No-no-Notorious

This blog post originally started as a Q&A response on Facebook. I sometimes get questions in my Facebook Messenger from folks, and I’ll pick a few to answer publicly rather than privately – because either I find the question interesting or it seems to have a much broader appeal. So, here’s how things started….

Q: I think you could do excellent as an online teacher for Pagans, Druids, etc etc. Have you thought about exploring that direction at all? I think you would be awesome!!!!!
::blush:: Thanks. Have I thought about doing that? Yes. I have taught face-to-face and online Introduction to Computer classes for a handful of collegiate systems. But that’s a bit different than what you’re suggesting here. But yes, I have thought about it. Only issue I have – is charging money for it. Yes, I get that its “my time” and I should be compensated for it. I just don’t feel right about charging something that could be done over a handful of conversations sitting around the fire, sipping a drink of our individual choices, and enjoying the stars. I also grok that people are hungry for knowledge and direction for a Spirituality that has firm roots within Nature. This also boils back into my podcasting….feck…..let me change this over to a blog post, because this is going to get lengthy.

So, let me approach this a bit more methodically and a touch more in-depth.

Teaching

I have been an adjunct faculty member at a few junior college systems in Texas, as well as a few national for-profit systems. Teaching is something I had a lot of fun doing. There is a strong appeal to helping people understand concepts, whether those be related to Information technology or their own Spiritual Path. That moment of seeing the light-bulb go off and the individual actually “get it” is a real rush for me, as the individual that helped guide them to that point of understanding. When I left the adjunct faculty base to work in Administration, I was sad to leave all of that behind. Turned out, I could continue to teach even in this capacity. Faculty and Administration folks would come to me with data requests or questions about the data sets that they had procured. I essentially fell into a role of Data Evangelist at the college I worked with. I helped more than one faculty member put together data studies for a dissertation or some sort of grant funding, which was a lot more fun. I got to teach them about their data, and I learned a bit about their topic. So I do have to admit that teaching an Introduction to Paganism type of class has a certain allure to it.

Podcasting

This is another area that I get a lot of questions on – will I go back to podcasting? Well, I can’t say “never” – that would be foolish. However, I have said in the past, and continue to say now – “never again, without someone else joining in.” I enjoyed running my two podcasts, “From the Edge of the Circle” and “Upon a Pagan Path”, and you know there is a “but” coming… But I really hated essentially having just a conversation with myself. After a time, I felt that the shows were becoming repetitive, dull, and stale. Thus, I stepped away, twice. Did I enjoy it? Yes, it was a lot of fun – particularly when the listeners would send Emails and we could converse back and forth. I never really got that intense about download numbers. I truly didn’t care enough about how many times the episodes got downloaded. Just like I don’t really care how many times these blog posts get read. I only hope that the stuff reaches at least one person, who needed to hear or read what I was saying at that moment. I’d be more than thrilled to go back to podcasting again…but not alone.

Book Writing, Blogging, Etc.

I have been asked if I ever thought about writing a book. Yes, I have. And I am. Currently, I am not sure it will ever see the light of day, though I am on thinking of publishing pieces of it on Patreon. If I ever decide to do that, I will let everyone know it exists. by the way, my Patreon level is set at the lowest possible point – $1. And it would stay that way, even if I published portions of my writings there.

Blogging…well, I actually enjoy writing. I am not the greatest in the world at it, but I do try to put my emotions behind what I write. I write here on the blog for the same reasons I did the podcast – in the sheer hope that a single individual will read what I have to say and be able to get something out of it at that moment. That really is all I have ever asked out of Life. To be helpful.

See, I have no desire to become some kind of “well-known” Pagan. Nor am I willing to present myself as a matter expert on anything – except my own Spirituality. I know what works for me. What works for you might be the same, somewhat similar or so different so as not to seem to be the same thing…and all of that is awesome, from where I stand. I’m not writing to denigrate someone else’s Spiritual perspective. I write to discuss what did or did not work for me, in the hopes that it stirs some internal debate for you. So that you might turn over the topic on your own, ask yourself the hard questions, and hopefully be honest in your replies to yourself. All of this feeds into the last aspect of all of this teach classes online thing….cost.

Gimme Your Cash-Flow

There is a ton of debate about paying for services within the Pagan community. How much should you pay for a hand fasting, a Tarot reading, for someone to perform some kind of ritual based on the Wheel of the Year, a Pagan-oriented convention, a weekend gathering, etc etc.?? Now, I am of the mind that you pay for whatever services you are accepting from someone else. An online tarot reading? Sure a twenty-spot (US currency) should sound about right to my ear. Not that I do tarot readings…but that’s another blog post. I have no issues paying for services that I procure from other Pagan folk. But somewhere inside of me, I have an issue charging people for my services. And its something I cannot readily explain. However, if you were looking for the greater sticking point to me doing online classes and teaching and stuff….this is the tip of that iceberg.

So, would I teach an online class? Maybe. At this particular moment, I have nothing planned or even organized. So the appropriate answer would be – not right away, if I was going to. Will I go back into the podcasting world? Maybe. Find me another person or persons that want to do a show together. Not alone. Not ever again. Will I write a book? Sure. Publishing it is another story altogether. ūüôā There is one larger reason why I move with slow reluctance in all of this – I have no desire for fame or even fortune. I only need enough money to live comfortably, and the way I live – its not that expensive in the first place. And fame? That’s certainly not my bag. I just cringe at the idea of being considered a “subject matter expert” on any topic. I am always learning, always finding new methods, changing, improving….I’ll never consider myself an expert. However, I can steal from Duran Duran….I could get used to the idea of being No-no-Notorious….. ūüėČ

–T /|\

Thinking About: The Power of Words (Magick)

Its Thursday….which is exactly a week since the last blog post. I went down to Houston to see someone this past weekend, so that left the weekend posts out of the loop. Then when Tuesday rolled around, I thought it was Monday…until about 11pm that night. So that’s how Tuesday fell out. My fault. But then I don’t have an army of these posts floating around either. I write these off the top of my head – on the days that I post them. Today is no exception to that. As usual, I am stuck for a topic at the moment…and no, I have no desire to write about politics or what’s in the news. Just really don’t want to rehash what’s already out there….

A long while back on the blog – somewhere, I’m just too lazy to go look it up – I had a bit of a discussion on magickal names. The idea seems to come from picking a new name when you start your Path down whatever Tradition you are in – you take a new name to signify the change you are going through in your life. When I first started on my original steps in Wicca, I did this as well. I didn’t really stray too far from who I am – I went with my pen-name, Robin Birchleaf. This was the name I’ve used in writing my poetry…at the time, it was on various dial-up Bulletin Boards. Nowadays, my poetry tends to be kept private or when I do post it publicly, I do so here on this blog. But the name seemed to suit me. Robyn came from the play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – Robyn Goodfellow, a play that has filtered throughout my life in various manners. Birch is one of the younger trees in the Beth-Luis-Nion alphabet (I think that’s right) and signified my start on this new Path. The leaf? Well, I am just one individual of a greater whole…the leaf seemed appropriate.

These days, I go by my nearly life-long nickname – TommyElf. This is another name that originated from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. Growing up, my hair was nearly white in color, which is hard to believe given my dirty, dish-water blonde hair of these days. The high school students at the local Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DODDS) were putting on the play, and were auditioning parts. I happened to be playing soccer nearby. The teacher leading the production saw me, and asked me to come in and read a few lines…as King Oberon. She liked me in the part so much, she asked where I lived, and walked me back to my home there in military housing – so she could ask my parents if it was alright for me to play the role. To shorten this down a bit…my parents said yes, and I was in the week-long run of the play. After the play’s run was over, I would run into the same high school students from the play – and the referred to me as “King Elf” for a short while, a nod to my role as Oberon. Shortly after, they started referring to me as “Tommy the Elf” which got shortened to “Tommy Elf”. In later years, I’ve just scrunched it all into a single word “TommyElf” and I have become far better known by this than even my legal name.

This is the lesson in the power of names – magickal or not. My pseudo-name Robyn Birchleaf lends power and meaning to the first steps of Pagan Path. I use it sparingly now, still primarily with my poetry writing. My childhood nickname, on the other hand, has taken a life of its own – with whatever power and meaning it lends to the person who uses it. For some folks it can be a happy thing. For others, it can have a meaning like “Oh shit, here comes THAT dude.”

But that gets me to thinking a bit more about the power and meaning we place behind all kinds of words. I have often wondered if writing can be considered as some kind of spell or magickal working? Just putting thoughts to the reality of existence – and yes, there is POWER in doing just that. Just as there is POWER in the way a good speaker tells a story with intricate details and flowery wording – weaving that picture in the minds of those listening. Writers do the same thing…even in something as simple and mundane as blog posts. A well written piece (that typically doesn’t come from this corner folks) can excite you, outrage you, make you fall in love, or feel completely at peace with everything around you. Or maybe even all at once. What we read, what we speak – how we speak it, how we write it – that’s all got power within it. That’s all pure magick.

Yeah. Magick. As in spells and all that stuff that I avoid like the plague. And yet here I am, doing just that in the writing word – or when I ran the podcast, in what I talked about. Others can do all the wand waving and the incantations at the precise moment that the moon reaches apogee and the ginger-ale in the cauldron boils….or whatever — I’ll stick to honing my magick through writing. And occasionally speaking when invited to do so. (Just remember, I write and say “fuck” a lot – I’m generally NSFW, unless told to bring it down a notch or twelve)

So….make your magick your way. If writing or speaking just ain’t your thing….cool. Whatever is your way, do it. But for me, I am just starting to realize where my magick really is. And now I have to sharpen it and make it better. I am trying. And I haven’t even started addressing the ideas of music or even computer coding as magick.

–T /|\

Its Not the Age, Its the Mileage

I get all kinds of Emails with everything from commentary (not so much) to criticism (a whole lot more) and sometimes there are even questions. The commentary is nice to read, the criticism is just a reminder that not everyone likes coffee (or a lot of other things), but the questions are usually fun. Fun to answer because there is usually an exploratory side to things from an angle I had never considered. Today provides a question, but its one I have only barely scratched the surface of. To make it more difficult, this one crosses over into another area of my Spirituality – one that a lot of folks may be sick of hearing about – figuring out where I am going as a Priest.

So, let’s back up a short bit and hit the question…

Why do you write your blog? Your topics are all over the spectrum of Paganism, but I haven’t been able to deduce why you write. –Torey S.

Well Torey, to answer this, I have to take a short turn towards the somewhat distance past – my podcasting past. I started out with the podcast “From the Edge of the Circle”, where I talked about various topics and bored the living crap out of anyone listening for quite a few years. In essence, this blog gets its beginnings from there. I do the same thing here on the blog, except I write the stuff – and honestly, I’m a better writer than I was a speaker. I started the podcast with the hopes of returning something back to my Pagan community. Some folks really dug what I was doing…others just wanted to dig deeper in the litter box and bury it. Whatever the case may be, the idea was to provide some of what I have experienced in my lifetime as an out-of-the-closet Pagan to those who wanted to listen. The same holds true for the blog, but in a slightly different manner.

Much of what I write comes right off the top of my head. I don’t have an army of potential blogs and articles waiting in the wings for me to further massage and annotate what I write. I write from the top of my head, on the day that I publish these blogs. Thus, my writing style is kind of raw. This off-the-top style of writing lets me add pieces of emotion to what I write, but it is intended to be (a) a record of what I was thinking at the time, (b) a potential recollection of what I have gone through in a little over thirty years as a Pagan, and (c) a potential sounding board on various topics for others.

Now, that said, I am nobody special, whatsoever. What I am, is a Pagan, Polytheist Druid making my way through Life the best that I can. Crow, Coyote and Abnoba are the two Gods and one Goddess who are a daily part of my Life and my Spiritual Path. None of that makes me any different or more special than anyone else. All of that just explains who I am, what I believe, and the Gods I am tethered to. In comparison to anyone else’s Path and beliefs…its really just the same.

Much of what I write is basically me working thoughts out in my head. Instead of talking out loud, I write – or if you prefer, hunt-and-peck type at my computer keyboard. What I hope that writing my thinking process out, is that someone else reading it might see some validation in their own thought processes or beliefs and realize that they are not alone in this world. Even if they stumble across the writings of this blog many years down the road. Perhaps reading my explanation of how I got to a point might be helpful in helping someone else untangle their own Gordian knot in some thought process or issue that they have been working on. I write, in the hopes of being helpful. I write in the hopes of being informative. I don’t write to make a name for myself. Fame and infamy are the last damn things I would ever want in this Lifetime.

This is why I have always considered this blog to be a gift, which I give to the wider Pagan community. A place that might be helpful for others to see a different way of thinking or to validate some of what they were thinking themselves. I am neither right nor wrong. I am not an authority on anything, except the Path that I follow. I can tell you, as a subject matter expert, what Tommy’s Path is because I walk it every single day. Just as I would expect you to be the subject matter expert on what you believe. Its a principle that I completely believe in and live by – I know my Path, I walk it every single day.

All of this leads me back to one of the tangles that I have always struggled with – being a Priest. I have the typical Christian baggage and hang-ups with the term, all of which is difficult to complete disregard and discard. But as I step further and further out of the lingering shadows to embrace the concept of being a Priest, I start to see how much of what I do with this blog resonates in that arena. Surely, I am not the Priest that leads ritual. I am also not the Priest that works to keep a community of people Spiritually on-track and satisfied. I am surely not the Priest that steps out front to handle and control ritual. But whether I see it or not, providing my running-off-at-the-mouth commentary here in the blog, that certainly is providing guidance and advice to others, a function of a Priest. So, Torey, as you can see, I struggle with concepts here as well. And sometimes writing about some things, makes others just a little more clear.

Certainly, I can attest that life changes – even at the ripe old age of fifty-four. And to be honest, I’m really not old. Its not the age that makes things rough – its the mileage. Writing about those change in Life, here in the blog, leaves a record that I can come back to and read later. Perhaps, I can see where the knot that I am currently working on was twisted. Perhaps…but I write and will continue to do so – for a lot of complicated reasons. Thanks for asking, Torey.

–T /|\

A Measure of Being Alive

So I have been away from the blog for a short bit. However, I have not been far from the keyboard, and yes, I have been writing, creating, and continuing to explore my Druidry through various means. It is, after all, who I am.

Yes, I have given into the perspective that I am a writer; that the written word is where I should be. I enjoy writing, putting my thoughts into words. I do not like editing and reviewing what I have written nearly as much. Certainly, it is the weaker part of what I do in this medium. However, it is a necessary evil, and a skill set that I will need to take more time to work on.

To that end, I decided to go ahead and open a Patreon page (yes, this is an obligatory advertisement of sorts). Its not a ton of money, nor do I expect many people to sign up for it. Its just a single dollar per month. I could not go any lower than that, otherwise, I would have. The point of the Patreon page is to write more in-depth and personal material than I would dare share on this blog. A lot of the material is very self-introspective, and is some aspects of self-examination. I will also include my poetry there, as well as some photos from my trips to various locations throughout the United States (and sometimes Europe).

Much of this process materializes out of this particular time of year. I tend to do a lot of self inspection during the early part of Spring. The other side of it is to hone my craft of writing. As Tyrion Lannister remarks to Jon Snow in the first novel of George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire“:

My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer and I have my mind‚Ķand a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much Jon Snow.

The same goes for any other process – writing, magick working, ritual preparation – repetition matters, as does review. The more you work with something, the more relaxed you get with the process, and your skills grow. Want to be a programmer? Immerse yourself in the language you want to learn. Want to learn a new language to speak or write? Practice it daily. Review your progress, see what you have done. Find your mistakes, and learn from them. That constant aspect of repetition and review will be like muscle memory, and you will soon find these desired skills become nearly second nature.

When someone finds out that I am on a path of Druidry, I typically hear the same question (eventually):

Picture by John Beckett, who always manages to catch awesome photos of me, and whatever else his lens focuses on.

How does one become a Druid?

My usual response these days has been to say that one just lives their daily lives with intention. That you find ways to incorporate these beliefs; whatever they might be or look like, into your everyday living. Stand outside each morning and greet the rising sun in whatever manner feels befitting to you. And within reason for the social setting you are in. Standing on your sixth floor apartment balcony and greeting the sun in the nude might feel “right” but I am fairly sure there is a city ordinance you might be violating. Just sayin’. But living your Druidry (or whatever) should not make you inconvenience your daily life, but rather compliment it. My daily routine does not afford me the ability to rise before the sun and greet its rising like I have in the past. However, I still take a moment out of the morning to stop, and greet the already risen sun. The fact that I no longer greet the sun as it peeks over the horizon does not diminish the significance of the act in my daily life.

How does one become a Druid? Indeed. How does one become a writer? How does one become a policeman? How does one become a musician? Drive. Desire. Repetition through daily life. Review of how one has accomplished what they have in those directions, and seeking to improve on those accomplishments in the future. We build what we are in layers. We start with a base that feeds our desire to become what we want, to be what is inside of us. Each successive layer improves and strengthens what we have achieved. Step by excruciating step.

Will there be failures? Of course there will. There will be mistakes made. Go back and re-read some of my blog posts here. My writing is terrible, and sometimes the flow of thought is not the easiest to follow. My vocabulary is not always the strongest. My spelling mistakes and grammar mutilation is on bright display. But my heart is in everything I write, as jumbled and buried as it might be. Much like the beginning guitarist, it does not sound great, but I have to start somewhere. The same goes for anything that is in the early stages of development. Not everyone is an instant prodigy.

Want to be a Druid? A Pagan? A Polytheist? Whatever else you might be able to think of? Read. Learn. And then do. And do again. And review. And do again. And again. And review. And again. Adjust along the way. Change and alter as necessary. But keep trying. You can do it. You just have to strengthen up your will-power and do it. be prepared to fail. be prepared to learn from that failure. Following the purported quote of Albert Einstein: “…once you stop learning you start dying,” we are always learning, because it is a measure of being alive.

TommyElf, the”Writer”?

I have always had trouble coming up with topics to write about. Honestly, it took a long time before I realized that the books I was reading could spark topics and questions for blog posts. Nowadays, any book I am not reading for leisure takes longer to read because I have a notebook in hand when doing so. In that notebook, I jot down questions to ask of myself, topics to explore in more depth, and even books I need to locate and add to my growing collection. From those notes, I create these blog posts.

Two years ago, I attended my first Pantheacon. I was fortunate enough to have a semi-experienced guide for that time in fellow blogger (and far better than I could ever dream of becoming), John Beckett. Since that time, John has become a published author with his really great book, “The Path of Paganism.” While at that Pantheacon, I went to several panels, wrote copious notes, and came back with more blog material than I could have dreamed of. Since then, I have notes from other conventions, some Pagan gatherings, and even from interviews from podcasts such as “Down at the Crossroads.” More interestingly, I have started to gather blog topics from conversations I am having with other Pagans – both in online and face-to-face conversations. In short, I am finding blog topics nearly everywhere around me.

I have never been a prolific writer. In collegiate classes, I was praised for my writings in several research papers and essays. In a Creative Writing class, I wrote a short story based on a true incident that I had in going back to my unit in Germany from a rehabilitation stint I had in Wichita Falls, Texas. Incidentally, when I first joined the United States Air Force in 1986, it was this same base that I did my technical training at. Now, I live less than an hour away from that same base, here near Gainesville, Texas. Amazing how life tends to revolve in circles and cycles. Back to the writing aspect though, my papers and essays were mostly singular writings. In other words, I wrote a single draft, checked for spelling and grammar issues – and then submitted the assignment. Rereading those assignments, I can see where my writing truly fell short.

Back to the writing aspect though, my papers and essays were mostly singular writings. In other words, I wrote a single draft, checked for spelling and grammar issues – and then submitted the assignment. Rereading those assignments, I can see where my writing truly fell short. Circular logical references;¬†thoughts and points that were cut short; and just generally poorly constructed explanations are rife throughout all of that work. I am truly amazed that I managed to make my way through two Masters degrees and a Bachelor’s degree with what I had submitted.

Looking back on older blog posts, here at the site, I also see many of the same faults. And a lot of that stems from my own lazy habit of writing singular version posts. I know I am a good writer, but as I was once told by an evening fire during one Gulf Coast Gathering, I have the ability to be an even better writer. So, in an effort to try and move beyond that singular version writing of blog posts, I write very little during the last two weeks. Well, very little that got posted. There are currently four posts that are being written – not including this one. One will be completed tomorrow (Sunday) and posted. The other three will be completed and set up for posting automatically. So that material can be reread, revised, and rewritten as necessary.

Coyote taught me not to take myself too seriously. I learned to laugh at myself and my mistakes. To not think of myself as having complete mastery of anything. All of that helped me learn to not be overly serious and find the fun in everyday life. I am more likely known as a smart-ass than anything else. However, those closest to me also know about my serious side. My desire to get things “right”…not just “right enough”. That is carried over into my daily life, into the statistical and data work I do for the college. But I have managed to not bring that into things outside of work. I clown, I kid, I try to find the absurd in everything. And somewhere between those two extremes is where I really am. It is long past time to embrace the two, and be a little more serious…while also finding fun.

So, to start the more serious, more deliberate aspect of writing…I provide this post¬†as that moment. I know my initial efforts may not be the brightest, shining examples of this. However, these are just the start. I hope to get far better, a bit more deliberative, a bit more precise in what I write. I am not sure I was meant to be a writer, but I am meant to relate the stories – both of my everyday life, and those of the Gods. I am excited about the possibilities and fearful of the technique in doing so. As I was reminded shortly after my Ovate initiation, being a little fearful of what was about to take place was an indication that I was taken the approach in the correct, serious manner. There will be seriousness, there will be fun….

Writing About Writing

I am an admitted History geek, particularly that of the Roman Empire, and even more specifically, the Empire within mainland Europe¬†during the time of Arminius. Once, during a World History I class at one of the junior colleges I have attended, I corrected the professor’s exam on Roman History while I was taking that exam. I even brought the textbook up to her desk during the exam to point out the error, as well as advocate for the correct answer which was shown to be incorrect on her key. Initially, I pissed her off doing this, but she admitted later that semester that she was impressed with my bringing the textbook up to back up my position.¬†When I wrote my Master’s thesis for my first Master’s degree, my references section was nearly fifty references long, including some references that were outdated according to the requirements laid out for the assignment. I included an addendum for my references, explaining in detail why I felt it necessary to include references on Information Security that harkened past the six-year cut-off point. Yes, referential material matters to me.

When I go to the bookstore and pick up a History book, or even a book on Paganism, the first thing I flip to is the Contents list. I scan this to see what the book has to offer in terms of material, but the second place I head to is the section on references. The first thing I look for is cyclical references, where the author refers to materials that they have already written. One big offender in this category for me is conspiracy theorist and evangelical author Texe Marrs from Austin. His material consistently references other works he has written, which is a red flag warning to me. Once I see constant cyclical reference, that author tends to get placed into the “ignore” pile.

Within the Pagan community, there are lots of good books with strong referential material, and even bloggers who showcase consistent, scholarly approaches to their writings. And I am always in completely awe of their ability to write at such a level. I am, even more so, in completely awe of the research abilities that they possess, not to mention the utter completeness of how they approach their topics. And to be honest, its a bit intimidating.

I write a blog – this one. Its mostly my personal thoughts on topics. I do some research – aka reading – on the topics I think about. However, when it comes to my own personal experiences, particularly within my Spirituality, there’s only one reference that works for describing all of that: me. I work for a college, I chair an Institutional Review Board. I see a lot of scholarly work come through that process. Occasionally, I get to see the end results, along with all the referential aspects associated with it. A lot of the time, the material that was utilized as data points to be analyzed within those studies comes directly from me, after proper sanitization of the data points. I do not write on the academic levels that I have seen there. I definitely do not write on the academic level of many of the Pagan authors and bloggers I have read. I admire the ability of people to approach and establish themselves in this reported manner. Yeah, I am a bit intimidated, and a bit jealous as well.

However, I am reminded of a conversation I had quite a few years ago with John Beckett. We were discussing how he managed to write so profusely for his blog, Under the Ancient Oaks. He noted that writing, much like anything else, comes about from continually doing it. He publishes his blog posts on – as he noted – a self-prescribed scheduled pace. Not only was he working on that schedule, but he also set aside writing to edit at a later time. Adding to that, he noted that he also keeps a personal journal that he writes in daily. Shortly after our conversation, I started a personal journal as well, following the well-known magickal precept: steal from the best.

Has my writing gotten any better? I would like to hope so. However, I really cannot tell. See, I am the one writing it. And when you deal with it every single day, any progress that gets made is never really seen. The progress is most likely incremental. A little at a time over a lengthy period. Small progress is almost indistinguishable. However, for someone that does not see – or in this case, read – what I am writing on a daily basis, I am confident that they will see the progress quite clearly. In fact, to be able to find a measure of progress, I went back and looked at some of my earlier writings in this blog. Ok, through that lense, I can definitely see a difference.

I am still in awe of the referential wizards that are out there in the community. I would hope that I could eventually write at that kind of level. Perhaps; however, that is not where I am intended to go. I write this blog, not in the hopes of being a Pagan academician, but to show others that there are Pagans out there that are just like them. People with some of the same hopes; some the same frailties; some of the same concerns. And to show the world at large, that Pagans are no different than they are. My blog is not necessarily a how-to guide for anything. My writing comes more from a perspective of how-I-do things. Perhaps, I need to look at the possibility of providing a better frame of reference of where I started with concepts.

–T /|\

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 /|\

Rewrite, Revise, Expand

I have never considered myself an excellent writer. For the most part, writing has been a way of putting my thoughts down into some format. I first started writing with more effort and conscious thought when I was over on Livejournal. I never really garnered a large group of folks following my posts there. However, I did start¬†to realize that sometimes I have thoughts which, when expressed openly, could help others formulate their own opinions on the topic. Sometimes, those folks would come to a different conclusion than my own. For me, that was actually an awesome thing, since I have never really desired to have clones of myself. Besides, the thought of more than one “Tommy” running around scares the Nine Hells out of me. I think the world could only handle one chaotic concoction known as me at any one given time.¬†Ok, enough with the self-deprecation.

A few months back, an Institutional Research colleague of mine from a college in Utah asked me how I manage to keep my sanity as a Pagan in a college system that seems to be so overtly Southern-Baptist Christian. As a point of reference, she is a Pagan Witch in a similar University system in Utah. I pointed her to the blog, and noted that I write to bring my focus back to where it needs to be. “Besides,” I remarked at the time, “those that project their faith overtly tend to be respectful of¬†others, for the most part. For me, it is just a part of living in a country where Christians are the majority.” What followed was a long, drawn-out conversation in Email about the way that majority belief systems can be overly oppressive. But this is merely a side point, to provide the initial reference for the rest of this post. So don’t get too hung up here.

Last week, my colleague wrote me back, and noted that much of the blog was “interesting, and quite topical.” She noted that a lot of what I wrote was engaging for her, with the sole exception of my style of writing. “Its great stuff, but you need to go back and edit a lot of grammar, typos, and other little mistakes.” ::dead-pan face:: Oh, that hurts. A direct punch to the gut. And deservedly so.

I’ve been back through some of the much older writings, and as I read some of them, I cringe. Some of the writing makes it very difficult to read, and drives the reader – even myself, the idiot that wrote it – away from the overall point. I have mentioned that I need to do a better job of checking my writing before posting. Not just for grammar errors, but for readability. She is correct, though. I do need to go back to the older writings and rework them – for grammar, for typos, but most critically, for readability. But that’s not necessarily all.

As I read through those older posts, I am starting to realize that I could expand greatly on a lot of what I have said. And, some of what I have said no longer really applies, as my perspective has changed. So there is all of that too. So, perhaps, it is time to take a whole lot of steps backwards, and do some exploring of the past. But then, I started to wonder what I should do with the older posts? Keeping these around while updating things in the nwer posts, might make things confusing. So as I make changes, and update the posts – I’ll be deleting the older ones. I will note on the newer posts that there was an older version that the post came from, but that older post will disappear in favor of the newer updated one Except for minor changes made to some posts. If I do not expand on the material, and merely make changes because of grammar, spelling, and what not – I will make a note at the beginning of the post that it had been edited, and leave the original. In essence, its time to do some cleanup on what has been written.

I am not a professional writer. Sure, I have fantasies of being one. The reality of that is extremely slim. But as a blogger, I have a responsibility to do a far better job than I currently am. Not just  to you, the reader, or to me, the writer, but for others who may be seeking clarity about their own Path from what I have written. So, I hope you will indulge me over the next few months while I go through this process with the older posts. I will still post new material as well, but you will see some repeats coming down the row. Hopefully, you will enjoy this process as much as I currently am.

–Tommy

 

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 /|\

As I Write, I Grow

I am not a writer; though I would say that my writing has gotten better the more I have done it. At least I would like to think so. What I am finding out, is that writing is a lot like working rituals, playing guitar, or nearly anything else that one might choose to do so. The more you do it, the better you are at it. And the more you work with it, such as editing after a period of writing, the better you can make it sound to the human ear or read to the human eye.

Oddly enough, this month – November – is the National Novel Writing Month (or something like that). I have changed its acronym for me to NaWriMo – for National Writing Month. I am participating, but am not really writing a book. My word count will be a culmination of my blog posts (which I have a schedule for these), my writings for my Bardic Gwers studies during the month, and some preliminary work I am doing towards a potential published work (though that’s not a completely set thing at the moment). But the point is that I am writing – and doing so with determination and dedication. And that, in my mind, is important.

I have always looked and listened in awe of people who play the guitar. The way their fingers fret the chords, the manner in which they pick the strings to get that “right” note. I listen intently to the way they make their instrument “sing” and feel the emotion they put into their playing. I also feel pangs of jealousy, as I wish I could do the same. And I’ve always been under the impression that you found a good guitarist by just placing the instrument in their hands. The guitar would then magickally start playing wonderfully. The stark reality is a lot different than I realized.

It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of practice, and a lot of determination to play an instrument. Yes, there’s talent involved in all of that, but an individual can learn to play the guitar nicely without that level of talent that turns you into, say, a Stevie Ray Vaughn, or a Jimi Hendrix or Randy Rhoads. The key, I have been told by many guitar playing friends, is drive and determination. Not just to learn the instrument, but to learn to play within the rhythm structure of a song. The talent aspect is what allows players to improvise off of what they have learned – adding to the sound. Or creating their own sound from thin air. But before all of that happens, there’s the basics.

I am finding that writing follows the same pattern. To learn to write, you have to – well – write. And a lot of what you write in the beginning will look like pure shit later on in life. I still have papers I wrote back in 2000 and 2001 during my Bachelor’s degree. And I was not good. I managed to get information into my paper, I learned to cite passages from other writers and sources correctly, but rarely did I postulate or theorize. My writing style, if I may say so, was dull and uninspiring. But then, most technical writing tends to have that characterization.

Even if you go back in this blog, and read the stuff I was writing previously, you will find a plodding style of writing. And you will find a lot of errors in what I have written. Proofing blog posts is still a tough thing for me to do. But I have been learning over time. My writing may only be a bit better than it was before; however, it IS getting better. Why?  Because I spend more time doing it. Granted, my sentence structure could probably use a lot of help, and I will never achieve a writing status of any major (or even minor) author. It is really the process of writing every day that helps me.

See, doing something every day develops one’s style – which I will theorize changes over time. The more you do something, the more comfortable you get doing it. Then aspects of it become second-nature. Your mind learns to write with a rhythm to the keyboard. Just like your mind learns to toe-tap to “Anytime” by Journey when it plays on the radio.

The same can be said for doing ritual work, magick work, or any other aspect of your spiritual life. You want to get better at leading rituals? Do them. Do them badly. Learn from what did not work. Learn from what did. Adapt as necessary. You want to get better at magick? Do it. Do it badly. Learn from what didn’t work. Learn from what did. Adjust as needed. Want to learn guitar? Do what I am doing. Play badly. Play badly, OFTEN. Learn from it. Adapt as needed. But above all of that, have the drive and desire to get better.

So, why do I write the blog? To get my thoughts down in some form. I do go back and read the earlier blog posts here. And I do adjust my thinking on things from time to time. And I do post about those adjustments. But mostly, I hope that someone will get something out of what I am writing. I’m a solo Pagan. I’m a Druid. As reluctant as I am to say it, I’m a Priest. All of that means something to me. Deeply. If what I write resonates within someone else, and provides a potential pathway for them to grow in their own Spirituality; then as far as I am concerned, the blog has served its purpose. Even if it is only one person.

To achieve that singular goal, I write. And as I write more, I become more articulate in how I express my thoughts in the written format. In other words, I grow. For me, the writing process documents where I have been, where I am, and where I hope to go. In a manner of speaking, writing in the blog writes a part of the history of me. But it is only a part of that history. My personal journals document other aspects of my life as well. Taken together, I am slowly creating a History book about me.

 

Arguments, Debates, Definitions, Labels

Over the last month-plus, I have watched a few of the online debates over what this means, what constitutes that, how do the following aspects of Paganism work or don’t work. Or to put it in a more appropriate context, the (seemingly) endless debate/battle/war of words/terms/labels within the over-arching Pagan blogosphere.

Now, I am not a fan of debate, argument or in-fighting, particularly where points are rehashed over and over in an endless cycle of descriptives. Or when an individual’s points are picked apart over small perspectives. or even worse, when personal insults begin to take over the field of battle. For me, as a singular individual, none of this is helpful or informative. In fact, its the fastest way to turn me off to even contemplating your point whatsoever.

Granted, there will be folks who will follow onto my statement with a loud: “Who really gives a fsck about you being turned off?” Fair point. Except, I would point out, that when something is posted online, you are making your point to a much wider audience than you might understand or perceive. And if you are trying to make a particular relevant notation to a particular point being made – you would certainly hope to have clarification for a wider audience. Claiming to be offended by a particular adjective or label that is ensconced onto a group that you self-identify with is perfectly fine and understandable. But merely griping that the term was utilized, without provide the context as to why, can be confusing to the casual reader that comes across your statement. Especially those individuals that do not self-identify with your particular group, and cannot understand why the terminology is insulting.

Yes, it really is about context. And in an online debate, where textual context is all your are provided…it is certainly best to be clear. And before anyone states anything – I am far more guilty of that particular aspect than some may suspect. I am an amateur writer. HUGE emphasis on the amateur part. I tend to write off the cuff – though I am trying to do a far better job and editing and proofing what I write than I did in the past – and there were many times I would jump from topic to topic without any connector. There was a connector in my mind when I was writing, I just didn’t articulate that connector well enough in my writing – or sometimes not at all. I would think faster than I could type, and leave critical words out of sentences, which would change the context of what I was trying to say. I needed to really pause, re-read what I wrote, and make sure of what I was saying before I hit “send”, “reply” or “post”. In other words, I needed to take the time to THINK about what I was writing and how well it did (or didn’t) come across in the context of a conversation.

Perhaps, that’s what is wrong with online debates. Its very tempting to type and hit “send” without taking a few moments to look through what was written, the context (there’s that fscking word again) of what is attempting to be conveyed, and whether there is a personal slur or insult veiled within it. Come on, I’m just as guilty as the next person of muttering “what a dickhead” at the screen when reading posts and comments on the internet. But typing it in the open? Ok, I’ve done that a few times too. And regretted it almost as soon as I had hit the “send” button. But its easy to hurl insults around on the internet. After all, as a Cincinnati Reds fan, its highly unlikely I will run across that St. Louis Cardinals’ fan that I just hurled a textual epithet at. After all, maybe his mother really is like that.

I’ve also seen requests for “calm” and “respect” in these same online conversations. Where people reading the back-and-forth grow weary of a handful of folks being insulting to one another. And with the anonymity that the internet provides us, its highly unlikely that any call for such peace may ever be heeded. And while I think its doubtful that any advice would ever be heeded by those who seemingly find offense with anything that another person posts…take a step back, and breathe. Try to remember how you would have responded to the same statement in a coffee shop, with your invisible internet opponent sitting directly across from you. You might use some sharp retort, possibly even raising your voice a little. But would you really stand up, push your chair back, and bellow at the top of your lungs about the foul that the statement raised?

The internet has certainly opened up a lot of contact with other people. We are able to communicate our ideas through text, photo, video, and even audio with others. But it seems that the instantaneous and wide-open aspect of communications doesn’t extend to the other side of the communications equation: reading, hearing, understanding, analyzing, preparing a response – rather, we allow our emotions to take control, and find offense where offense may not even reside. In the essays we write online, most writers tend to take the time to define their terminology, in order to establish similar footing with their audience. And for me, I appreciate this, particularly when its a topic I am not that familiar with. And in many cases, where offense has been taken, that statement of definition is implied by the writer. But before the reader/receiver can leap to a position of offense…perhaps a more sanguine approach would be to inquire as to what was meant by the usage of these terms, rather than to assume.

Just sayin’….

 

My Imbas. My Awen. My Inspiration…

Rainbow near Divide, ColoradoMy morning routine has been fairly consistent over the past year. Up around thirty minutes prior to the dawn, make a cup of coffee and some breakfast (typically a bowl of oatmeal). Then outside to be near the stone circle and watch the sun peek over the rooftops here in Suburbia in north Texas. I do not always get the chance to be outside though – sometimes there’s rain – and believe it or not, sometimes there’s snow. Sometimes its just too bloody cold to be outside as well. On those days, I stand at the patio door, peering outside of the glass waiting for my daily companion to start that ascent to the heights of the sky. Sunrise has always been a fascination of mine. I love watching the sky change hues just before the Sun peeks beyond the horizon. The soft blues, oranges, and the egg-shell whites that permeate the sky remind me of an artist’s palette with little blobs of paint dotted all over it, just before the artist starts to mix colors to get the correct hue for their visual moment.

For me, artistry is everywhere. The beauty and color of the skies, the landscape in its natural formations, the people that dot the entire day in their chosen hues and style of dress, even the cars that we drive. Everything has a tinge of inspiration behind its creation, a hint of Imbas just vaguely perceived but there nonetheless. I am reminded of the lyrics to the song “Mission” by the band Rush from their 1987 album “Hold Your Fire”:

Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame ’til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip of a nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams

But dreams don’t need to have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it

If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I used to be quite envious of painters, graphic artists and musicians – each have a talent I only wish I had. When I was younger, I doodled around the Bass Guitar. I never was very good at it. I could replicate a handful of bass lines from Chris Squire of Yes, but when the complicated riffs and runs started – I was out of my element very quickly. I have always been envious of the gorgeous pieces of work that people can create with a little color and a set of tools. Pencil, pen, water colors, oils – the medium did not matter – its the glorious creation that they brought about that mystified me. Like the song implies, I could feel the Imbas of their creation – I could sense the creative juices flowing through me as well, but would be unable to create anything remotely on a scale of anything beyond “amateur”.

I turned to poetry as an outlet. I have always been fairly good with the written word. In high school, I took the song “Black Sabbath by the band Black Sabbath from their self-titled album (odd how that all worked out), and turned that into a short story of my own for an English assignment. My teacher loved it, even though I was too lazy to put it into the appropriate format. In my senior year of high school, I discovered the joy of writing poetry. That carried over into the next seven years of my life – where I shared my work on a local Bulletin Board Service¬†called “Renaissance BBS”. Sadly, much of that work is no longer in my possession, and I have no idea where else it might be.

Then, for a few years, I wrote nothing at all. I had just left the US military, and life was not an enjoyable one as I struggled to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism and greed I found myself dropped into. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get my head above water. Eventually, I went back to school for a degree. Soon enough, I re-embraced my love of writing and have never let go.

I have always had the dream of being a writer. Being able to make a meager living out of my words and inspiration. And yet, I am an adjunct professor at my local junior college. I may not be able to bring my words to the classroom, but I do try and bring my inspiration and love of technology to the classroom. I try to show the students that creativity is not limited to the musicians, artists, and writers. That the computer that we use are also works of inspiration. That each piece of software originated as someone’s quest to quench the mad fire within their spirit. Admittedly, not everyone wants to “hear” what I have to say. In three-plus years of teaching students, I have encountered more than my fair share of students that see the class as a hurdle that they have to jump. A topic that they have to finish to get a credit of some sort towards their graduation. Not everyone enjoys the madness of what Imbas can bring to them.

As I said, I love to write. My many journals (I keep three and am about to add a fourth one today) are a testament to this. I still have the dream about making my writing earn me a meager living. I realized long ago that having millions and millions of dollars may solve some of the issues of living, but all of the responsibility that comes with such large sums of money can also snuff out the joy of living. I merely want enough money to live comfortably and not worry day-to-day about my bills or where my next meal may come from. As I sit here writing this, I find myself seeing my feet stepping on to that Path, for the first time. Where that will take me, I have no idea – but this looks like the possible start of an interesting journey. I am looking forward to the adventures, pitfalls, and lessons that are likely to come my way.

My Imbas. My fire in the head. My inspiration. My Awen. May the Muses be kind, but firm in the lessons they will provide….

 

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….