The Crucible of Change

There are times that you need to clear away things in your Life, so that new growth can take place. Old hobbies that no longer interest you, clothes that no longer fit or cannot be repaired, and even entire parts of one’s past. A crucible is a ceramic or metal container where substances can be melted down or subjected to very high temperatures. This is sometimes done to burn away everything except the base metal itself. However, in this case, I am using the definition that a crucible is “a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.” (Dictionary.com)

The Crucible of Change
10/6/2020

Looking back at the past
Burning bright in the distance
This had to be done
To be able to go forward

Not all is gone though
Some pieces of the past endure
The fires of destruction
The crucible of change

Those pieces are malleable
Able to evolve with a new focus, a new dream
Remaining as true as they were
When they started along on this Path

There is no sadness at the flames
No regrets to this complete reduction
This choice is the Path I am to walk
With these people whom I chosen as family

For  the new to grow joyfully and properly
The way must be cleared
For growth will require new soil, new life
For the roots to be true and deep

The Universe set all of this before you
You made the choice that you have
You stepped off into the void
Knowing the dragon would catch you

As it always will be, as it always shall be

Changes. The Step to Take. Trust.

Lots of changes come into our lives. Some are easy to handle. Others are a lot more complicated and can be somewhat uncomfortable. Sometimes that uncomfortable nature can force us to run from things or people we need to have in our lives. Running from change only prolongs what will happen. Embrace that change, find ways to be at peace with what is going on and you may find a far more harmonious and breathtakingly wonderful life ahead for you. Not every change is bad, but every change is inevitable. Its about growth. Sometimes to grow, you have to release what you leave behind.

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. –Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

Changes. The Step to Take. Trust.

He stepped out of the truck
To find himself in front of her house
She burst from the front door
Running towards him at full pace

She tackled him with the force of a linebacker
That first touch, they both knew
This was meant to be throughout Time
That first kiss was the absolute clincher

Later, she beckoned him to live their lives together
For they both knew the destiny that was involved
But he had never felt these strong emotions before
He became frightened of his feelings and could not do as she asked

She pleaded with him to rethink his denial
They were meant to be together, he knew that too
When he still remained frightened of his feelings
She parted with him, broken-hearted

The years went by and their lives continued apart
But they both would look in on one another
The longing to just hear the other’s voice was too strong
Two souls connected forever so long ago

In and out they weaved within each other
Continuing to form the intricate knot that they had started
Binding to one another as no one else could
In a manner that she knew all along

After so many years apart, she asked him one last time
Could he commit to what they should have had long ago
She announced her feelings for him were still there
And he finally admitted his were still there too

He continued to hold off the idea of commitment
Seeking the “perfect moment” to go forward
Soon he realized that there was no “perfect moment”
They needed to move forward together

The three card spread provide the final assessment for his change
Two of Wands (Reversed), The Tower, Queen of Cauldrons
To move forward meant the destruction of all he had known
Taking a step off the walls of the castle into thin air

Don’t be afraid when everything seemingly falls into place
Take that step from the high walls
The Dragon will be there to catch you
She certainly will be, of that all is certain, for She is never wrong

My Odd Thoughts on Journals – Hand-written v. Keyboard

So, I write poetry. Back in the day, I wrote a LOT of poetry. Being in the military at that time, with a girlfriend back in Shreveport, Louisiana, I sent all of those poems to her. She would cut them out of the letters, and put them in an album. When we broke up, I never saw that album again. But then, I discovered BBSs, and wrote a lot of my poetry while logged in. I was rather prolific there as well. When Renaissance BBS closed down, I was provided with a printout of all the poems I had written there. Two moves – one to Germany, the other back to the States – provided a loss of those poems as well. Thinking back, I believe it may be somewhere close to 400 poems or more that I have lost over that time frame – probably to never be seen again.

These days, I tend to write poetry here on WordPress, and will sometimes back it up on EverNote. But the reality of that has been slim to non-existent, which is a bad habit I have fallen into. A few years back, I submitted one of my poems – Lone Wolf: Innocence in Snow – to a writing contest here at the college. I won first place in the poetry contest, and also received an award for best writing work for the entire writing showcase. I realized at that point, that I needed to start backing up my work, particularly since I wrote mostly in a digital environment.

As I noted, my backup efforts have been sporadic, at best. So, when I finished my Bardic Grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, I realized that I needed a better manner to protect my writings – particularly my poetry. So, I bought three blank, lined journals – dedicated one to my own personal thoughts, the second to my upcoming Ovate Grade Gwers work, and the third to my poetry. Now, my efforts are towards writing out my poetry by hand into my journal. And in doing this, I discovered something rather strange.

As I started reading through my entries here on WordPress, I realized that I had written poetry that I couldn’t recall. There were a few that I remembered, but as I looked through those, I realized that these were poems I had hand-written back in the late 1990s. The other poems were ones that I had written in the last few years, via the computer. As I sat and pondered over this, it dawned on me that many of the appointments and event schedules that I write in Google calendar are easily forgotten a few days later. Furthermore, I found myself using Google calendar for a few days, and then no longer using it like I had previously. However, if I wrote things down – even as a scribbled note on the back of an envelope – I could easily recall what I had written three, four, and even eight months later.

Maybe its just a learning concept for me. If I write it, I remember it. I remember every single note I took at Pantheacon, earlier this year. I hand wrote all of those notes. A meeting with another department, I couldn’t recall a single note I took. That meeting was less than two weeks ago. I wrote those notes using a blue-tooth keyboard connected to my iPad.

There is a history of Alzheimer’s disease among the male members of my family on my father’s side. My grandfather, before he died, couldn’t even recall who his grandchildren were. My father had trouble with his short-term memory before he passed away a little more than two years ago. Perhaps, its just my genetic makeup?? If so, why should I be able to recall what I wrote at Pantheacon a few months ago with a slightly fuzzy clarity?? And why can I not recall poems I wrote a little over two years ago on a keyboard, and have vivid recollection of poems I wrote back in the early 2000s, and even back in the mid 1980s?? Its certainly a concept to study a bit deeper.

As an experiment of sorts, I have started moving all my writing – save for the blog – to pen and paper. I am also moving my calendar from Google to a daily planner. And I will be taking careful notes about how well I recall things using these methods for the next year-plus. Who knows? Perhaps my clarity of recall has something to do with rote memory of what I write physically with my hand because of the motion. Maybe its something to do with how I learned as a child. Maybe its none of that. Or even all of that. But this is the kind of stuff that puzzles me. And the kind of stuff I enjoy researching.

Connectivity, indeed…..

–T /|\

Poets are Made of Air and Fire

I have never been sure anyone else ever has stuff like this happen to them. Surely, it does. Statistically speaking, the chances have to be pretty good. Maybe. Today, while I was trying to figure out a data pull, a thought popped into my mind that had nothing to do with what I was doing.

Poets are made of air and fire.

I am not at all sure why it came to mind, but it did. And it was strong enough that I wrote it down on my scratch paper where I was configuring my data query. And its been echoing in my head ever since that moment at work.

Poets are made of air and fire.

From that statement, I am drawn into evocative imagery in descriptive form.

The wind wipes away the hair hanging in my face, as the gale force winds of the storm sweep around me. Razor-sharp raindrops slash against my exposed face, stinging me with venom of cologne applied immediately after a close shave. I hold a hand over my eyes for protection, as I peer into the darkness of the forest. An army of trees is vaguely outlined in the darkness, occasionally exposed by the illumination of lightning bolts racing across the sky like crazed blasts from a battle of spellcasters. This is where they will try and come through. This is where I must wait and watch; coiled to raise the alarm if the worst is to come true.

This happens to me from time to time. I get little snippets like this, and I write them down. What each means – I’m never sure. But I have nearly two journals full of tuff like this.

A fanciful imagination? Perhaps. The internal raging fire of creativity? Maybe. Prophetic images of the future? I fucking hope not. See, most of the imagery I get from stuff like this is not the nicest stuff in the world. If it were prophetic in nature, I can only hope it is symbolic in nature rather than realistic. Because it comes from a world where things are not exactly the safest in the world. A lot of it is apocalyptic within its theme.

Dreams are something I pay very close attention to. But that’s different than these images. Well, different in the fact that I am awake when it happens. But this one today…this one was strong. Particularly the part about poets being made of air and fire. So, now I start to go down the road of exploring the concepts of air and fire and how each relate to poets and poetry.

Maybe I’m going mad. Maybe not. And I am not totally sure where this particular trod is going to take me. But I am going to need to follow it. Even if its only to insure I’m not falling out of my tree.

From Slumbering Acorns…

There were so many side conversations at the ADF Imbolc Retreat. The rituals are nice, the presentations are gems in their own right, but its the side conversations that really stick with me throughout the experience. Not only do you get a chance to catch up with people you have not seen in nearly forever, there are deep, conversations that take place spontaneously that are sheer magick.

One of those conversations took place at the top of the hill, overlooking the camp. And it was more than just a conversation, it was a moment where I got to see myself through someone else’s eyes. And I not only understood what was being said, it was echoed later in a handful of other conversations.

Being blunt and honest here, I do not have the most positive self-image. It tends to show in the way that I present myself. And it bleeds through in so many other ways. My self-defense mechanism is self-deprecating humor. Its my way of deflecting what I perceive as the way others might view me, by finding ways to subtly (and sometimes not) insult myself. As was told to me at that moment on the hill, its not pretty to watch. Its also cute the first few times; after that it becomes a huge turn-off in leading towards serious conversations.

There are a few people who have seen beyond that sheer covering and gotten to understand me a little better. But again, that self-defense mechanism tends to drive others off to the side. And it doesn’t just hurt my relationships. It has destroyed parts of me slowly from the inside. My self-deprecating humor has led me to developing an even thicker coating of an introvert. Once people get to know me a little better, they realize that the aspect of introversion is another of those defense mechanisms that I employ.

During the retreat, I sat around the fire and marveled at how everyone was so comfortable getting up in front of everyone and singing, telling stories, and reciting poetry. The next morning (Saturday) I was approached by one particular individual who asked why I didn’t get out front and tell stories. I replied that I was not that kind of person. The response back was to notice that another person got out there and told stories by the fire too. If that person could do it, so could I.

That one moment planted an acorn, and the tree has already started to grow from it. I watched everyone around the fire during the Bardic competition. There were folks who sang serious songs, some who brought their own marvelous compositions to the fire, those who utilized bawdy humor for their contribution….and each tightened their belts and stepped up to the moment. And then there was the one recitation of poetry, where I watched someone that I know utilize the poem, the moment, and the environment to transform themselves into the poem itself. A truly magickal moment that I will never forget. Sitting there to the side, I kept thinking back to the earlier conversation…and realizing that I could do that too.

“Except,” said the back of my mind, “You will have to get past your fear of crowds.”

“But I really can do this,” I responded. “I acted in school plays before. Not only did I memorize all the lines of the play, but I even created an English accent for my character – who happened to be a Tory sympathizer. I have done this before.”

“Forty years in the past,” I dutifully reminded myself.

There it was. My own self-doubt rising up to sow the seeds of the unknown. He and I have dealt with one another for so long, I even know exactly what flavor of coffee he likes, and how much sweetener to add to it. We have danced this dance many times.

“Play guitar?”

“Your hands are too small.”

“Sing?”

“No one wants to hear THAT voice.”

“Write poetry?”

“You are not very good at that at all.”

“But! I did enter the Creative Writing contest a few years back. Not only did I win my category, my poem was chosen as the best entry overall in the competition. I didn’t just win a first place award, I won a best-in-show aspect. So there!  Folks outside of my own friends and family loved the work enough to declare it to be good.”

“Yes. But your entry the next year placed third overall in your category.”

“That’s because I entered in the adult category rather than the student – and there was only an option for essay or short story. But still, it placed. Besides ti was never really about placing anywhere – it was about submitting it.”

Sometime during the evening after the Bardic competition, while I was watching everyone around the fire continuing the singing and storytelling – I realized that this is something I can do. I do have the ability to be all of this, and more. I merely have to believe in my ability to do it.  I won’t be the next David Bowie, or have the relevance and polish of my hero, Robert Frost – but I don’t have to. I just have to be the best that Tommy can be. The idea is not to be the best, but to share the emotional aspects of what I have in my Life. Joy, sadness, anger, despair, elation… all of that can be encapsulated in the poetry that I do write, as well as the stories that can be told.

Getting over my fear of crowds….can be done by confronting my other biggest fear: myself. I need no critics, including myself. I only need to want to be the Bard that is trapped somewhere underneath all those defense mechanisms. And obviously there is something worthwhile down underneath all of that – I wouldn’t have created defense mechanisms to protect it otherwise.

So, I’ll start with the podcast. Retelling shorter stories and reading poetry 0 including my own. It won’t be the primary feature, but it can be a part of the overall show. And it will be baby steps towards overcoming my own fears that are generated by me. As I have said before, 2017 looks to be another year of change and transformation. Some thing are coming to an end within my life. Others are the slumbering acorns that are now awakening. And that little voice in the back of my head? Well, if he shows up…I’ll strangle him in my sleep. I can do this.

Poem: Shattered Summer Dreams

The sounds are unmistakable
Frozen in the soundtracks
Of so many steamy Summer days
Baseball striking bat
Baseball slamming into glove
A recorded out for the scorebook

Every player on the field
From outfield, infield and dugout
Dreams of catching the last out
Hitting the game winning home run
Scoring the winning run
In the bottom of an October ninth

All those shared dreams
All those shared memories
Of summers gone by into the mists
Recorded in countless scorebooks
Part of a dusty, unspoken history
Remembered by so few into the future

Only a special few make it to the Show
The basepaths that they have traveled
Littered with the shattered dreams of others
The sounds of crushed fastballs gone
The screams and shouts of the victorious faded
The tears of the losing side, long washed away

Poem: Labeling Theory

Everywhere one looks there is a label to see
One proclaiming that you might get cancer if you use this
Another stating every ingredient contained within
Calorie and nutrition declared for all

Then there are the labels that are not seen
The ones we all attach to other people
Particularly when they do not conform
To the balance of our own outlook in society

We categorize everyone everywhere
By the language they speak, their height
Their weight, the color of their eyes
Even the color of their skin

By their religious beliefs, what God(s) they worship
What church they do or do not attend
The car that they drive, how much money they make
What sports team(s) they root for

Categorize, attach descriptive, and all is known
No need to communicate, no need to talk
No need to discuss, no need to really know
The label does all that work for us

Perhaps Detective Spooner was truly correct
“One look at the skin, and we think we know just what’s underneath.”
All thanks to a simple descriptive that masks strangers
Into faceless, nameless entities

A product of our social environment
Or an example of lazy analysis?
I cannot say completely for sure
But it certainly is apt for our faceless, nameless humanity

Print it, peel it, stick it and forget it
Anytime you need to know, just look close

Poem: The Whirlwind of Voting

The whirlwind can be relentless they say
Air agitated to the very edge of its existence
Pushing, clawing, ripping at they who stand against it

The same can be said for the world around us
Rumor, accusation, words agitated to their edge
Utilized as weapons of destruction against others

Moving through that whirlwind of words
Invites a destruction of one’s own soul
Left naked against a whirling reel of razor blades

Yet, we step forward into this tornado of vitriol
Every year we slid the curtain aside in the voting booth
And mark our choices with dripping blood from the cuts

Poem:The World is Watching

They stand there in peace
Carrying the “weapons” of words and hands
Speaking prayers aloud or in silence
Looking to stop the long black snake

Because where there is danger in the world
There are protectors standing…

You bring pepper spray, rubber bullets and attack dogs
Unleashing violence and harm in response
Swinging batons with harmful intent
Demanding subservience to your methods

Because whatever you think you are getting away with
There are people watching…

Many brought their bodies to offer
Upon the burning pyre of your anger and hate
Others brought cameras and microphones
To record your vicious actions

Because no matter where you think you are
The world is watching….

The winds carry a mournful sound today
A song for those injured from your actions
But soon the wind will howl a different tune
One of retribution, anger and a cry for justice

Because no matter who you think is watching
The Gods certainly are…

Poem: Somewhere Someone is Unaware of Experiencing

Somewhere Someone is Unaware of Experiencing
Robyn Birchleaf
11/1/2016

Somewhere there is a happy person in this world
Someone who does not see the politics we see
Someone who does not see the corporation rape we do
Somewhere is a person living a life happy and unaware

Unaware of people fighting one another over ideology
Experiencing all the beauty that sunrises and sunsets provide
Experiencing a life filled with peaceful purpose and calm
Unaware of the anger and violence propagated to make things right

Someone is out there, finding all the aspects of what we seek
Unaware of the anger and violence that surrounds them daily
Experiencing life as everyone else should, as an equal in peace
Somewhere – they could even be on the bus seat next to you

They Are Real

People have chided me for believing
Scolded me for walking my own Path
Banished me to a place I do not believe
All in the name of being who I am

Far back into the time of my youth
I read about all of you in textbooks
Goddesses and Gods, great and small
An everyday part of a superstitious Past

When I stared out the library windows
Looked into the branches of the trees
I saw what I never could have believed
Goddesses and Gods grinning back at me

“Soon enough” I heard in my ears
No one else made a movement
No one else had seemingly heard
I sat there, alone in my confusion

“Wait. Read. Soon enough.”
And then I saw just the branches of the tree
The silence of the library’s walls
Rushed in to deafen my thoughts

Many years later in a moldy reception area
For an antiquated mainframe system I toiled on
The voices returned, whispering that it was time
Time to step outwards and meet them

One Summer afternoon, I did just that
I got into my car and drove west
Away from where I lived and worked
Out into the western Texas scene

Passing small towns, down seemingly forgotten roads
Stopping at a small grove of mesquite trees
That sang my name in unison as I neared
A few moments later, I found Them

…and was surprised that They were nothing I had imagined
They were REAL…They ARE real

[Poem] Blackbird Mysteries

Blackbird Mysteries

You are everywhere I look,
Beating wings and crackling sound
Bringing to me things you took
It is you, the Blackbird I found

Screaming Grackles in bush and tree
The thieving Magpies carrying away their loot
The inevitable Crows whose beady eyes see
Visions of Hitchcock begin to take root

With reputations of a thief or eater of the dead,
I often wonder if that is deserved.
Or are those just tales that we have been fed
Lies and propaganda that we are served?

I watch you in the backyard feeder and bath
Hopping from foot to foot screaming at others
I wonder – can you count or do basic math?
Do the Blue Jays gripe about manners to your mother?

It matters not, as I watch you eat and drink
What mysteries do you hide in your verse?
Yet as I spy on your gatherings, I bethink
What will be said when we once again converse?

[Poetry] – Our Daily Cycle

Sunrise
I see you up there
Peeking out from behind that cloud
That orange-yellow eye
Unblinking and watching throughout the day

Every morning we greet each other
You climbing upwards to your day-time perch
Me, standing there clutching my morning coffee
Starting each cycle of the day together

At the end of the day, we greet each other again
Your slow descent towards the horizon
Shining your gorgeous colors across the sky
While I sit on the front porch watching
...waiting until we start our daily cycle again

[Poetry] – Deity Dwells Within

I was digging through some of my older poetry – and I came across this particular poem. Now, my memory is not what it used to be, but if I recall correctly – I wrote this poem – with the awesome Lisa Tamara – when I was on leave in the United States from my time in Germany with the United States Air Force. We both worked on this online through a local BBS, if I remember. To be honest, I do not have a lot of my older poems – so when I stumble across these older works – they are cherished memories that I enjoy reading through – and remembering the creative process that gave birth to them.

Deity Dwells Within
3 Jan 1994
written with Lisa Tamara

Throughout the ages
Of limitless time
Man has wondered
And looked to the sky

In times of crisis
When needs arise
Man has prayed
Staring to the sky

For unanswered prayer
Such shaken faith
Man curses the Gods
Shaken fist to the sky

Such selfish desires
Unfettered pride
Man seems never
To look inside
We are merely a reflection of the potential
for Deity dwells within us all…

Reaching My Bardic Crossroads…

My Poetry Journal
My Poetry Journal

Writing has never been a big part of my life. I remember having so many problems trying to get thoughts out of my head and onto paper for class after class. In high school, and in college – I have had paper after paper returned to me with remarks such as “needs revision!” and “poorly written!” scrawled in red ink across that first page, along with a grade well below the grade I had wanted.

I can literally relive many of the times where I spent hour upon hour researching a topic for a paper, writing outlines, and rough draft after rough draft. Trying to find ways to shoe-horn quotes from “proper” sources to back up what I am trying to say in my papers. The techniques I developed, I try and pass on to my own students – knowing full well, that they will typically either ignore me, or develop their own methods for doing such writing. Yes, writing has never been my forte’.

Then again, I have events in my life that happen – that remind me that I am full of shit when I make that statement. This past week, just such an event occurred in my Life. Earlier in the year, after some cajoling from those that actually know I write poems, I entered my poem “Lone Wolf: The Innocence in Snow” in a Creative Writing Contest for my college. Early in March, I received a phone call telling me that I had won an award for it and confirming that I could make the awards ceremony. I had figured that I had won an Honorable Mention in the category. When the category was announced, my name was the last one called – First Place. I was literally shocked over it. But that was not the end of it. There is also a prize for Literary Excellence in Poetry as well – sort of a “best in show” award, that is given by the English department of my college. It is the very last award of the ceremony. My name was called for that too. That was Friday. It is now Sunday, and I am still in a state of shock.

But that state of shock has forced me to sit back and think about my writing. I remember writing a short story for my English teacher in my junior year of high school. The assignment called for a typed assignment, with a specific font, a specific margin, a specific minimum word count. I did none of that. I wrote the story the night before class – on notebook paper, handwritten, single-spaced, and on both sides of the paper. The story was about a young man named Timothy Pulthorne, who is listening to Black Sabbath’s song “Black Sabbath” on his walkman (yes, that’s how dated the story is – I wrote this in winter of 1982). While listening to the song, he contemplates the lyrics and how the writer has consigned his soul to Satan. At the end of the story, he opens his eyes to find Satan standing at the foot of his bed, smiling with a contract in one hand, and a pen in the other. Despite not turning in the assignment in the correct format, I received the highest grade in the class for my “creativity”. I remind you, I went to an all-boys Catholic school – so the topic was a bit risque’.

So, I am forced to reevaluate my perspective on my writing. Somewhere, deep inside me, is someone that can write – someone that can write material that touches and reaches people. Yes, deep inside me – there’s some kind of Bard. And I have been denying my abilities with the written word for quite a bit of my life. Its time I stepped up and faced the facts where that is concerned. I have ideas of where to take all of this…I just need the time to sort out what is my naivety of the entire process, and what is currently possible. Somehow, I have reached a crossroads I have never realized I was headed towards – but its a crossroads I would inevitably reach. Time to have a sit…drink a cup of tea, and wrestle with where to go from here. Besides, its always fun to sit at the crossroads – there’s a lot of interesting people to see and meet….

 

[Poetry] Lone Wolf: The Innocence in Snow

Lone Wolf: The Innocence in Snow

The cold breeze through the fog-frozen window
Announced the arrival of the snow
From yesterday evening’s gray cloud cover
That shrouded the pale moon’s eye in the night

She squealed with joy at the sight of snow
The marvelous play-doh of Winter’s dress
She quickly dressed and was outside in a shot
I followed behind at a much slower pace

Standing on the porch, I watched her
Dancing and laughing in the white blanket of Winter
Making snow-angels against the embankments
Her tender face colored with a rosy chill

I watched her smile carefully through it all
Trying to burn that image into my mind
Remembering each line in her cheeks
The way her hair fell across her eyes

Smiling back, I laughed with her voice
As it twinkled with a gentle sound over the hills
A sound I wanted to remember intimately
Before I would leave her tonight

Try as I had to remove us from the outside world
The war that raged beyond our sight had followed us
It was no longer something I could avoid
It was no longer something we could run away from

The skies cried their frozen tears again
Their soft flakes of sorrow filling the air
Laughing she ran through the opening
Trying to catch them on her tongue

Such a scene of innocence before my eyes
It would be wiped away in a few days
Replaced by the horrors that awaited me
Where mankind had it’s own nightmare

I will miss my snow-covered mountains
The backdrop for her laughter
The canvas of her innocence
I only pray she will understand why