We Are Different, But We Are All Connected

Connections, connections, connections. If you hang around me for any length of time, you will hear me talk about how important connections and connectivity are. When I was working at the college, I found that listening to other points of view helped me understand the work environment better. As I understood the environment better, I learned how to help others get the things that they wanted, which helped pave the way for the things I needed to get stuff done. Give and take. Speaking and listening. Yin and Yang.

All of that works great for the communicative aspect of connectivity, but what the connectivity with one’s environment outside of work? Like the woods? The prairie? The mountains? The ocean? The river valley? The ultra-right-wing Conservatives? Ok, I just heard your mind come to a screeching stop. Connection isn’t about trying to add THOSE people into our reality, right?

Well, actually it is. Because they live here, too. But let’s remember something – this isn’t about politics. This is about connection.

Currently, I am reading Kristoffer Hughes’ book “Natural Druidry”. In the foreword, Kristoffer makes the following point:

Connection, connection, connection. You may well tire of seeing this word leap out at you paragraph after paragraph, yet in my view it is the lack of connection which fragments our society and facilitated man’s fall into unconsciousness and apathy. We have forgotten the importance of the interconnectedness of life, and as a consequence have become lost in the illusion that density fabricates, creating a deep sleep that fell upon the people of the earth, each individual believing themselves to be separate from the sentiency of the earth and her creatures, a state which I refer to as the forgetfulness of life. Druidry evokes within us a memory, forgetfulness is a temporary state, it merely requires something to stir that memory within us and allow it to filter through, imbuing in us a sense of “Oh yeah!!! I remember!”

Kristoffer Hughes, “Natural Druidry”

We all live on this floating rock in space together. We have segmented ourselves into categories – into small, personally described tribes, if you will. Conservatives, Liberals. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Christians, Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, Witches, Heathens, Blondes, Brunettes, green-eyes, blue-eyes, civilian, military, college educated, high school dropouts, tall people, short people. We have found so many ways to divide ourselves. But when we look at the aspect of connectivity, it will boils back to one point: we are all denizens of this planet. All of us. Human, plant, insect, mineral. We are all here together.

We have different ideas of how we should be governed. We disagree strongly enough to fight wars to determine what’s right or wrong about that. We divide ourselves. We search for the “right” or “wrong” of a situation, and then agree that the difference is enough to wipe out those that believe differently. Yet, as Kristoffer points out, we’ve forgotten that we are all here, together. Not apart.

How do we achieve that cohesive aspect of remembering that we are all connected? How do we collectively awaken from that deep slumber? Well, to be honest, its an up-hill struggle. There’s not a gentle slope that we can walk to achieve the apex once again. We’re probably looking at a slope that is more akin to a sheer cliff face. Moving up it to achieve that point of apex is going to take a lot of effort. It looks impossible. And it will be, if we don’t try.

For me, my first step is in writing this. The second step is in finding a way to live this. We are all connected. All of us. People, insects, animals, minerals. When we remove something or someone from the equation, we alter the future. When we divide ourselves into smaller tribal groups, we found cohesive thought with those that think and believe the way that we do. There’s a feeling of strength and belonging in all of that. We feel that we are heard. That we are seen. All at the expense of others that are different. But that is all right, so long as we don’t remove others permanently from a cohesive future on this planet.

We can think differently. We can all believe differently. We can all be different. We can do that without trying to make the rest of the planet the same way. Our differences unite us far more greatly than we are divided. We are all a part of the future.

So, what does all this have to do with connectivity? How does all of this manifest in the feeling I get when I walk through a forest, where the trees and the environment make me feel alive again? Or when I walk through a late summer field of corn, the height of the stalks blocking out the modern aspects of the city from my sight, allowing me to forget the daily grind of a modern world? Or when I sit on a park bench in an idyllic park set in the midst of a concrete and steel jungle of sky-piercing buildings? Well, as I pointed out before we are all here. Our collective future grows because we survive on. Its not just our ideas that manifest the future. Its us. All of us. The molecules that are us are here. Every choice we make moves us all collective forward. There’s literally no way to determine how each choice shapes and formulates the future. Cheetos or Lay’s Onion-flavored chips with your Subway sandwich for lunch? Coffee or a soda with that meal? What happens if you choose one over the other? How does the future get re-shaped with your choice? What if you chose the other instead? Who knows?

Scientifically, I cannot prove any of what I posit here. Just as I cannot prove other aspects of things that I believe, such as reincarnation. But these are beliefs that I hold. I still hold that our futures are what they are because we are here. We are all connected together. Removing pieces from that connectivity, just because we are different, doesn’t make the future better or worse. But it does alter the future irreversibly. How? I cannot really say.

Is there a horrible future coming that is dark and foreboding? Certainly. There’s always a chance of that happening. But it doesn’t have to be. We can alter that with our actions, our thoughts, our interactions with everyone and everything else. We can live in an environment of today, where we predict doom and destruction with every breath we exhale. Focusing on that, well, it probably makes it more likely. Expend energy on something you believe, and you are likely to make it manifest. But that’s a thought for another time, eh? 😊

My long, rambly point? Well, its simple. We are all connected together. Wishing away those that are different than ourselves, understandable. Not a good outcome, since getting everyone to believe exactly as we do winds up becoming the worst aspects of “group-think”. Plus, society gets dull with the same everything. I like diversity. Things get interesting when that happens. Plus, a different perspective allows for more chances to learn, more chances to grow. That happens when we acknowledge our connected nature. We are different, but we are all connected. 😊 I hope that some aspect of this made some kind of sense….

–Tommy /|\

Thinking About – You’ve Lost That Pagan Feeling

Thursday! Its morning, and I still have no idea what I am going to be writing about. LOL Yeah, this blog is a little off-the-cuff, but then Life is a spontaneous thing with me. Yes, I do plan things, but I try not to plan down to minor minutiae. Besides, Life is sometimes fun when the unexpected happens… Four hours later, I’m still sort of struggling with what to write…LOL

This is something that tends to happen with me when I attempt to force my writing. Essentially, I just blank out and lock-up. Its definitely one of the things that I have learned to deal with over a great deal of years. Mostly, I just let things go, and write about whatever tends to come to my mind. if nothing comes, I tend not to write.

Which leads me to wonder…could this happen when dealing with your Paganism? Well, why not? In fact…let’s make Thursday a permanent “Thinking About…” topic time, eh?

Ever had that feeling with your Spiritual Path? Everything was so strong, vibrant, and just right there – and then all of a sudden, it wasn’t? Where you feel like you should be walking in the forests of northern California, and instead its like you’re walking through the scrub prairie of western Texas? ::Raising hand:: I’ve been there. More than once. That spiritual dry spell, where it feels like you’re never going to have the same connectivity ever again. Definitely a tough place to be. Worse, it seems like anywhere you go for advice, its like whoever you talk to just doesn’t quite “get” what’s going on with you. I’ve gone through those before. I’ll tell you about the worst one though.

I was in Germany. I had been stationed at Sembach Air Base for two years, and had the luxury of living in the middle part of the Palatinate Forest Nature Park. This is an area in southwestern to mid-western Germany which has deeply wooded areas that are protected by law. There are a handful of cities within the forested area as well as a fairly good number of towns, but these municipalities are strictly maintained so as not to encroach on the forested regions. At least not without environmental impact studies and a LOT of discussion from city and town councils beforehand. This forested area is OLD. The walking trails throughout are extremely numerous, well-walked, and extremely well-maintained by the local Forest Service. It is beautiful countryside, and the magick is deeply rooted here. It takes very little effort to reach out and find the Spirits of the Land, the Spirits of Place, and all the Otherworld denizens living here.

My first two years being stationed at this particular area of Germany were an absolute wonder to me. I had shaken off the label of Wicca, as well as large aspects of that practice because it just did not suit who I was. Instead, I adopted the perspective of being just a good ol’ Pagan. Nothing more than that. I figured if some system was right for me, it would have to hit me in the face. That would happen nearly decade later, but that’s a different perspective altogether.

The change over from all of that feeling, emotion, and magick being right at my fingertips disappeared overnight on one weekend. Suddenly, I felt nothing. No matter how hard I tried to reach out, no matter how hard I tried to find that feeling again – it was all gone. I literally felt like a man who had been blinded and left to wander a featureless void. I spent nearly every moment trying to figure out why things had happened. Why I couldn’t feel. I even considered that I might be ill or even depressed, and went to the local military hospital to be checked out. Even though I had suffered a tough time after Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the answers were no to medical issues – and a “maybe” to Psychological stress. I used to drink heavily to get beyond tough moments in life. But for this? I didn’t even want to touch alcohol, it just wasn’t something I felt an urge for.

Me – USAF – July 1992

In time, I would screw up, and this got me discharged from the Air Force – two years prior to the end of enlistment commitment. I was sent back to the States and essentially dumped at the duty station nearest my place of enlistment – Barksdale Air Force in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was still having issues with feeling in touch with my Paganism, and could feel myself drifting in Life because of that. This was a very low tide period of my life. I would eventually find new friends, and basically relearned about the spark of living life. That renewed energy helped to re-kindle the fire in my life with Paganism. And suddenly, I could feel things beyond me again. It took a lot to realize that it wasn’t Paganism leaving me, it was me trying to deal with a lot of complex and emotional aspects of my life. Once I got over the hurdle – or around the obstacle as I am more likely to say nowadays – I could see the Path ahead. And seeing the Path ahead is what makes the difference for me.

Consider this for a moment, you’re shut in because of this virus stuff…and you’re feeling like your Paganism, your Spirituality, your connectivity with the world is slowly starting to die….perhaps its not. Maybe, if you think things through, you’ll find that being stuck inside is causing you to lose your connectivity, that you need that fresh air. Take a quick 15-minute walk outside. Avoid people, just like you have been told to do. Just take a quick walk. Try not to touch things, and if you do…wash your hands the moment you get back home. But if you gotta get outside…get outside. If you have a backyard…visit it often. But most importantly….realize this: you’re not alone. If you’re reading this – you’ve got the internet. Write an Email to your friend. Do a video call with them, if your connection allows for that (I can’t do streaming where I am because the internet connection doesn’t have enough power to facilitate that type of connection). Yeah, it sucks that we are all seemingly stuck inside…but we don’t have to lose our Spiritual connections over it.

The time frame that I described above is 1993-1994, just a touch before the time of the commercial internet as we know it. The internet has helped to reduce the feeling of all of us being so far apart. The internet may not have been able to help me sort some of the things I had going on in my head, but it may certainly have put me in touch with the people I missed the most – the Pagans that I knew in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Keep that in mind…being able to connect and talk with others can be helpful. I, for one, am here. Should you need to talk: elfster@gmail.com is my Email address. I may not have any of the answers, but I will listen.

–T /|\

I Learn Therefore I Am….Connected

Druidry is a lot of things to me. It is a framework upon which my daily devotional practice works from. And a lot of people can grok the concept of the Spiritual practices held within one’s Druidry; however, there is more to Druidry than just this for me. There is a continually desire to educate myself – on topics I already know something about, as well as those I know next to nothing, aside from a name. The act of studying, assimilating knowledge, looking for new techniques to try – all of that is a part of my Druidry as well. There is also the ceremonial side of life as well, and I do not mean just rituals. There are certain routines I follow in my day – rituals in their own right, but not necessarily spiritual. All three are important to me, but study and the growth of knowledge are probably the most important to me.

The Druid Prayer has a statement that resonates deeply with me:

Grant, O Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
 the love of Great Spirit/Goddess/God/Holy Ones/the Earth our mother, and all goodness.

Knowledge for me is a form of freedom. I can undertake any aspect of information that I desire, and dive as deeply as I wish into it. This only is the reason that my bookshelves are filled with works on World History and lexiconic tomes on a wide variety of programming languages. I am completely intrigued by how history has unfolded, and some of the variables surrounding various events that have shaped our wider society. As for the programming languages, I am lucky to be employed in a position that allows me to utilize my passion for logic puzzles with fashioning programming code to provide information that is utilized in critical decision-making within the college I work for. My desire to assist others plays a key factor in the support function that I am in.

In this manner, my everyday practice of key parts of my Druidry cross into my mundane life in ways I never thought it would. In fact, I used to compartmentalize my life — I had one side of me that was work-related. The other side of me was focused on my Spirituality. For the first three years that I worked on my Bardic Grade material, I lived this peculiar life, and I struggled mightily through all of it. I never realized that in order to get things to “gel” for me in my lessons, I needed to allow both sides of my life to intermingle and essentially “inform” one another.

The catalyst in getting to this point came at the first Gulf Coast Gathering, where the OBOD Tutor Coordinator attended. I lamented that I was four-plus years into my studies and struggling throughout it. She noted that you could set your studies into a small, mental box where the environment was essentially sterile and confined. However, it would be more helpful to embrace the studies and find ways to correlate what one was learning into your own life in other ways. In that way, the material had a better hope of coming to life. While I wrote this down, I never really considered it until nearly a year later when I happened across my notes in a spare notebook I was transcribing to parts of other journals and notebooks. I decided to give this a try since I had still been struggling with my studies.

The change did not happen over-night. It took a particularly difficult data study at work for me to realize how my Bardic studies could be helpful in looking for a creative way to work through the issue at hand. Once I opened that doorway, learning has become a different experience for me, and my work processes have become more “fun” like solving logic puzzles than trying to just get a data-set that might look “normal” to the requester.

So all of this really begs a larger question – what is like to be a Druid? And while I could answer the similar question of “What is it like to be  Pagan?“, at this time I don’t really have the adequate words to describe what it is like to be a Druid. I feel like I might be likely to just point and go “ugh” as a response, hoping someone can grok what I am getting at. However, I can say that my Druidry is about interconnectedness and the wider implications of inter-relations. I see similar points of cause and effect within World History. How an assassination of an Arch-Duke started a chain of events (through connected treaties of mutual defense) that eventually led to the event we call World War I. And how the surrender terms of World War I led to a near continuation of the same conflict as a part of World War II – though there are a lot more complicating factors to all of that. But the threads between the two are there; however faint one may perceive those threads to be (or not).

In my mundane job, I utilize SQL queries to connect databases together to pull related information into a singular data-set. That synthesis of information happens because I find a faint connection between the tables, and reinforce that within the code by joining the tables together. That inter-related aspect, for me, is a key part of my Druidry. Finding the threads that bring us all together, connect us with our environment – reminding us that our environment does not survive, exist, thrive or decline independent of us. Nor do we survive, exist, thrive or decline without some aspect of our environment being a part of that process. Sadly, it is difficult to get most modern Christians to understand this – since they see the world and our environment as a resource that was placed here for human kind’s use. And as this world is merely a temporary one according to their translated holy writ, there really is no need to be a good steward or custodian of a place that is just a weigh-station within their existence. After all, the true final place that matters is Heaven. But I digress. Sort of. There is interconnectedness in all of that and the state that our environment is in now.

I learn, therefore I am. Maybe. But I enjoy learning because I have a love for knowledge. I have an innate curiosity of how things are connected to one another. I learn and understand the world around me as I look through this lens. And for me, that is part of what it is like to be a Druid. But there is so much more of Druidry that I just cannot explain adequately in words. Bardic circles around the campfire. The people that you connect with – Druids, Pagans, and all the others I just do not have the time to describe here. Cause and Effect observations. The beauty of the landscapes. The rituals, both spiritual and mundane, that we have. Our innate differences. I do not really have the words to explain all of that because my experience is more in terms of emotions. And if only I could put the emotions behind the hugs I have gotten from all those experiences into words – I would be one very expressive author. For the time being, I will just manage a post like this one. However, I will keep trying to write those emotions into some set of words because there has to be some thread that will get me there. Challenge accepted. 🙂

Using Connectivity to Reduce My Stress or How Relationships With Others Help Me to Cope

There are a handful of things that stress me out to the maximum. Most people who have known me for a good bit know exactly what these things are:  over-demanding people, flying, and the so-called “Christmas season”. But knowing what things trigger your sense of being “overwhelmed” or a strong paralysis of fear (real or not) is one thing. Over the years, I have learned a handful of coping skills…mostly meant to distract my mind from such things.

The first is reading. And not just any kind of reading. Reading academic works generally has me staring off into the distance, trying to bring my mind to focus on a section of what I just read. Good ol’ fashioned story telling is where it is at for this. And I have certain writers that I have found to be quite excellent at this. They write stories that just engulf me when I read them. Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, and Neil Gaiman immediately jump to mind. As do Anne McCaffrey, J.K. Rowling, and George R.R. Martin. Though Martin drives me insane with his infinitely long writing times for the Game of Thrones books. I mean come on already man…  ::grin::  But those folks do more than just write stories; they generate a style of mythology that I enjoy. Characters that not only have life breathed into them through the combination of their words, and my own imagination of what I perceive, but these characters face issues that I would normally find in my own life. And what is even better is that these writers sometimes let us readers into the minds of these characters, as they (the characters) parse out what to do.

But this doesn’t really work in say, a crowded mall. Where you have to have some focal attention on what is going on. Well, the second is music. And I have a major ton of it in my iTunes and on my iPhone. Most of my walking is done throughout my small town here in north-central Texas. And I am not really interested in the electronic chiming of the nearby Catholic Church, or the sounds of kids playing or dogs barking at me. Nor am I particularly keen to listen to the sound of the occasional car or truck pass me by. That’s where my ear buds come in handy. I slap these in, and while it doesn’t completely drown out the sounds – and I really wouldn’t want that to happen because I still need some sense of perception of what is going on around me to remain safe – it does provide a handy soundtrack to the walk. Currently, I am typing this while listen to Al Di Meola. His guitar playing always stimulates my mind with the way he utilizes his instrument to convey feeling, and occasionally tell a story. Very few musicians have that quality.

The last one is to find a place far away from people, and just sit. I don’t need a book. I don’t need music. The sounds of the wind blowing through the bare tree limbs, and the nearby birds singing their serenade to the colder moments of Texas life are enough. Sometimes, I do this standing in my kitchen, holding a cup of coffee while I look out the window and watch the doves, sparrows and other birds devour the bird seed I scattered out by the pool. When I feel relaxed enough, I ground and center, and do some light meditation. I go back to my Inner Grove, back to a wonderful little cottage that I was shown not so long ago by a wonderful Priest and teacher. Her guided meditations helped me create this place in myself.

I can always come here and have a cup of hot tea or cocoa, and relax. My Dream Crows are always here, waiting. I tell them parts of the stories I have read, or I just talk. They don’t always listen. Sometimes they are loud, boisterous, and demanding. But they are always here, and always pleasant company. Sometimes, I get visited by Crow, Coyote or even Fliodhas. And it makes for a quiet conversation.

Certainly, being stressed out is one of the most difficult things for me to deal with. And there is far more than these three techniques. But these are my go-to ways, the first that I try. And if you noticed, all of them deal with creativity to one degree or another. To say that I am  patron of the arts and artists is an understatement. The mount of music, and recorded talks I have from various folks is vast. I have three huge bookshelves stocked with reading material from people I admire, and people that I know. On my walls, I have paintings and other creations from people I have met and gotten to know over the years. Each and every one is a fixed memory of this person or that one. Some still living, some who have passed beyond the veil, but all of whom have touched my life in one way or another.

See, the true nature of my coping skills towards stressors in my life comes from examining the connections that I have to the world. And that means marvelling at the wonderful connections that I have with other people. Sure, there are shitty people in the world. Sure, some of them I find in the aisles of Wal-Mart or in the malls around the United States. But there are beautiful, wonderful people in the world as well. Some of them are wonderful educators, others wonderful story-tellers, talented artists, writers, etc. They all have something in common: in one way or another, there is a connection that I have with them, and that connection is a wonderful, beautiful thing to behold. But its also an amazing way for me to remember that they are still there. We may not talk as much as I wish we could, or in some cases, we have never met. However, there is still that joyful connection, always there to drive back my stress levels – reminding me that each day is easily filled with them. Listening to their lectures, their music, their poetry, reading their works, experiencing the wonderful mythologies that they created, and in some cases, reading their emails detailing how their daily life is continuing – in both good and bad ways. Its that shared thread that reminds me that life is experienced in every moment. Good, bad, indifferent. And each experience is unique.

So I raise up my coffee cup to you, the individual reading this. Find what helps you get through the moments where you need to stop, ground and center, and bring yourself back to balance. Use that to help you back to focus. So that you are doing what you should be doing; what you are meant to do. Remember those experiences, examine each one to see where the connection is. Cherish that. Nurture it. Grow it. Cultivate more connections. That’s how we get through our individual storms. Together, even when we are not in physical proximity to one another.

Slainte! To your health! Now, I need another cup of coffee. ::grin::

–T /|\

What Are We to Each Other?

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

What are we to each other?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Connectivity – the Commute To and From Work

So, I am in day two of NaWriMo (my version with the “Novel” aspect removed), and I am fairly pleased with where I have managed to get in a single day. In case you have not noticed, I am also posting new poetry pieces here as well – also a part of the writing process for me. The first one was Somewhere Someone is Unaware of Experiencing, and the second one The World is Watching, was posted earlier this morning. All of this – the poems, the writing here in the blog, the writing of another project, the Bardic Gwers work I am doing – is focused on me getting better as a writer. A secondary focus, but just as important, is getting me to rekindle my creative fires. Finding ways to not only look at the world around me, but also learning to write about it in a more creative way.

One thing I am quite blessed with is a short drive to work. I live eleven miles from my work place. My drive is six to seven minutes in length. And the best part is that the road is a small farm-to-market road that bisects five different cow pastures. That means that I get to see cows nearly everyday that I drive to work and then from work back to home. Every year, I watch the pattern of farm life happen just outside of my windshield.

I get to see the female cows when they are plump with their unborn calves. They waddle slowly through the fields or stand like giant black statues at the fence line, their rear-ends pointed towards the street. At times, I have wondered if I was driving between a potential 21-gun salute that could go very wrong for me and my truck. So far, in two years, I have yet to see a lifting tail which could signal either a live load getting ready to be fired out, or a flatulent warning shot to be sent over my truck’s bonnet for coming to close to the herd.

However, once the bay calves are born, the fun begins. The early days of the little calf are spent moving unsteadily through the field on shaky, weak legs. These first days are so cute to watch, that I find myself slowing down from my usual fifty-plus miles per hour to just over thirty to catch even a short glimpse of these magnificent little creatures. In a few short months, these same calves can be seen pacing the truck as I drive along the road that borders their fence line. Fast little cows too. And if I roll down the window, I can hear them crying out in their young cow voices, as if they think I am the guy driving an ice cream truck selling warm pommes frites (french fries) on a cold German night.

The road I drive along is maintained by the county, though that might be a bit of an understatement. This road is full of potholes, washed out pavement, and is barely a vehicle and a half wide. With no center line, everyone drives down the center of the road until oncoming traffic gets encountered. Then it becomes a dance of death, particularly when two large pickup trucks met. I drive a Ford F-150, which is a HUGE vehicle for me. However, here in the back-forty of Texas, I am essentially driving a matchbox vehicle. Passing oncoming traffic means that someone is going to put their passenger-side wheels in the dirt on the side of the road. In that small strip is a ditch that seems to always be hidden by tall grasses. One small steering mistake has the potential to take the truck and push it through the farmer’s three-wire fence that holds in the aforementioned cows. And I have not even mentioned the many, many Turkey-buzzards that are constantly in the area. There’s a potential for issues if you are looking at the cows and their baby calves. Well, perhaps the issue is not yours, since I am the idiot that is usually looking at the cows while driving.

There is also the numerous trees, plains, tall grasses, and other plant life that also shows the turning of the Wheel. Or in the case of Texas, the schedule of the rainfall in the area. Among all the browning plant life are smaller animals that live wild and free. Mornings can have rabbits running in front of the truck as they are frightened out of their hiding places in the previously mentioned ditch area at either side of the road. Occasionally, a fox will dart across the road, but that is usually in the evening – and much closer to dusk. That is a sight not usually seen unless I am working late. Being an hourly employee, that rarely ever happens. And then there are the feathered friends that I see everywhere. The crows, the grackles, and the very occasionally raven. All of these birds I consider to be brothers and messengers of a sort. I pay very close attention when these are around to see if I am missing something or doing something that might not be right. In a manner of speaking, these guys serve as a collective Jiminy Cricket for me. And yes, I feed them at the birdbath in my backyard every night.

The night sky for me is a lot clearer than it was for me back down in Corinth. I am an hour’s drive north of where I used to live. There is still light pollution up here near the Texas/Oklahoma border, but nearly as much was down there closer to the metromess known as Dallas/Fort Worth. Every clear night, I try to spend out in the backyard – even if just for a mere ten minutes. Being able to look up at the stars and the moon at night is a joy I hope to never lose.

I am all about finding, exploring, examining and discovering connections to my local area. There are Spirits of Place aplenty here. While many do not seem to care whether humans are here or not, some are interested enough to take a look from time to time. At one time, this area was home to many of the First Nations peoples. Their connection to Crow and Coyote – among others – was strong. Some of that resonates here for me. I may be white in pigmentation, but the color of my skin means nothing to the Gods. I walk with Coyote by side, Crow on my shoulder, and Fliadhas at my other side whispering in my ear. Each of Them are a part of my journey, and I enjoy a unique relationship with each one in turn. And I find Them in nearly every setting I spend time examining, exploring and experiencing.

I truly belong where I am on this Path. And I am lucky enough to spend time continuing along it. /|\

Examining a Life in Motion

Patterns. Relationships. Connectivity. These three words comprise a large part of what my Druidry studies are to me. Learning about how things relate to one another, their connectivity to everything else, and the patterns that can evolve from all of that. For instance, we build new housing areas here in the United States, expanding the reach of our cities further and further. Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, I can still recall when there vast empty fields between both major cities and Arlington, which sits between them on Interstate 30. Nowadays, I cannot even discern where Dallas or Fort Worth ends, and Arlington begins. It is a giant, enmeshed urban environment. At one time, wildlife lived in those wild areas between the cities. Now, that same wildlife lives within the urban environment, displaced from the growth between the two cities. The animals caught between have developed new ways of foraging for food, such as dumpster diving the local Taco Bell. Wow, I just realized how much of a different bend the term “dumpster diving” has taken since my days of piecing together shredded documents with long distance codes printed on them, which I “obtained” from the dumpster in the back of the local phone company building. Yeah, the times are definitely a-changing.

I have talked about these connections, these relationships before. I wrote at length on this back in July of 2014 when I was still teaching. “Aware and Awake in a Binary World” still gets the occasional hit from someone finding it on a search engine. In the post, I talk about the relationship of data within our overly connected world. When I was teaching my class, I tried to get students to be aware of how much information was floating in the nether-reaches of the internet on them. How companies would utilize social media against them during hiring processes. After all, an ultra-conservative-Christian company such as Interstate Tire and Battery would definitely have a problem hiring an individual who took a picture of themselves holding a large bottle of whiskey with a near orgasmic look on their face. You don’t bring that picture to an interview, nor would you attach it to a resume or application. But companies would search the online media to locate you – and scrutinize who you are by what is presented there. Nine Hells, I am search a company like ITB would have a very difficult time hiring an openly Pagan individual such as myself. And as a private company, they would have every right to refuse to hire me. But the point here is not the hiring process of a single company; the point is how connected our online world is, and how little we seem to understand the same concept of connectivity in our physical world.

“Everything is connected. One action creates a similar, equal reaction”, or so the two sayings go. But everything I have seen certainly seems to corroborate this. Every conscious and unconscious choice we make impacts everything around us. Trash thrown on the side of the road can cause problems for animals. Plastic six-pack rings can entangle birds in the same manner that a trap would, and leaves them more vulnerable to being caught by predators or starving to death because they cannot fly off to locate food. Half eaten food in the fast food bags that are thrown out may feed local animals, but it also makes them dependent on human beings for food, causing them to not fend for themselves properly in the food chain. Worse, it encourages wild animals to be unafraid of human beings, seeing people as food ATMs (essentially), and running stronger risk of face-to-face encounters that can end badly for both humans and animals. We humans don’t always see how our actions such as polluting or tossing out garbage on the side of the road as being destructive. It is unsightly, but no one is getting hurt, right?

That’s only a small aspect of the consequences we have on our planet, on our surroundings and on others. We are aware that the photos that we put online can be seen by a vast multitude of people, because we are made acutely aware of our digital footprint and the potential consequences from it. That’s always in the news. Right in front of your face. But your own footprint in the physical world is something that many people seem to be blind to.

When I talk of being aware of connections, relationships, and being aware of patterns, there is more to it than just a concept of Psychology. It is a conscious look at how everything is affected by everything else. It is a slow, conscious, thoughtful examination of everything. I do this nearly every day, as I sit on my back porch and view my backyard. And every day, I learn something, I see something I had not noticed before. Will I ever understand it all?  Doubtful. But once I understand the relationship and the pattern associated with it, I can see whether I am being harmful in my interactions – even on an unconscious level, and adjust my interactions accordingly. Every day is a moment to learn, a moment to examine, a moment to comprehend, and a moment to adjust – if necessary.

For me, the process is a purposeful examination of my life in motion. For others, it may seem like a futile proceeding. I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I certainly understand. Hopefully, a few others may attempt the process as well, but that is up to them.


Starting the Avalanche of Connective Awareness

So, yesterday I spent most of my day behind the wheel of my Forester. I don’t mind driving long distances, in fact I enjoy doing so. However, yesterday was a specific mission — and a chance to experience something I had not had the chance to do so yet. My mission was to get an interview with Chris Godwin, one of the most interesting Pagans I have ever encountered. And the trip was a success on that count. The other was to experience a Pagan Pride Day outside of the DFW area. I walked away from the Pagan Pride Day event, back to my car for a five-plus hour drive back home – extremely impressed on that count as well.

I spent a lot of time with Damh the Bard, Bran Cerddorion, Wendy Rule, Spiral Dance, Gaia Consort, Paul Newman, Omnia, Nico Vermaas, Kellianna, The Dolmen, Jim Faupel, and a few others that I cannot recall at the moment, playing on shuffle. It made the trip a lot of fun for my ears, and very relaxing for myself. Plus, a lot of this music I tend to use as background music when I am writing and meditating – so it was only natural for me to spend a lot of thought exploring various directions in my thoughts.

During my time talking with Chris, I lamented the fact that I would only be at the PPD event for a little under two hours. A trip from up here near the Oklahoma border to Austin is not a terrible drive. Its merely the amount of time that one spends on asphalt that makes it suck. Particularly when you have to make the return trip back in the same day. It seriously limits the amount of time you get to spend there. When I mentioned that there may be a hotel in my future for next year’s event, Chris was very quick to nix that idea over staying with folks in the area. And I have to say, that is one of the hallmarks I have come to know Chris by — he’s immediate generosity to people. Really, an amazing guy, and an example that many people could follow – myself included in that.

In light of the recent events in France, Lebanon and Kenya over the past few days – there have been signs that many people are willing to be examples like this as well. People who step out to comfort the hurting, shelter and house those that were being attacked…and even in the wake of such vicious violent acts, I see a small corner that seems to be getting turned. Where people are starting to see the point about valuing the beings that are. Certainly, this seems to be applied nearly exclusively to human beings, with some tendencies towards the animal world, but rarely a nod to plants, rocks, soil, water, air, or even microbes. But in my eyes, and my thinking, its a step towards understanding and relating to how inter-connected we all are.

Me…well I am an Animist. I believe in the life in everything around me. Even plastics, metals, rocks, soil…it all has life, it all has existence. Some of it moves far slower than we humans do. And in other aspects it moves far faster than we do. And at those extreme points on the spectrum, because we don’t perceive them, we tend not to believe in their existence as entities in the world around us. I am also a believe in the Gods and that they are all around. That we can communicate with them, and vice versa – provided we open our minds to the possibilities and potential. And through both of those lenses, I see the connectivity between all of us in the world around us. That’s the harder perception to view….

The far easier one is how we – as human beings – are connected with one another. Our economies are now tied globally together – thanks to a wonderful tool we all seem to use:  the internet. We are connected in other ways as well. Violence that is rained down on people around the world affects us everywhere. We see it on our news feeds, on the televisions, hear it on our radios. We want information on how things are in other places around the world – and that ties us together. But if we understand that aspect of connectivity, the logical question is why would we project violence on to others? Power? Because they are different? Because our government said so? Because we have no other way to get our point across?

In my eyes, its a matter of getting people to understand our connectivity, that we are all the same – regardless of skin color, eye-color, dominant hand, hair color, place we were born, who are parents were, what country we live in, what region of our country we live in, our economic status. And while I would gallantly wish and believe that this would happen in my lifetime, I’m not overly naive. In two generations, we are still arguing out the perspective of skin color. Whether one skin color matters more than another. Which, I personally find silly. But I am only one person. Surely there are others that feel the same way. And there are. They make their voices known too – they talk about this topic everywhere else in the social media platforms, in face-to-face environments…And this is where the first step towards realizing the interconnected nature of us all starts. It will happen. Probably not in my lifetime. But to steal a line from Babylon 5:  “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

When I was at the Austin Pagan Pride Day, I walked throughout the festival area and looked at the folks there. Even after a short spat of rain, people were happy to be there. They were genuinely enjoying one another’s company. I met up with two folks that I had met for the first time in February, and was thrilled to see them. Very happy times for all that. In meeting Chris and his wife Amanda, they greeted me like a friend that they had not seen in a while. Almost like family. I met an individual from Ohio (I am obviously not giving names here), who I was able to converse with on a few military-related topics. When I left, he gave me a friendly hug, as if I was someone he had known forever. Another lady I met, I had a wonderful conversation with on Native American topics. You cannot have conversations like that with people that do not understand the connectivity between everyone and everything, nor with people who don’t value what that connection means.

Austin Pagan Pride Day was a wonderful event – a sheer joy of the two hours I spent there. Full of magickal moments, from meeting two individuals I had wonderful conversations with, seeing two friends that I was able to spend a few minutes of time with, getting hugs from both Chris and Amanda, and the magickal interview with Chris in the rain (yes, it rained on us while we were doing the interview). What I witnessed, and was a part of for those two hours, was a community of Pagans who valued and cherished the connections that they have with others. It was only two hours, but it was well worth ten hours of being behind the wheel of my Forester. And its connectivity like that, which I seek out — not just within the Pagan community, but everywhere.

How do we defeat individuals bent on such violent acts? Practice what we believe. Find the connectivity within your community. Find the connectivity within your environment. And place value on the connections, as well as on the entities on the other side of those connections. It may not happen in my lifetime. It may not even happen in the lifetimes of the next four generations. But it is certainly the right time, the right climate, and the right reasons to start the avalanche.

What Happens….Looking at Connectivity During a Move

The morning started quietly today. I peeked out the kitchen window, and saw the very manicured backyard – minus my stone circle – there before. Extremely short grass, being bathed with the morning rays of light, emphasizing both the green patches that the sprinklers manage to keep growing (and the shade of the tree helps along), and the browner patches of grass in the open part of the yard. The sun peeked through some darkish looking clouds, which made for some wonderful hues of light as the morning progressed. Now, a few hours later, the sun has changed the color of those clouds to the typical high, white, wispy-thin cotton trails that are indicative of a very hot day here in Texas.

Every morning for the past few weeks, I have either stepped out into my backyard, or stood at the dining room window overlooking the bird bath and silently projected my thought that my friends may want to find alternate places to find their food and water. I have no idea what the future holds in a few weeks when the new owners move in. For all I know, they will tear down the big tree and the two little trees in the backyard and install an in-ground pool – like most of the neighborhood already has. I feel its my obligation to project these messages to my little denizens that I have come to know through watching their daily dramas unfold at the birdbath. I have also spent a few times in meditation reaching out to the Spirits of Place that are here, and whispering my goodbyes into the air around them. For the most part, I’ve always been ignored – these times have been no exceptions.

I never really understood how traumatic an experience moving can be. I grew up in the United States military – moving was always something that could happen at any time. And sometimes it was a very quick process. Other times, it was a lot longer – more lead time towards the event, so things could be carefully packed away. I was far smaller, and way younger than I am now. My responsibility was to bring my Steiff bear Timothy with me, as well as any book I might want to read a few times over on the plane. I hated flying, even then. That was probably the most nerve-wracking thing I ever did during those trips. Making friends at a new place was never that difficult. Once the bicycle was unpacked, it was a matter of riding through the neighborhood a couple of times before the other kids realized there was someone new. Its a little different now that I am an adult. Its not as easy as getting in your car and circling the block a few times. There’s a whole different ritual where adults are concerned. I hate that. But that’s the way society has changed. We’ve become far more wrapped up in ourselves than we were before.

Yes, there’s a lot on my mind where this move is concerned.

Gizmo hiding...sort of
Gizmo hiding…sort of

But in the meantime, I continue to play with my furry girls, knowing that the move will be the most traumatic to them. After all, it is a very rare thing for them to be put in their cat carriers – and usually the end of that is a visit to the vet, not a favorite destination whatsoever. I know that I have a large responsibility to make them feel as comfortable and reassured as I can – both during the move process, and after they arrive at the new house. The first month-plus will be chaos as we unpack boxes, re-pack material for storage, and try to find the furniture locations that will work best to make the house comfortable. And all of that will be stressful on them as well. All three of them are very good barometers of emotion. If you are upset, and loud – Gizmo will be around. If you are feeling down – Shadow will be there. And Kaylee…well, she’s wherever I am. That’s my puppy dog. She might be a cat, but she certainly acts more like a dog.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect in all of this, is when I am looking at something or some situation – and trying to determine what I should do… its like a part of my Druidry studies kicks in. I worry and fuss over details that I had never considered before – because I am worried about how a lack of attention will affect someone else. Why else would I be worried about my little feathered friends finding another place to get their baths and seed? Or the worry I have for the squirrel attempting to forage food from other yards, and having to cross the neighborhood’s busiest street?

I know there’s not a lot I can really do – except not move. But consider how much of a physical and mental toll that long drive is doing to me now…that’s not an option, unless I can quit, which I do not want to do. After only a year, I am making a difference – I am providing numbers in a timely fashion to the Administration so that they can make timely decisions based on data trends. Its not always the most ideal situation…but its a place where everyone treats you like family, and are always willing to help out.

Yeah, its a rough decision to make – there are minuses to making the move, but the plusses far outweigh that. I am not sure what view I will have of the morning sun – but if it is obstructed, my neighborhood is quiet enough that morning walks before daylight will become a staple of my day.

Being Distracted From Connectivity….

One cloudy, misty afternoon, I decided to take my usual walk through the forest. Walking along the well-traveled dirt path, I eventually came upon a white fawn standing in the middle of the path. The fawn was barely discernible through the swirling mists, which masked the outline of the young deer quite well. “Follow the deer,” I hear a soft voice. I look around, slightly flustered at hearing a voice when I had been walking alone, but there was no one there but myself and the fawn. “Follow the deer,” I hear again. This time I lock eyes with the young deer, which seems to nod at me. Then the deer walks slowly off the Path, and I walk cautiously up to where the fawn had stood. Looking down the small break in the trees, my eyes follow the track of the deer along a slightly worn, very thin path – a “game trail” is what my hunter friends would have called this. “Follow the deer,” came the voice for a third time. I shrugged my shoulders and stepped onto the game trail, the fawn barely visible in my sight.

That’s a dream that I have had on multiple occasions. Sometimes, the time of day or the weather is a little different. On sunny days, the sun is brilliant enough to make seeing the fawn very difficult, and in the mornings, evenings, and night-time, there’s hardly enough light to see very much. Otherwise, the dream stays the same. And the dream always ends when I step off the forest path and on to the game trail.

What does it mean?  I am not really sure. Interpretation of dreams is not really my strength, plus the symbology can mean different things to me at different times. But its in my dream journal. As are many other dreams that I can recall shortly after waking. I learned the hard way to write the dreams down in as much detail as possible as soon as I awake. Almost every dream fades from my memory the longer that I am awake. And reading back over my entries, I can nearly get the same feeling as I had before – just by reading the words. Whether these are trigger-points for remembering what I had heard or seen or touched or smelled during my dream – I can’t really say. Psychology is not something I delve into very deeply. Its one of the sciences that holds very little interest for me. I prefer Sociology to Psychology any day of the week.

What I find more interesting is how words can evoke such sensations or the remembrance of sensations. Or even music for that fact. Bran Cerddorion, who I met for the first time at the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering earlier this year, wrote a song about attending that event called “Awen Flows Free (Not in Kansas Anymore)“. When I listen to that particular song, all the feelings and emotions that I experienced during that event come welling up inside me all over again. Some may call that evocative magick, others may call it something else – I merely call it fascinating.

Touch is another of those moments. Someone that I know quite well, when we shake hands or hug, I can literally feel a transmission of emotions that pass between the two of us. And with that moment comes the flood of emotional memories that continue to provide the connection between the two of us – even when its been a long period of time between moments of being together. Some call that connectedness, some call it weird or strange – I call that fascinating.

As someone studying a Path of Druidry, I am constantly reminded by the lessons that I have completed, and the lessons I am working on – that finding those connections is a part of everyday living. And that feeling those connections is a part of everyday living. And that cultivating those connections is a part of everyday living. And that all that connectivity connects me to others – some of whom I have never met before, and may likely never met ever. And some of those people that I have distant connectivity to may dislike me simply because I do not follow their path of belief. Or because I support the concept of loving who you love. Or because I don’t dress the way that they do. Or I don’t talk the way that they do. Or because I simply live in a geographic location that they have developed some degree of anger or hatred towards. Whatever the case may be, somewhere along the line, there’s a connection between the two of us. No matter how thin or frail that thread of connectivity may be, its there whether they want to agree or not. Whether they like it or not. Whether I want to like it or not.

A particular quote that is often attributed to the Dkhw’Duw’Absh Chief Seattle goes like this:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

Whether he truly said it or not, does not matter to me. I am not interested in such controversies. I am more interested in what meaning the statement has behind it. For me, this statement is a quintessential understanding of the connections that I am reminded of in my Druidry lessons. We can disagree with what others may say, or the actions that they commit to – but we cannot deny the connections that bind us together within the web. As one of my favorite characters on the Babylon 5 television show states:

In here you cannot hide from yourself. Everything out there has only one purpose. To distract ourselves from what is truly important.

At that time, G’kar was in solitary confinement in a jail cell. The Chief of Security had commented that he (G’kar) seemed to be more at peace within the jail cell than he was out in the general populace of the Babylon 5 station. For me, this quote is the perfect carriage in pointing out the meaningless nature of politics. Politics is only a manner of diving ourselves, allowing us to deny the connections between one another – particularly where we have differences of opinion in how governance is applied to a societal framework that we have chosen to live within. Indeed, at times it certainly seems that politics has only one goal – to distract ourselves from what is truly important… I would honestly rather continue to be aware of the connections that we seem to deny through politics. I would rather live in a world where I can see and experience that connectivity on a daily basis…and so I do. Or at least, I try my best to do so…