me would never have adhered to this fix. I would spend too much time trying to determine who might be mad, and then trying to find ways to appease everyone. I would be over-analyzing the situation and making too many assumptions over how any group of people may or may not have felt. Too many “what ifs” to try and formulate, rather than seeing a solution and making it work. Even if it was just a temporary fix until a more appropriate, permanent one would come along later. That’s just one example. And a fairly extreme one at that.

What if I had been caught using civilian lines to make military traffic flow at a time when a line investigation/repair was needing to be accomplished? I’d hate to even contemplate it. But coming back to the point – I made a decision, utilized it to keep operations going. The amount of analysis I put into figuring out what to do was not much. I looked for solutions and I used them. And if there is one thing I can look back at my career and know – it’s that I am a valuable troubleshooter. Provide me with a problem, I’ll find a solution.

What I need to do going into my future is reapply this thinking to everyday life. Look at things, find a solution, move forward. In the end, there will be mistakes that get made. There will be repercussions for some mistakes or actions taken. But, as long as I am ready to take the responsibility for what I do…these will already be a part of my thinking. Risk analysis is a definitive part of my career. It’s long past time that I returned to a perspective of providing results and stop worrying about how elegant the process was getting there or who might get angry over me doing so. As has been noted before, the “peacemaker Druid bullshit” is not going to fly very often, particularly where results are needed. Toes will get stepped on. Feelings may get hurt. But in the end, getting results is where my confidence has always been highest. And I know I can return to that perspective. Because I have to. Without that self-confidence, I am no good to anybody – especially myself.

Two roads did diverge in the woods…I took the one less traveled. And it has made all the difference in who I am. I learned how to navigate. I learned how to see the woods for what they are: an adventure that starts every morning when I open my eyes. A chance to be me, once again.

–T /|\

Photo by Marlene Leppu00e4nen on

Seeking Help

“You look depressed.”
“Are you ok? Is anything the matter?”
“You’re not as upbeat as you were a while back.”

I have heard these statements from quite a few people. Not over a long period of time either. These statements have been made to me quite recently. At first, I sort of heard what was being said, but sat there and thought to myself: “I’m not depressed. I don’t feel depressed.” Nearly immediately after that moment, others started expressing their concern. The extra chorus of voices making the same statement brought me back to thinking about the initial statement of me being depressed. Along with the realization that every single person, from the first notice and beyond had made the same plea: get some help.

My initial step was to do the same crap I always do: over-think things. But in that process, I did have my own epiphany over everything. I had made the statement that I didn’t feel depressed, I didn’t believe I was depressed. Well, of course I didn’t feel depressed. I have absolutely no idea what being depressed actually feels like it. So, I had to really sit down and go over some of the stuff that had been mentioned to me. One at a time. And not analyzing it at all. I got a bit lucky. A friend’s mother is a clinical psychologist and was kind enough to discuss everything with me. In the end, I reached out to the mental health process under the healthcare system I am currently covered by (another lucky break for me – so many people do not have that kind of access to necessary help like this).

I usually make morning Facebook posts telling people to seek joy and happiness in their life. It’s a concept I believe in. But there has been a lot of difficulty for me to do exactly that on a daily basis. Granted, I am going through some processes in my life that are a bit stressful, but even through that I should be able to see the good in my daily life. I have a tendency to down-play my ability to do things. I do a lot of self-deprecating humor. Sure, its funny to poke fun at yourself from time to time, but I do it a lot. And believe it or not, when you do that – you begin to believe that. So, there’s some de-programming that I will also need to handle, as well as finding better ways to treat myself. And these are only a handful of examples. 

Now, I am starting the process of working through these and several other issues that I have self identified as needing to be approached. I am confident that this will also uncover other issues, concepts and the such that will also need to be addressed. I also realize that this is not going to be a quick process. This is going to take time. This is going to take effort. This is going to require a strength that I am unsure that I have. But so many people in my life have that faith in me to do this.

I am doing this for me. But I am also doing this for other reasons. Because all of those reasons are just as important to me. Because I have a future that I want. And doing the hard work to get there needs to be accomplished. And I can do it.

Why am I writing about this? For a lot of reasons. Because writing is cathartic for me. Putting my thoughts to written word is a way for me to make things real for me. But also for those who read this. In the hopes that if you feel like you need someone to talk to about life…that you take that opportunity and do so. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out your hand for help. I promise.

–T /|\

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Don’t Solve the Jigsaw Puzzle Alone

Life is always full of change. Those who know me well are aware of how difficult it is for me to deal with lots of change at once. Over the years, I have learned to solve problems and issues one step at a time – after all, it is the easiest way to figure things out or at least that’s how it seems to me. Even within a magickal aspect of life, it is easier to figure out the lay of the land and then go from there. Sometimes, it means starting over – even when you didn’t intend for that to happen.

For me, the first place to start in working through change is to get everything laid out before you. Not solving it but trying to figure out what needs to be taken care of first and what depends on something else to be done before it can be tackled. A lot of this process means bringing things to a complete stop and setting everything out in front of you. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. The way I tend to approach that is to find all the border pieces first, and then build that. After that, I try to sort the rest of the pieces into colors and details that I can figure out on the box until I have distinct piles for each area. Typically, I also have a pile of “unknown” pieces, which could fit anywhere in the puzzle. Then I pick a section and work on that from the border towards the inside until I get stuck. Then I move to a different area and keep working through things until I get it put together. I use a very similar approach to dealing with many changes all at once.

Here’s the bad part to all that process. In doing all of that, I have a great tendency to draw into myself. Trying to figure things out the best that I can, so I can move forward. I have been working this process for so long, I am used to relying on myself to get things figured out. Very rarely do I go to others for help. And that’s a problem. See, it winds up pushing people away when they want to help the most. Many people do not always understand when that happens, and they only see you withdrawing into yourself. What makes it even worse, is that it is also a self-defense mechanism of mine, so I am quite used to the idea of utilizing it when I feel I need to protect myself. It is a definite habit. And one that I was not really all that aware of until a few days ago.

There has been a lot of change in my life over the last few weeks. Enough that I don’t feel as protected and sure of the ground beneath my feet, as I should. That’s not saying that there is not a solid foundation beneath me or that I am not at all protected, because both of those are true. There is a solid foundation, there is protection….it is just not the same as what I have been used to. Trying to get myself accustomed to this different feeling is rough at times because it is not familiar to me, yet. Plus, there are quite a few other issues that are making me feel vulnerable and weak – which also make me feel that things are unstable and unsure.

So, it became time to set all the pieces out before me and look through them one by one. I needed to determine which pieces could be dealt with right away and which were dependent on others. After that, came the need to prioritize what needed to be done against what could be done, as well as figuring out where I needed to ask for help. Then there were the things that had dependencies laid upon them. After figuring that out, it was a matter of where and when to start…the answer was…today (Monday as I write this).

Now, there are parts of all this that look nothing like I wanted Life to be. In a manner of speaking, it felt like a hard, driving rain had fallen over me and I could see no further than a foot in front of my face. What this perspective really is, is my brain looking for the absolutely worst possible scenario to whatever I am trying to do. Just looking for the other shoe to drop. Except there never was a first shoe. Much of this type of thinking was reinforced during my days working in Risk Mitigation and Disaster Recovery. Always look for the worst possible thing to happen. When it doesn’t, everything is better than you thought. That works in the Risk Mitigation perspective, but it is a horrible way to go through Life. You wind up seeing the worst in everything and you miss the beauty of the moment. I know, I’ve been there very, very recently.

Remember the jigsaw puzzle? Well, realize this – once you finish putting all the pieces together, you’ll have a beautiful picture that you worked hard to assemble. There’s beauty in what you are seeing. There’s beauty and accomplishment in putting it together. Yes, it was in pieces in front of you before you started. But you got organized, got it together, worked hard on it, and put it back together. Look through that process and you will see where joy and beauty can be found throughout. That’s the secret to getting things done. Sure, some of it is unpleasant, difficult, and just not what you would like to do. But you managed to get through it and come out the other side with that feeling of accomplishment and joy.

One last thought. When you are trying to put all of this together….avoid the trap that I climb into all the time: thinking you have to do it all by yourself. Even if all the work must be done by you, there are those in your Life who want to be standing by your side throughout all of it. They want to be there to offer you advice, encouragement, and support. Don’t curl up inside of yourself and cut them off, just to spare them some concept of difficulty. Don’t assume that you know how they are going to react to anything. Let them in. Let them be a part of all of it, even if all they can do is cheer you on. Remember, these people love you. They wouldn’t be a part of your life otherwise.

–T /|\

Photo by Sharon Snider on