An Unexpected Journey…Sort Of

So….I made it back to work from Many Gods West, thinking I had zero vacation days left before September 1st. What I found, instead, was that I had another 24 hours of vacation left. If I didn’t take it before the 1st….I’d lose it. So, with an upcoming eclipse nearby….off I went. I’ve been here, up in Kansas….watching the cloudy skies, the thunderstorm this morning….and wondering if I got up here to just watch the sky darken in the middle of the day. But its been an interesting trek up here….driving delays, construction, and another thunderstorm – yes, there was a thunderstorm blocking the way on the lower half of the Kansas turnpike….  What should have been a seven to eight hour trip turned into a twelve hour melee.

Probably more along the lines of an adventure, if you will. But it certainly got me to wondering….when was the last time that I had ever decided to do something like this? And I don’t mean anything like trips to England or Ireland, which were planned well in advance. Or even trips to San Jose or Olympia for a convention….again, those being planned. I mean completely unplanned – just a wild hair up my ass – kind of trips. And for that, I can say that those moments don’t come around nearly as often as I would like.

Most of my unplanned trips are day-long driving trips – such as the occasional trip to Amarillo, or even an occasional jaunt down to Austin to interview Chris Godwin. Or back when Dublin Dr. Pepper Bottling Works was doing their take on the Dr. Pepper formula before the folks who make Dr. Pepper remembered that they were a commercial corporation and crushed the poor folks in Dublin as a reminder to what can happen to the little guy. And each of those trips has a final destination, but its really not the destination that makes those trips so awesome for me (apologies to Chris, the folks at Dublin and the folks at Amarillo – among many others). No its not the destination, its the journey.

In one of my favorite TV shows, Firefly, Shepherd Book approaches the ships’ mechanic to book passage on the ship. And the conversation goes something like this:

Kaylee: How come you don’t care where you’re going?
Book: ‘Cause how you get there is the worthier part.

Yes, I have destination in mind nearly ever time I step out the door, but to be honest – what I see through the windscreen of the car on those long drives is the stuff that really gets me alive. Even on the shorter trips too. I drive a total of eleven miles to work, and most of that is down a farm road between several pastures. I see all kinds of wildlife from rabbits, foxes, crows (naturally) to barnyard critters such as cows, goats, the occasional donkey, dogs, and cats. There’s a lot of plant life to look at as well – trees, prairie grasses, weeds, and wild flowers. And that’s all in an eleven mile stretch of roads. When I drive to long distance locations, there is all of this and so much more to see. Texas provides wonderful views out in the prairie land and in the hill country to the south of me of incoming thunderstorms, and tear-causing sunrises and sunsets. And all of that just makes the moments come alive for me.

Plus, there’s always the chance locations of where to stop and enjoy the feeling of the land outside of the vehicle as well. I have stopped on the edge of a rainstorm, just to get out and smell the humidity in the air, and feel the dropping temperatures associated with such a phenomenon. And moments like that are just sheer magick!! And for me, all of that is part of the journey of getting from here to there.

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.  —Bilbo Baggins

And that’s so much what this trip has become. Just getting in the car – driving towards an area where the eclipse would potentially be happening, when I had no plans whatsoever to be here. Why? Because I had an unexpected chance of it occurring. And so here I am. In an area where the eclipse will happen – with a chance that a thunderstorm may spoil the whole thing. And if that happens?? I’m not about to be upset. I’m here. And I am experiencing this here and now. Well, not exactly here and now yet….but when it takes place, I am going to be here.

Lately, I have been speaking about a lot of things associated with my Spirituality – my connection with my Gods – what my Paganism means to me. And while all of that is nice and fine, its not all of who I am. Its not all of what I am about. Its a big chunk of it. But its not all of it. In truth, I have been so narrowly focused on the Spirituality of my Life, as well as the changes at my mundane job; that I have forgotten about the thrilling feeling of cold rain splashing on my face, feeling the wind pulling through my clothes, and smelling the cleansing scent of rain in the air.

So, yes….sometimes, it brings me back to remembering who I am and what I am and where I am in this world by just going somewhere….and experiencing. What makes me a Pagan is my experiences. And sometimes, I completely forget about having those as well. Getting swept up by the tidal aspect of a journey just waiting outside the door is sometimes just the start…but really, just going on the journey is not enough. I do have to see and experience what’s out there while I am getting washed down the road….


Druidry Taught Me That

Numbers don’t lie.

As someone who works with statistics on a daily basis, I hear this line of reasoning nearly every day. In fact, it was uttered during my interview for the job. And I retorted with:

Numbers do not lie, that is correct. But if you are relying on the numbers to tell the entire narrative of what is taking place, you are stepping into very dangerous and foolish territory. Dangerous because decision-making based on only part of the necessary information can often be a fatal misstep. Foolish because the rest of the information that supplies the rest of the narrative is fairly easy to get.

It was a statement that unofficially got me the job.

But it was not just a retort to a statement that I find to be as useful as many of the memes that permeate the bandwidth of the internet today. It was a statement of what I believe, and how I perceive the world around me. Through connections. Statistics can showcase trends. Learning the stories of the people who make up those numbers allows you to put the narrative into perspective. That’s providing the connectivity between two points. And that single strand of connectivity can make all the difference in decision-making. Look at all facets before deciding on a direction.

Druidry taught me that.

There’s connectivity between the state of our planet and the damage that we – human beings – have done during our phases of industrialization. Its only very recent in our collective histories that we have realized that as we damage our environment, we damage our ability to continue as species far into the future. We are a part of the ecosystem that makes up the Earth, and when we tip the balance into our favor in ways that are destructive, we harm ourselves in the longer aspects. We essentially kill that ecosystem that we are a part of. That particular connectivity is something we combat every day with climate-change deniers. We cannot change their minds by continually beating them over the heads. We have to work with them, find ways to effectively communicate and be patient in the process. They are a part of this too – and they are going to be needed in making changes and helping to find balance. Inclusion.

Druidry taught me that.

Everything has a certain “look” about it. An exterior quality all its own. In some cases, the exterior presence can be considered exquisitely beautiful by any that behold it. In other cases, the essence of “beauty” depends on the individual observing. In all cases, there is always more to the way something looks or feels. In individuals there are emotions, intelligence, wit, wisdom, personality and more qualities that cannot be seen on the outside – which have to be experienced through interaction – which can add to the element of “beauty”. There is beauty in everything, and sometimes you have to look beyond the surface to find that which is appealing or striking to you.

Druidry taught me that. So did the experience of Life itself.

To be honest, I am not sure where a particular set of personal ethics sits within all of this. I have a developed sense of moral character, which has been shaped by my daily experiences. I am capable of extending trust immediately to some people based on my own perceptions. I can also withhold trust where my perceptions perceive ill. Sometimes, my instincts may prove to be wrong, and I will need to examine and develop my instincts of providing and withholding trust based upon that. So I am constantly developing and changing as my environment changes around me. To be perfectly frank, I have not been aware of this particular aspect of who I am until recently – within the last twelve years to be precise.

Druidry continues to teach me that.

So, when I hear people laugh when I tell them that I am a Druid who believes in the real manifestation of Gods and Goddesses, Spirits of Place, and my Spirits of Ancestral lineage – I utilize this exercise to remind me. Druidry has taught me more about myself than I could fathom. And every day, I continue to learn more and more about myself, and the world around me. And the laughter and cynical statements from others ring hollow to my ears. I know the Path I am on. I know why I am on this particular Path. And I know its the right one for me.

….and yes, Druidry taught me that. As did Life’s experiences. And my meditations. I know me. And I am well aware of the statistics that bring me to this point. As well as the story behind my Path. And every single day adds another life lesson. After all, the numbers don’t lie. Nor do my footsteps on my Path.  /|\


“Look! Over There!” — Experiencing the World Around Me…

How do you view the world around you?

What are some of the things you look for each day?

Where is the Sacred for you, and how can you define it?

I don’t often spend time reflecting on questions posed to me – particularly those in a face-to-face manner. A short time back, I was asked the above by a stranger who had puzzled out who I am in my online environment. As a podcaster (or podcatser as my mis-spelled business card states), I tend to field all kinds of questions from people wondering how I do this or do that in relation to my spiritual life. And to be completely honest, these are the hardest questions to field. I can handle questions about how and why I came to be on this Pagan Path, where I had been before, and the correlation between the two. But when folks start asking about techniques, spell-work, aspects of ritual — the answers don’t come nearly as quick or easily.

Much of what I do and practice as a Pagan is done impromptu. I have referred to my form of practice as “free-style Jazz Paganism” in the past, and its probably the most on-target descriptive of who I am. At work, I have stepped outside to the little gazebo by the duck-pond more than once — just to sit and watch the ducks, and to quietly speak my moments of reverence to Crow. I have also been known to mutter to myself in the hallways, but that’s just me puzzling out a way to get to data. Its a manner of three dimensional thinking – and a topic for another time.

The World Around Me – As Viewed From My Own Porthole

ArgumentI see my environment as a living, breathing entity: where everything is inter-connected to create this unique moment in time and space. A moment that I cherish as unique, beautiful, and very fleeting. Each entity – animal, human, tree, rock – is its own creation, capable of thought and life on levels that I am likely to never comprehend fully. And as such, each entity deserves respect and honor for who they are. I have a bird bath in my backyard that provides a constant source of entertainment for my cats. For me, the cool water I place in the bird bath, along with the seeds and bread I scatter around it on the ground, is a way of giving to my feathered and furry companions (the neighborhood squirrels) that live around me. I watch their interactions and actions – amazed at the communication skills that they manage between one another.

I do the same thing at the local mall (when I go), sans the bird bath and the scattered food. I watch the verbal and non-verbal communication that people manage with one another. The lack of eye contact with people considered to be total strangers, the determined eye contact and ease of touch between friends and companions. The differences between the intimacy of two people versus the measured distance between those who know one another but do not seem to have that same level of intimacy. Those tiny threads of connection that most of us take for granted, until something happens to reinforce or completely sever them.

Its the manner in which we treat one another that I believe is at the core of the problems we face as the collective human race. Its a lack of understanding or even noticing these threads of connection that keep us from treating one another the same. We focus on skin pigmentation, hair color, height, weight, eye color, ideology — thing that truly do not matter when considering a fellow human being. And as we focus on these particular factors in determining who is a “stranger” and who is “close” to us, we lose sight of who we are:  human beings. Yes, there are some human beings who care not about their fellow human beings – focusing on power, the collection of things, the collection of money – and then use those focal points to determine the value and worth of their fellow human beings. Not enough of these particular things – places you in one category. Having large quantities of these things, places you in another. Or we focus on how people differ from ourselves based on their religious beliefs, who we choose to love, or how many. And we condemn people based on these differences, when in the end we are all merely the same people. Or as Poximo states in the movie Gladiator:  “We mortals are but shadows and dust. Shadows and dust, Maximus!”

Throughout the Day – I Spy With My Little Eye….

Crow in Trinidad, CO
Crow in Trinidad, CO
As strange as this sounds, I see black birds of a variety of types. Over the last six years, no matter where I go – I find black birds flocking near me. There are two Crows at work that sit on the light stanchions at the edge of the parking lot and wait for me. Whenever I get out of my Forester in the morning, they caw at me. I have asked other folks at work if they have noticed the Crows, and they have stated that they do not. “Perhaps, its because they don’t caw?” I usually reply to them with a “good morning” as I walk to my building from the parking lot. And yes, I say that out loud – regardless of who is around. I am quite sure they believe me to be slightly tetched in the head, but I honestly don’t care. Grackles are the noisier of the black birds I tend to see — and usually when they come around in large numbers, I know that I am not following something I should be doing for Crow. Then its time to get back into meditation and figure out what I missed.

But the black birds are not the only thing I see throughout the day. As I mentioned before, I view the connections, the relationships that make things go. I watch how others treat one another. I will typically go through my day trying to seek out the one person that needs a word of encouragement, a smile, a touch of the shoulder — anything to remind them that there are people in the world that are kind, and do care. And to let them know that I have walked a mile or more in those moccasins too.

I sometimes really believe that our modern-day society needs to yank the plug on our computers, tablets, laptops, and phones — and just observe the world around them in silence. I’ll let this video scene from Babylon 5 explain why that is necessary, in my opinion.

The Sacred is All Around

I have had this particular question asked of me before. Where do I find the Sacred, how can I define that? There is simplicity in this answer, cloaked by complexity. The Sacred is all around us, all within us. The Universe is Sacred. Wherever we look, we can find the Scared. But defining it…. I only have one question for that in return:  why would we want to define it?  Once we place it into a little box, bounded by a strict definition, I have to wonder if what is being defined as Sacred can no longer adhere to that definition. To aid my final response, I again turn to J. Michael Stryzinski’s masterful Science Fiction TV show “Babylon 5” and the warrior/mystic G’kar for support.

Honestly, I have no “truth” for anyone else. I have my desire to explore the environment around me. This includes finding connections between myself and the Gods. I hold no animosity towards the Christian, Muslim, or Judaic faiths. In fact, when the followers of these faiths disagree with me, I accept the disagreement for what it is – a difference in perceiving the world around us, and realize that it comes from each of us being a unique individual that occupies a specific position in time and space. We are who we are, and we perceive and experience phenomenon differently. In turn, we interpret each experience differently as well. Its when we choose to impose our own understanding and experiences on to others – through “conversion”, “unwanted witnessing”, and just sheer force of violence – that’s when we break the trust we all hold in communication. Its when we create the walls of division – and find reasons to treat those who are different as “unworthy” or “incorrect” in experiences that are so uniquely individual. And its at this point, where we cease to treat one another with kindness. For me, this is the crucible where our social problems of today is born.

–Tommy /|\

Feeling the Rain – Hearing the Rain

Glacier National ParkIts a sound I do not hear that often here in Texas. The pitter-patter of drops against the roof of the house. Rain is one of those sounds I absolutely love. Unfortunately, the rain comes along with some sporadic lightning this morning as well. I am all too aware that being outside when lightning is around can be a dangerous thing. I remember at one mountainous location, a group of friends and I stopped to walk along a rather scenic area. We could see the rain-clouds boiling up the edge of the mountain, shooting high above our heads. Occasionally, we would be pelted by huge, cold rain drops as we walked along. About two-hundred yards from the cars, all of our hair started to slowly rise in the air.  Not from the wind, but from the static electricity in the air. We knew right then and there that it was time to head back to the car….posthaste. Rarely, do I stay outdoors when lightning is around.

This morning’s rain is a slow, cool, wet drizzle. It reminds me of the rainy days we would get in Germany. Where the rain would start out as a mist, almost as if it was coming out of those mist making machines you see at various baseball parks around the United States here. Very fine, very cool, very soaking – even though it didn’t look that way. Then, over the course of time, it would be replaced with a barrage of rain-drops, and the sound of these drops landing in the pine needles around us in the forest was a relaxing one.

The area around Kaiserslautern is riddled with tons of walking trails. Any free day that I had, I was usually found on one of these trails. Along the trails, were lots of old Roman fortifications that were in various states of ruin. Kaiserslautern was an important Roman outpost on the “frontier” — the wild Germanic tribes and the Celtic tribes in France were both nearby. So, many places were the site of walls, towers, and fortifications. The trails were essentially littered with the remains of these built-up areas. In some places, there were also small hollowed out areas and very small caves. As is typical, many of the youth in the area utilized these particular locations for their gatherings and parties – and decorated the walls with their graffiti. Leaving their testament behind for others in the future. Several times, I found myself sitting in the open mouth of one of these caves, to wait out a particularly heavy rain or the very rare occurrence of a storm with lightning.

I have very strong memories of those moments – both sitting in the cave, as well as walking in the rain while in the forests. The closest equivalent that I have found here in the United States is the forests up in Glacier National Park in Montana. But the forests in Germany are a lot different. The Spirits of the Land (SoL for the sake of typing) feel far older, and are a lot more disdainful of people than those here in the United States. Its not that the SoL are scornful of people, its more like they just do not pay much attention to people. Here in the US, I have found SoL to be far more curious about people, in general. But I am diving down a side-path here, let me get back to the experience of rain….

Like I said, its the sound of rain that I truly love. Its the perfect ointment for my soul. When I need to hear something soothing, I have several CDs full of Nature Sounds that are nothing but recordings of rain. But the recordings are nothing compared to the real thing. I have been known to walk in the rain – sometimes with an umbrella, sometimes without. A few friends have considered such actions to be “crazy” — but for me, its a wonderful experience. Sure, some folks may consider me to be cracked – but the reality is that it is a firm recharge for me. Living here in Texas, where it rains so very little and gets extraordinarily hot, I tend to resort to my recorded CDs quite a bit. But when I was stationed in Germany, I had plenty of opportunities to experience the rain. When my family lived in England during my early teens – I had plenty of rain to enjoy.

I get a lot of flak from other Pagans because I have a tendency to eschew ritual. As I have said numerous times before – my ritual happens every day. And its those everyday experiences that make each one unique. No single day is the same as the next. Sometimes, the wrinkles are small – sometimes the entire cloth is changed. But its those experiences that I get to have that connect me closer to the Gods. Its those experiences that remind me I am a part of a larger, living, changing ecosystem. In my opinion, I can choose to live outside of that ecosystem, trying to bend and tame it to my Will – or I can choose to be a part of it, find my role within it, and live each moment by reveling in its uniqueness. For me, its obvious – I choose the latter.