Tag Archives: Blogging

Shut up, Linus!

Several years ago now I thought it would be a neat idea to write a post which used the Peanuts characters, specifically excerpts from the animated Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, to illustrate what seemed a very simple point…,

That Thanksgiving is a holiday that does not belong to any particular group.

At the time I wrote it, I think I’d seen a few too many evangelical types trying to claim the holiday as their own, and felt the need to push back a bit.

Looking back on it now, I feel like it’s one of my more cringe worthy efforts.

It is too long, too clumsy, and…, well, it’s too popular.

Seriously!

That damn throw-away thanksgiving post from six years ago is consistently the most frequently read thing on this blog. Mostly, I am in no doubt, due to the work of search engine algorithms coughing it up to folks looking for links to the Holiday Special itself.

But I suppose I should be…, thankful.

After all, if only a fraction of the folks who stumble across it stick around to read anything else I’ve written, and maybe inspired to think about things in a way that they hadn’t previously…, then it’s worth every misplaced click.

My message this Thanksgiving is a bit more concise: “Shut up, Linus.”

Sure, the preachy kid is always there to yammer on, but the only one at that entire party who knows what’s really going on is that girl Marcy.

Oh, we’d all do well to thank our gods for the bounty of the harvest, but these days I think we’d do better to concentrate on thanking each other. Not just on the one day but every day.

And not just our family and friends either.

Thank our teachers, both the professionals, and those who teach us by example. Thank the warriors back from trenches past and present, and thank the desperate retail employees, fighting their own yearly war of attrition. Thank the neighbors, the strangers, the doctors, sanitation workers and bureaucrats that you encounter throughout your day. Even thank that preachy kid, once he finally pipes down and lets everyone get back to their meal.

Because we all touch each other’s lives, and the actions of a stranger we pass on the street can have every bit as much power over our personal prosperity as that of any deity.

A simple expression of genuine gratitude can make a difference that pays us back a thousand fold.

Give thanks where thanks is due.

And have a Happy Holiday.

And thank YOU for stopping by!

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Filed under About this Blog, Holidays, Modern Life, Traditions

The Land of the Dead: Regarding Your Recent Visit…,

I stopped writing.

There were reasons for the pause.

I needed to get my bearings, figure out where I was, and chart a course forward.

There were other reasons that cropped up along the way.

“Life stuff” – we categorize it, like it were something we could put in a box and slide under the bed, as if we weren’t swimming in it constantly.  Drowning even, when the waves catch us by surprise, and we find ourselves gulping for air.

So I stopped writing.

And I stopped reading.

And then there was a combining of households, and boxes to be filled, and what gets sold and what moves to storage, and…, life stuff.  Like I said.

But space, like time, was suddenly at a premium.

And the altar had to be put away.  All the bits and pieces carefully cleaned and wrapped and boxed.  Temporarily.  Until I can find the space for them.  Make space for them.

I stopped writing, and reading…, and talking.

To the gods.

To the spirits.

To the ancestors.

It’s the easiest thing in the world.

To let it all go, to be what this empty world we’ve created wants us to be.

I used to wonder, from time to time, about the Land of the Dead.

It is a place of dread that figures into so many of our mythologies: a grey void of a place where the dead wander, without purpose or meaning, hungry for the attention of the living.  I was never sure I believed such a place could exist.  It seemed so far removed from my personal experience of the universe we share.

The Otherworld, I had always been taught, always believed, is reflected in our own mortal realm, just as our world is reflected there.  Neither realm is wholly separate from the other, each profoundly present within and throughout the other, and still, for some of their inhabitants, frustratingly out of reach.

But where then, could we see any reflection of those ghostly fields where the dead are said to wander aimlessly?

Where, if not all around us.

Listless – Hungry – Craving.

I have found myself wandering among them in the grey realm from which they’d seek escape, if they only knew that they were trapped.  The Land of the Dead is not a mythological construct,  not even close.

We’ve built it, floor roof and walls, and we’re constantly furnishing it with all the ‘life stuff’ that we collect along the way.

And it’s not a terrible place to visit, from time to time.  We all end up spending time there eventually.  The important thing is not to get trapped there.  Never forget where you are.

Always be “Just Visiting” – because the alternative…,

JustVisiting

So here I am.

Writing again (and it’s harder to get started again, than I would have believed).

And reading.

And talking (to them, and you).

Still not sure of exactly how to get to where I want to be.

But at least I know where I was, and that’s as good a starting point as any.

Any day now I expect to receive my survey in the mail…,

“Regarding your recent visit to the Land of the Dead.”

I should probably give them a nice review.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Death, Modern Life, Mythology, Spiritual Journey, Uncategorized

Two Hundred Posts Later…,

I don’t really enjoy talking about my little blog.

I’d rather just tell the stories.

Stories are powerful.

They can shape the world, if we let them.

For almost five years, I have been telling stories about that time when the gods of the ancient world began to make themselves known among the people again, and when those people rose up and fought for recognition and equal standing among the monotheists and the atheists who had for so long shaped the world in their own image.

When I started this blog, back in April of 2012, there was a certain optimism in the air, a feeling that real progress was being made in this world, and so much of it by those who had previously moved quietly through their lives, without a voice of their own.

This wasn’t a new feeling, mind you.  I’d felt it growing, very slowly at first, yet gaining momentum, for many years.  I know it was growing before I was even aware of it, before I was even around to be aware of it.  We, as a culture and as individuals, are just beginning to wake up, in bits and pieces, to some rather unexpected realities concerning ourselves and our place in the universe.

Such awakenings can be difficult.

We cling to the fantasies we have built up around ourselves.

We hold fast to the familiar and push back when our expectations are threatened.

In 2016, a great many of us pushed back, HARD!

But such reversals are common in stories like ours, and while they may leave deep scars, they serve a deeper purpose in the narrative.

I don’t feel the same optimism in the air that I felt when I started this blog.

I feel determination.  And when it comes to actually getting things done, I’ll take an ounce of dogged perseverance over any amount of simple optimism you can muster.

I have written something on the order of One-Hundred and Eighty-Three Thousand words…,

Including the ones you are reading right now.

There were several times, along the way, when I thought I was done.

Now, I know that I am only getting started.

But I want to do more.

Mine is one small voice in a rising chorus, and if that’s all I am ever able to contribute, I know that I can be satisfied with that.

But in addition to hitting my 200th post, it is my birthday this week, so I’m thinking big.

Here then is my wish list for the years to come.

I’d like to see a free counseling service for people who follow alternative religions, like a crisis hotline, manned by folks from within the pagan community, and geared toward helping those who are drawn toward pagan beliefs to navigate their own emotions, as well as dealing with family and friends who may not understand.

I’d like to see specialized legal counseling and litigation services made available, specifically geared toward helping people from our religious communities deal with issues such as workplace harassment, adoption and custody negotiation.

And finally (and perhaps most ambitiously), I’d like to see a school.  Not some knockoff Cherry Hill Seminary masters program, but instead a continuing education program, focusing upon an array of topics, some of interest to general audiences, but many geared toward our specific faith communities.  Offerings such as: Basic Wilderness Survival, Blacksmithing, Urban Herb Gardening, Aromatherapy, Book Binding, and Geomancy.

It’s a big list and I don’t know how to make any of those things happen.

But I want to try.

And I’m going to need help.

We’re going to have to tap into all that determination that I feel welling up around us.

We’re going to have to push forward, together, to reshape the world in an image we can all be happy with.  And I’m going to be reaching out to many of you.

So don’t be surprised.

Be ready.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Religion, Spiritual Journey

The Final Treasure

This is a time of endings and beginnings, a ‘thin’ moment in the turning of the year when death becomes life, and past becomes future.  It is a time of short campfire stories meant to raise gooseflesh, and for sombre reflection upon the grand themes which shape our existence.

Allow me a moment to set the scene:

In an age long before the first mortal man set foot upon the Emerald Isle, there were four great cities hidden across an impassable sea, far to the north and west of that land.

It was in these cities that an ancient race of gods, the Tuatha Dé Danann honed their great skills before taking to the sea, riding within a great mist, and settling finally upon the shores of Ireland.

And when they came out of that otherworldly realm, they brought with them four great treasures – objects of such power that, in their absence, each of the great cities crumbled into the sea, even as our own mortal world was forever changed with their arrival.

The Sword,

The Spear,

The Cauldron,

The Stone.

When I first began writing here, in April of 2012, I considered the Four Treasures to be of only limited consequence.  That I named this blog after the fourth of those treasures, The Stone of Destiny, had less to do with what the Stone represents, than with my belief that in visiting the Hill of Tara upon which the Stone is said to rest, I had reached a major turning point in my life – the ending of one journey and the beginning of another.

In the intervening years, I have found that the process of writing things down brings with it a clarity that I hadn’t known I was missing.  Years spent studying comparative mythology, symbolism, folk tales and spirituality was meaningless until I began to use what I’ve learned as a lens through which to view my own life, and the world around me.  The process of writing has revealed connections between fable and form that I had not previously recognized.

And as I have wrestled with my understanding of the gods, who are sometimes near enough to touch, and sometimes incredibly distant…,

And as I have cast my nets again and again, seeking that ever elusive Salmon of Knowledge who always seems to be swimming just out of reach…,

I find that my thoughts turn again and again to the four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and I begin to see that they are more than just the magical tools of the gods that the stories make them out to be.

In fact, I have begun to believe that their power is in many ways greater than that of the gods, although, unlike either gods or men, the Treasures have no power to act on their own.

It was not until November of last year that I felt confident enough in my thinking to write down my thoughts regarding the Third Treasure – the Undry Cauldron of the Dagda.

As for the Sword and the Spear…, I had hoped to write down my thoughts concerning them both before now, but each time I try they dance just out of reach.  Their purpose seems so obvious, and much has been written already by people with greater scholarship than I on the subject of magical weapons.  But I feel as though there are connections there which run deeper, and which I have not seen clearly enough yet to speak of.

And as for the Final Treasure…,

I have only just realized that I’ve been talking about nothing but else from the very beginning!

The stories that have been passed down to us say that it is simply a stone of coronation.  In these tales, when the rightful king of Ireland comes into contact with its surface, the stone will roar with a sound that echoes across the countryside for all to hear.

Which is no small thing, but easy enough to dismiss in this modern age when monarchs are few and democracies (at least in principal – if not in practice) are the rule of the day.

But I have recently come to believe that there is much more to the Stone than its functioning as some kind of magical ‘king detector’.  Not when the other Treasures are so much more powerful.

Before the Tuatha Dé Danann brought the Stone with them out of the wreckage of fair Failias, its master was a great teacher known as Morfessa, a name which means “grand knowledge”.

When the Dé Danann arrived in Ireland, the Stone was not bequeathed to any single god, as was the case with the Sword, the Spear, and the Cauldron, but was installed at the Hill of Tara, which served for both gods and men as the political and spiritual center of the island until well into the Christian era.

The Stone of Destiny.

The Stone of Grand Knowledge.

The Stone is not an object of myth.

The Stone is Mythology.

It is that special realm of understanding that does not make the common mistake of conflating truth and fact.  For most people in this modern age, dominated as we are by the twin monotheisms of Abrahamic Dogma and Rationalist Thought, it is truly a foreign shore.

And yet, the more I watch the people around me, the more I listen to them, I am convinced that there is a great yearning in the human spirit, to find those fields again.

People have been taught, as I was, that mythology is the stuff of lies.

If an idea is not found within the covers of a certain holy book…,

If it is not reproducible within a laboratory setting…,

It must be a deception, to be avoided, or laughed at, or simply ignored.

People have an inborn yearning for mythology and they have been taught to avoid all the roads that would lead them there.  Folks have become so used to the blinders that they wear that they don’t even realize there is an entire perspective that they are not even seeing.  And when they do catch a glimpse, it’s like a whole new world opened up for them – which is exactly what has happened.

I’ve been lucky enough to see that transformation happen within a tiny handful of people, and it is, every time, a joy to behold.  And maybe I’m greedy, but I want to see it again and again.  And I want to see it on a bigger scale.

And I don’t think a handful of blogs is going to do it.  Neither will the occasional Pagan Pride Day in the park, or the yearly spat of “What do the Pagans do on Halloween” stories on the local news channel.

I think the answer is in the mythology itself, it’s in hearing the voices and seeing the faces of regular people who experience the connection between the ancient and the modern within their daily lives, and in hearing the tales told with a passion and belief that most have never experienced outside of a Sunday church service.

That is something that I don’t think I can do alone, with a once-a-week blog post.  And that is why I’ll be suspending my regular writing schedule for the time being.

But I’m still going to be around, and I’ll post here again just as soon as the spirit takes me.

In the meantime, I’m going to be looking for the means and the skills and the voices to make something happen.  I’ll be reaching out to people in the coming months, but if you’ve got any ideas that you’d like to contribute, or if you have questions, please oh please, feel free to contact me in the comments!

Finally, I could not close without a heartfelt Thank You to everyone who has supported me this little endeavor of mine, to those who come back again and again to read these musings, and to those who have, over the last forty-two months, taken the time to leave me comment.  I could not have come this far without you all.

Slán go fóill (bye for now).

Tools of the Trade

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Filed under About this Blog, Celtic Polytheism, Modern Life, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

Approaching Change

Sometimes I sit down to write these posts and I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.

There may be some notes I’ve jotted down, or links to some relevant website containing information I plan to reference.  There may be a few books stacked up with torn envelopes stuck in them, marking pages or passages I want to look back on while writing.  And if you ever found yourself driving alongside me, on one of those weeks, you might look over to see me talking to myself, as I run again and again over how I want a particular idea to read and sound.

Those weeks have become increasingly rare.

More often, I start out with a fairly good idea of what it is I’ll be writing about, but it is not until I get into the actual business of putting it down that the true objectives reveal themselves.

Sometimes this involves a long protracted battle, rewrite after rewrite until the thing is battered into a form which, if not entirely pleasing to me, is at least satisfactory.  Frequently, this battle is won (or lost) at some disreputable hour of the morning, just shy of the intended publication time.

And then there are those magical nights when I sit down to write and the muses come and work their will upon me.  In these rare moments I experience the same euphoric energy that I used to feel while painting or sculpting, and the words seem to flow out of me and onto the page.

Reading that last paragraph back, it sounds as if I’m saying the process is effortless.

It is nothing of the sort.

The words, the images and ideas: they flow — like blood from an open vein.

And when it happens, it is as exhausting as it is exhilarating, because I…, because WE are tapping into the power of creation.

We’ve all heard the phase, “Putting yourself into your work.”

When we write a story, when we make art, or perform, or invent…, and when we do it as an act of passion, we put a bit of ourselves into that thing we are making.

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, think of it like a Horcrux, except that no one had to die in the making of it.  You’ve given the thing you made a life of its own, and in the bargain, you will live forever, through the things you create.

This is a power that we share with the gods.

Temple Raven

Sometimes I sit down to write these posts and I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.

This is not one of those posts.

I started us off with just two words – Approaching Change.

I guess I was hoping that the muses would take it from there.  But I’m not feeling it tonight.

Perhaps my intention was to discuss changes great and small that I feel in the air.

Samhain is nearly upon us and it is at this time of the year we are most aware of the great wheel in its turning.

The Pagan and Polytheist movements appear to be gaining some small traction, even as other forces work desperately to roll the clock back to some imagined golden age.  The politics of the day seem to have become increasingly fractured and divisive.  Our next-door neighbors have become strangers, while our ability to inspire, and to be inspired, by people in far away lands has become almost second-nature.

This is indeed a time of great changes, I have no doubt.

What I do doubt is my own ability to roll with those changes, to be have a voice in them, to add my own small creative power to that of so many others in this ongoing act of creation.

The muse I spoke of comes too infrequently these days.

My work schedule is too chaotic.

My sleep is haphazard.

My ‘free’ moments are too choked with worry over financial obligations, and not enough time spent making art or traveling, reading or building.

And always on the edge of my vision there is a project which is currently beyond my resources, my skill, my reach…, and always will be unless I begin to make some real changes of my own.

And what better time to begin (or is it continue?) that process than in the cool shadows of Samhain, when the dead and the living – the past and the present – mingle and become one.  The old torch sputters and dies, and a new light is born out of the darkness.

I’ve talked a great deal about sacrifice in these pages.

The time has come again for me to make a few of my own.

And that begins right here.

This is the 179th post I have published since April of 2012.

When I started, I never expected I would last so long.

Next week, on Monday, November 2nd. I will publish post number 180

And that will mark my last regular post here…, for a while.

I’m not done here, not by a long shot.  This blog has always been a means to an end, but my writing here has begun to drift away from the original intent and it is high time I made a course correction.  Without the self-imposed weekly deadline, I can turn my attention to other areas, other changes and projects that, it is my deepest hope, I will chronicle here.

If you have stuck with me this long I hope you will hold on a little bit longer.

The road gets twisty up ahead.

Time to make a decision: hit the breaks or step on the gas.

Approaching Change.

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Filed under About this Blog, Art, Holidays, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey

When all this Mario Sh*t gets old.

When I first started this blog, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with it, but I quickly realized that I had no idea.  There were so many things that I wanted to talk about, so many things that I thought needed to be said, and I really just assumed that the ideas would come of their own volition.

Sad to say, it was never quite so easy.

By the time I reached the second year of writing I’d begun to construct a road map for myself.  I started by listing the topics I really wanted to work on, in order of priority, and setting aside those that were still just the seeds of ideas, for later exploration.  Those all-important core posts I then slotted into my writing calendar, giving them an order that felt natural to me, and which I hoped would provide a refreshing variety to any regular readers I happened to pick up along the way.

Which brings us to year three, a year which has seen all my carefully constructed plans rendered into so much chaos.  Oh the big list of core topics is still sitting there, but my writing calendar remains woefully blank, and week after week I find myself flying by the seat of my pants.

Maybe you’ve noticed.

And here we are, having arrived at the 3rd Anniversary Post of the Stone of Destiny.

In my 1st Anniversary post, I compared the process of blogging to an old computer game, a text-based adventure that some of you may remember, called Zork.

When it came time to write my 2nd Anniversary post, I already knew I’d be continuing the theme I’d set a year earlier, by writing about another computer game, a puzzle-solving adventure called Myst, where whole worlds are created by the power of the written word.

Heady stuff, indeed.

And now, with three years under my belt, I guess it’s time we talked about a certain Italian plumber and star of a whole series of games, a guy named Mario.

Mario

When we first met this guy, he was barely even recognizable a human.  He was a brightly colored blob of pixels, whose girlfriend, Pauline, was being held hostage at the top of a large scaffold – by an ape.

This ape, presumably a distant relation of the more famous King Kong, defended his position from the ascending Mario, by rolling barrels down the scaffolding, which had the unfortunate consequence of crushing our hero, unless he either leapt over them, or pulverized them with a large hammer someone had left hanging around.

Mario, I should point out here and now, spends a lot of his time dying horribly.

But he’d re-spawn, and you’d take him up the scaffold once again.  Run-jump-climb-jump-jump-run-hammer-hammer-jump-run-climb…,

And just when you thought you had memorized the pattern of the level, and navigated poor Mario to the rescue of his lady-love, the blasted gorilla would retreat, girl in hand, to another even more diabolical set of scaffolds.

This goes on, literally forever, until Mario runs out of lives and is destroyed.

The entire objective of the game is to get as far as you can through an increasingly complicated series of death-traps, and to rake up as many points as possible along the way, before inevitable doom.

Later games in the series, feature Mario fighting his way through a bizarre fantasy land, in his quest to save a new girl, Princess Peach – a young lady who seems fated to spend eternity as the captive of a large turtle-monster-thing.

PrincessPeach

Frankly, the surreal nature of the ‘Mario World’ games has, on occasion, forced me to wonder if Mario hadn’t actually died in his fight against Donkey Kong, and with his quest to save Pauline unfulfilled in life, he finds himself wandering a purgatorial landscape, forever seeking to “save the princess” who is always out of reach.

And frankly, that rather dark scenario, would go a long way toward explaining the utterly insane obstacles he finds in his path.

It is these utterly nonsensical implements of death, which I long ago dubbed “Mario Shit”.

And that’s not just limited to the games in that particular series.

Anytime, in any game, you find yourself facing obstacles that have no logical reason to be there, except to force you into dying again and again until you memorize the bloody pattern – that, my friends, is Mario Shit.

And I’ll be totally honest here, and tell you that I’d been using that term for years before I made the connection with Mario being a plumber.

I’ll also say, and I know many will disagree, that I find this kind of game design to be lazy, and aggravating, and not in the least fun.

And if you haven’t picked up on my theme yet, it is simply this: these last few months have seemed like ever so much Mario Shit.  I feel like I’m constantly running up-hill, while all manner of unexpected obstructions seem to drop into my path without warning.

I’m all reaction and no plan, and I don’t like the way that feels.

So what to do?

Last year, when I began to feel a little overwhelmed, I took a month long break from the blog.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I re-spawned again, it felt like I was in a constant rush to regain the ground I’d lost along the way.

I feel like I’ve lost a pattern that I’d almost memorized, and I am still fighting to rediscover the right combination of moves that will get me where I want to be.

But where is that?

Is there an actual end-game or am I playing just to play?

These same questions came up in another post a few weeks back.  Looking further back, I can now see where they have been peeking in, here and there, for most of the last year.

I’ve allowed myself to become distracted.  It is all too easy to put off answering the hard questions, when you’re busy leaping barrels or smashing Goombas (I beg you, don’t even ask).

I may still take a few weeks off, to try and find my footing again, but the Stone of Destiny will return.

It’s time to play a new kind of game – I simply pray, to all the gods who will listen, that I do not find myself a year from now, writing a blog post about Pac-Man!

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Modern Life, Philosophy

Stealing Souls

Sunday is my writing day.  If I’ve been having a really good week, and my schedule and my brain have been cooperative, then I spend part of the day putting the final touches on my weekly blog post.  All too often, these days, that time is spent in a mad dash to get my ideas down in a form that is at least partially digestible to my unsuspecting readers.

However, sometimes things do not quite work out, and I find myself trapped in a Monday morning staring contest with that blank page on my screen.

And here we are, waiting to see who will blink first…,

…,

It’s my own fault, of course, that I am in this predicament.

You see, A friend called me on Saturday night, begging me to come out on Sunday morning to take some photos of her for a family project.  She hates having her photo taken and had, as a consequence, put things off until absolutely the last possible moment.

I could have declined, of course, but a half-day photography session actually sounded like a lot of fun, and I honestly believed I would get home in plenty of time to meet my self-imposed Monday morning publishing deadline.

And so, as Sunday dawned, I gathered all my equipment and headed off for a day of “soul stealing”.

Soul Stealing is a private joke of mine, referring to the old superstitions that used to accompany photography.  In the past, certain folks believed that in capturing an image of someone, you were also taking from them a portion of their soul.

I suppose the other reason that I think of it that way, is because, on some level, I’m not all that comfortable taking pictures of people.

I love doing landscape photography, and shooting architecture and even animals, but it’s different with people.  Shooting people ‘feels’ intrusive to me, even when the subject wants to be photographed.  It really does feel as if, on some level, I am taking something away from them.

And when I watch one of the most outgoing and self-assure people I have ever known, transform into someone shy and anxious, when I see an incredible natural radiance suddenly obscured by clouds of loathing and self-doubt, I wonder about the true power of the camera.

I know people who hate being in front of a camera.  I am one myself, which is why I most often plant myself firmly behind the lens rather than before it.

Others are in love with the camera.  They seek out that space in front of the lens, and when there is no one else there to take a picture, they will do it themselves, sometimes at risk of life and limb (because, why wouldn’t you take a selfie while driving, right?!).

And then there is the fact that ours is the most photographed culture in the history of the world.  We are constantly in front of a lens (or ten).  We are filmed and photographed everywhere we go, in every business, on street corners and intersections, and when all else fails, there are all those cameras floating around in orbit.

Is a photo just an image, simply a collection of dots on a page recording the light which bounced off the surface on an object at a particular point in time and space?  Or is there more to it than that?

In some ancient cultures, it was believed that to possess an image of a person or creature, provided a conduit to its power or a measure of control over its being.  When we look at a photo of a departed friend or family member, do we not feel a closeness with them?  Does the cult of celebrity, which as much as any other force, turns the wheels of our economy, not depend upon the power of the photograph?

Is there a real power there that we simply refuse to see?

Or is it just all in our heads?

In any case, it was a pretty good Sunday.

We got a late start, the light was intermittent at best, my friends dog was far more interested in running around than posing for the camera, and we were racing a cold front, but we got a few workable shots.

 

Stolen Souls

Not my best work, to be sure.  But then, I’m pretty critical of myself behind the camera as well.

Obviously, my writing got put off until Monday morning.

Which brings us back to the staring contest with the blank page.

I wonder what I’ll write about.

Maybe stealing souls.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Modern Life, Photography

fractured little thoughts

I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block this week.

Sometimes the problem is that there really seems to be nothing in the world to write about.  But most of the time, for me, it’s just that there are all these fractured little thoughts, bouncing around in my head, vying for attention.

They only want to be cared for, these little thoughts.

They only want me to find them a home.

And I would…,

Except that they are such little thoughts.

Except that they are too small to survive on their own.

And so I don’t know what to do with all these fractured little thoughts that don’t fit.

I mean, just by way of example, what really am I supposed to say about the Ant Rafts…,

So over the summer I noticed a peculiar thing happening in my cat’s water dish.

She’s mostly an outdoor cat, and although she takes her meals inside, I do always keep a bowl of fresh water on the front porch for her.

As the summer months passed, I began to observe something I had never seen before.  Every evening, upon arriving home from work, there would be a smallish pile of ants floating in the middle of the bowl.

At first I assumed that these were just collections of ants which had slipped into the water and drowned, only to gravitate to each other in the middle of the bowl.  I’d pour them out, refill the dish with fresh water, and move on.

But with each days passing, these piles continued to grow larger, and it quickly became clear to me that most of these ants were alive, clinging together in the middle of what should have been a watery grave.

Intrigued, I did a little rooting around on the internet, and discovered that this is a fairly well documented behavior among several species of ant, most notably, the dreaded, despicable Fire Ant.

When a flood comes and destroys their underground nests, a colony of Fire Ants will race to the surface and form a raft of bodies which floats safely downstream.  The ants are able to interlock their limbs in such a way that the surface tension against the water achieves a level of buoyancy capable of keeping the entire colony afloat.

This is an entirely cooperative mechanism, where every ant is doing its part to keep the collective from drowning.

Ants!

Fire Ant

Nasty, biting, swarming up your leg if you stand in the wrong spot for more than a few seconds, Fire Ants – who stretch their bodies out against the torrent, locking (hands?, claws?, whatever) with their neighbors, to make of themselves a raft that their entire society may rest upon in safety.

Okay, so Ant Rafts are really cool, and it would be neat to write something about them.  However, I don’t really have any place to take that.  It’s an incomplete thought that doesn’t fit well with any of the other incomplete thoughts in my head.

And why am I still thinking about Veterans Day?  That was last week, so there is no point in blogging about it now!

We see it all the time.

There’s a young man or woman in uniform.  Or maybe it’s an older gentleman, wearing a ball cap, or a jacket upon which a patch has been stitched, displaying certain insignia.  We know who they are.  We know they have made sacrifices, that they have put their very lives on the line.

And someone will walk across that room, and shake their hand, and thank them for their service.  It makes us smile.  It makes us proud to know that there are such people among us.  It makes us glad to know that we are a people that can recognize sacrifice when we see it.

Yet I am forced to wonder…,

I wonder about the guys who pick up my trash every Thursday, the guys who hang from the back of a stinking truck, in rain, and snow, and sweltering heat, the men (and women, I am sure), who breathe the foulest fumes of our daily lives and keep the horrors that we haul out to the curb every week from piling up around us.  Does anyone ever walk across a room to shake their hands and thank them for their service?

I really doubt it.

And please, don’t for a moment think that I am trying to take anything away from our men and women in uniform.  I’m really not.

But they are not the only ones who have, and will, make sacrifices.  Most of the people that make our modern little lives possible, are working jobs and making sacrifices that we would never consider doing for ourselves.  And the truth is, we’d be lost without them.

I’m glad the Veterans get their day.  The gods know they deserve it, and more.

But what about the folks who keep the water flowing, the electricity humming, and the trash picked up?  Don’t they deserve a handshake and a heartfelt thanks?

Don’t we all?

Do you see what I mean?

I can’t get anything done because I’m stuck thinking about this weird colony of ants, where every member interlocks with his fellows to keep the whole multitude afloat.  While, at the same time, I’ve got these odd ideas about the true meanings of community, and service, and sacrifice for the common good.  And while they are both interesting ideas, neither one really seems like something I could get a full blog entry out of.

And I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do, when a friend suggested I just tap into the upcoming holiday, and write something about thankfulness.  “Share with your readers,” she said, “what it is that you are thankful for.”

So what am I thankful for?

I’m thankful for all those fractured little thoughts, bouncing around in my head, vying for attention.  And for the friends and family who bring them out in me, who help them come together in ways I never expected them to.  And for the folks who read the words those thoughts become.  And for every one who has made my life possible – the billions of linked hands, keeping this whole silly world afloat against the waters that might otherwise carry us away.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Holidays, Modern Life, Philosophy

Things Overdue

There are a couple things I’ve been needing to do for a while.

When I started writing again after the month-long hiatus in April of this year, I mentioned that I would be introducing the occasional “Skip-Week” into the regular blog schedule whenever my work/life/writing balance became too much to manage.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve hit that point a few times in the intervening months, but have yet to actually take a pass on my regular Monday post.

Why?

I really don’t know.

The writing I do here is important to me.  It feels like there is so much that needs saying and that even if the individual posts don’t seem to matter that much, the whole of them will form some kind of complete thought.

Also, there is that nagging feeling that skipping out on a post is somehow admitting defeat.  My work schedule is ridiculous, and those moments in which I am able to pursue my many other interests, along with the minutia of everyday life, are fleeting.

We shouldn’t have to pack the things that we live for around the edges of someone else’s schedule, and skipping that regular Monday post because I am beat down by an unforgiving work week feels like surrender.

Is that silly?  Almost certainly.  But there it is.

So, with that in mind, I’ve set aside the post I’d wanted to do this week (but was in no way prepared for) and will instead take this opportunity to accept an award.

I’ve been nominated for a handful of these over the last few years.  They seem to spread and multiply through the WordPress community only to vanish for a while before returning again unexpectedly.  And usually I put off replying for a week or two and then things get in the way and eventually I forget about them entirely.

So a couple weeks ago, I was nominated for the “The Witchy Blog Award” by Lunapo of Biblebelt Witch.  I thank her for including me in this and apologize for taking so long to reply.

Witchy Blog Award Logo

Now then, in following the rules, nominees must answer each of the following seven questions…,

1) How did you “discover” Wicca/witchcraft/Neo-Paganism?

I had known that the old pre-christian gods still existed since childhood but had no clue that anyone else still honored them, so I didn’t discover Neo-Paganism until I went to University (give me a break, this was pre-internet).  I learned about Wicca and eclectic-witchcraft from members of the campus Pagan Student Association, and although what they were doing didn’t exactly resonate with me, I was deeply grateful to learn that I was not alone in my beliefs.

 

2) Do you grow herbs?

I’m sure there’s something in my backyard that is either edible or medicinal, but not because of anything I did.  Tending a nice little herb garden is one more of those goals that will just have to wait until I have more time.

 

3) Are you “in the broom closet”?  If not, share your coming out experience.

Well I don’t walk around with a flashing neon sign (those things are heavy!) but no, I am entirely open with anyone who asks.  It’s not a secret with work, friends or family.

I don’t have a particular “coming out” experience.  It happened a little at a time over the span of a decade.  A few folks had to be told several times, and in increasingly overt ways, before it finally sunk in.  Several of those who know, still don’t exactly get it – which is one of the things my blog is actually intended to help with.

 

4) What tradition do you follow, if any?

I practice my own particular blend of Celtic Polytheism.

 

5) Do you consider yourself a witch, Wiccan or Pagan (or maybe something else?)

I have plenty of experience with the first – although I’ve never claimed that title.

Gave the second a brief try back in college – didn’t everyone?

The third is a pretty broad category (even by my definition) but will do in a pinch.

 

6) How much of witchcraft/Wicca are you able to incorporate into your everyday life?

Allowing for the difference in terminology, I see no distinction between my religious practice and my everyday life.  Certainly there are moments when I feel more (or less) ‘in tune’ with the gods and spirits around us, but I see no evidence that our ancestors drew such a harsh line between the spiritual and the mundane.  The world around us is infused with magic – one need only know where and how to look.

 

7) Do you have a familiar?  If you do, tell us how you met him/her and how s/he takes part in your practice (if at all).

I had a feline pal who understood more english than some people I know who are, in theory, proficient speakers.  He would sit on my lap while I wrote, and then he’d get down and jump on the bed which sits behind me and snore gently and reassuringly as I fussed over my keyboard.  He was crap about knocking things over on my altar, and an absolute pest whenever I’d try to meditate.

A familiar?  No.  But an excellent friend.

— and sometimes, I still hear him jump up onto the bed while I’m writing.

 

After answering the questions, the nominee must pay it forward by choosing five other Pagan bloggers to nominate.

So I give you…,

Metal Gaia

Druid Life

Lady Imbrium’s Holocron

Under the Owl’s Wing

Oak and Cauldron

BART Station Bard

Each very different from the others and all deserving of a signal boost!

Thanks again and I’ll be back again next Monday.  🙂

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Filed under About this Blog, Spiritual Journey

The ending has not yet been written.

We open our eyes to an endless void, interrupted only by the pinprick light of distant stars and galaxies. Before we can even wonder how we came to be floating, so literally, in the middle of nowhere, we notice yet another impossibility in the distance. Above us (or is it below?) there appears to be a tear in the fabric of the infinite. Through that unlikely gap, we can glimpse the softer hues of a nighttime sky, scudding clouds and the last sliver of a crescent moon.

For a moment, nothing seems to move except for the clouds which slide gently from one jagged edge of this bizarre window, to the other. And then there is a new shape, a silhouette thrust tumbling against this strange patch of gloaming sky. We see it, briefly, as the shape of a man, flailing, falling toward us. And then he is gone, and there is only the shadow of a rectangular object, a book, pages fluttering, left to plunge into that seemingly immeasurable cavity.

The Star Fissure

A year ago, I celebrated the 1st anniversary of this blog by taking you on a walking tour of the Great Underground Empire as presented in the classic computer game Zork. It seemed appropriate, at the time, to compare my experience of blogging with that of fighting my way, one typed command at a time, through a text-based adventure.

I truly think that there was something special about those games, ‘Zork’ and ‘Eamon’ and a dozen others like them. At a time in my life when I was starting to read voraciously, it was those games which taught me to interact with “the narrative” in ways I might never have considered otherwise. The story became more than a simple collection of words. Instead, there was this new concept, this idea of the universe being an expression of ‘The Word’.

Well, it was a new concept to the child I was, anyway.

Every ancient culture has understood that the world around us was made, not out of water and rock, or even protons and electrons, but out of ideas made solid through the magic of words.

(And before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, this is not me supporting ‘intelligent design’ over the ‘scientific method’. As if either of these things could exist without the words to express them. There are deeper truths than these, I think.)

Now, where were we? Childhood — Reading — Computer Games…,

Ah yes, the perfect expression of story AS reality: Myst.

Myst Island Dock

Let us return to the opening moments of the game and that mysterious book which fell from the heavens. We open the book and lay our hand upon the image which dances upon the first page, only to find ourselves transported suddenly, and without explanation, to someplace very different.

We find ourselves for the first time, but not the last, standing on the dock of Myst Island. To our right, the ocean waves lap against the masts of a sunken ship, and in the distance before us, a stairway climbs up to some strange stone gears which crown a pinnacle of rock.

Our journey begins.

As we explore, we learn that Myst Island inhabits its own ‘Age’, a place literally written into existence through an ancient art. Hidden, throughout the island are still more linking books like the one that brought us here, gateways to even stranger Ages which await exploration.

But there is danger here as well. The Ages of Myst are more than simple places, they are puzzles as well. Every place we go, every object which is set into our path is part of some greater riddle which must be solved lest we become trapped.

Why does this feel so familiar?

Perhaps it is because personal experience helps us to suspend disbelief in the fantastic.

After all, who among us has never dived headlong into a book, only to find themselves in a foreign place and time?

Certainly, we may search the ancient mythologies and easily find heroes who survive by finding the hidden clues and patterns within their environment. But why stray so far from our own lives?

Are Religion and Science anything more than the tools we use to unlock the riddle of our own existence? If we figure out the puzzle and decipher the mechanics of the world around us, will the universe not finally open its deepest secrets?

Well, maybe some of them. There are always more mysteries, and if a game is popular, you can bet it will have a sequel.

Stoneship Age

Huh, when I set out, my intention was to compare my experience of blogging over these last two years with that of playing Myst. I appear to have wandered far afield from my goal, something, I must confess, that happened to me often while playing the game.

Life imitates art, or is it the other way around. Is there even a difference between the two?

So then: Myst versus Blogging.

Well isn’t it obvious? Every post has challenged me with puzzles, mysteries, storytelling, and the sublime knowledge that I’m never sure exactly where I’m going to end up when the writing is done.

Plus, it takes ‘Ages’ for me to get anything done!

On some days the writing just will not come at all. On those days, I feel like I’m in the underground, far beneath Selenitic Age, traveling haltingly through the dark in some clunky rail car, listening for a discordant little ‘ding’, barely audible, that will let me know I’m headed in the right direction.

On other days, the writing comes as easily as walking along the winding paths of Channelwood. I get lost there sometimes, among the tall trees and rippling water, and must force myself to come back.

Channelwood Age

And in the back of my mind there are always those voices crying out so insistently for me to “bring the pages”.

Truth be told, I finished that game and its sequels long ago, but I think part of me lives on Myst Island still. Now that I’ve taken up writing, I see more clearly the links between this Age, and that of our ancestors, and perhaps those of generations to come.

The work is important, if to no one else, than to me, and I am deeply grateful to those who have indulged it thus far.

It is also exhausting.

I have posted once a week, without interruption, for two years. For some, that may be no great achievement, and I cannot fathom where they find the time. For me, with my weekly workload, neglected loved ones and other commitments, it has been a major undertaking.

And one which I must, for the moment, step away from.

I am taking the month of April off from writing, which should prove to be an interesting experiment in itself. I’m not done here, not by any stretch. I plan to return to this blog around Beltane, and in the meantime I’ll be following all the new friends I have made along the way.

There are so many linking books out there, and so many Ages. How will I ever find the time to explore them all?

Falling Into Myst

 

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Filed under About this Blog, Modern Life, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey