Tag Archives: Texas

October Stories: The Fields of the Dead

The weeds, so late in the season, had been reduced to clumps of tall spindly stalks.  They reached almost to our knees as we stalked our prey across the field, tawny spikelets rasping together in the cooling October breeze.

We fanned out slowly.  Each taking a few large steps forward and then sweeping one leg forward and across in a low arc, the crunch of tall grass bending and breaking underfoot, while we scanned the ground before us for any sign.

Another few steps.

Another sweep of the leg.

And again, widening our distance.

And again.

And there!  A flash of white between grayish-green blades of grass.  My hand thrust downward, looking for purchase, for something hard and rough wedged into the earth.  And then the grip and pull against a resistance from roots above and soil below.

A few moments spent shaking the dirt away before I can properly see what I’ve found.

“Got one,” I shout to the others, “I think it’s a shoulder bone!”

“Good, now look for the rest.  We’ll keep going.”

Smiling at the club-like form in my hand, I give it a couple more good shakes, dirt flying from a thousand hollow pockmarks which seem to line one flattened edge, and then I give it a gentle toss into the low grass at the edge of the field.

I make that sweeping motion with my foot again, and then again, until I see more white peeping up from below.  More bones to gather, weathered and stained, from the hungry earth.

She does not easily yield that which she has been given.

***

Throughout my high-school years my parents and I lived next to a small cattle ranch.  Its glory days long since passed, the property was held by two elderly ladies, mother and daughter, who kept their small herd more out of habit than anything else.

I fed the cattle and my father sometimes pitched in when the owners needed him for fence repairs or brush removal.

There were never more that a couple dozen head wandering the fields in those days, and there was more than ample space for them to roam and graze.  As I recall, there was only one small field closed off to them: the grassy crown of a wide hill, hidden back behind the main house and the barn, surrounded by trees and left to seed.

We called it the bone yard.

From time to time, one of the herd would die, usually of age, and the owners would hire someone to throw a chain around its neck and drag it off with a tractor, into that lonesome circle.

There the bodies were transformed, by scavengers and time, into a loose collection of bones, picked clean and scattered across the area of flattened grass where the carcass once lay.

Still more time would pass and the bones, bleached by sun and rain, would begin their slow progress into the earth.

Or maybe they where dragged downward.

Certainly the roots seemed loath to give them up.

***

And those old bones might have vanished into the ground forever, had my father not volunteered to run the P.T.O Spook-House at my High School’s fall carnival.

Halloween in a small towns of Texas, populated as they tend to be, by the more evangelical flavors of the Christian faithful, can be a complex bit of business.

Oh the people do chatter about paganism and devil worship, and everyone is doing it, and everyone knows that everyone else is doing it, and they all pretend that they are doing something else entirely.

It’s very much the way they deal with sex, except that sometimes there are costumes involved…,

…so, I guess it’s exactly the same.

Halloween is therefore rebranded as a “Harvest Festival” or a “Fall Carnival”, which in an astonishing coincidence, includes costumes, bobbing for apples, a scavenger hunt, and a spook-house.

Oh, and a cake-walk!

And I can tell you, having participated in both, that nothing so closely resembles a poorly managed Neo-Pagan rite, than a cake-walk in small town Texas.  Particularly when the participants are trying ever so desperately to avoid the appearance that they might be involved in a dance of any description.

And that might make a good topic for another day…,

…but I was trying to explain why we were out in a field gathering animal bones.

That’s no great mystery really.

If you live in the country and are looking for props to decorate a spook-house, why pour good money into a bunch of cheaply made plastic crap, when there are entire skeletons in some neighbors field that can be dressed up in spiderwebs and a blacklight.

Because bones., skeletons…, the dead…, these things are frightening.

Or so I am given to understand.

***

A lot of time has passed since that day spent with family, harvesting cow bones under an October sky.  And in that time I have often been drawn to the fields of the dead.

In recent years have walked across hills dotted with dolmen and crouched in the heart of mighty passage tombs.  These are the necropoli, the cities of the dead, built by our prehistoric ancestors to house and honor the dead.

In my college days I spent a lot of time in the special collections section of the University library.  There I found old property survey maps that showed every graveyard in a five county area around my home.

Many of these I visited, when I could find them at all; so many have become forgotten, resembling little more than a weed-choked jumble of markers, the names and dates long worn away.  Still others were in surprisingly good condition, considering their remote locations.

I walked these places by day, looking at the names, the dates, words love and loss and hope etched in stone and left to us – to remember, or to forget.

Old Grave

On rare occasions, when the whim took me, I would visit at night.  And I’ll confess that on more than one of these nocturnal visits, I brought a date.

There is something primal and powerful about wandering among the graves with only the moon and a flashlight to guide you.  I do not recall ever experiencing the supernatural dread which people attach to these places, but the feeling of nervous excitement they generate is, happily, both contagious and easily directed toward other ends.

In my experience, however, the dead do not linger in the places where we lay their bones, but are far more occupied with that point in space where their existence slipped from this world into that other realm which parallels our own.

Perhaps those shades would spend more time there if the living were more frequent visitors by day…,

…or night.

***

I drive through my neighborhood and I see yards decorated with plastic skeletons and faux grave stones.  We erect pretend graveyards on the lawn to inspire seasonal fear, and we avoid actual graveyards like death itself lingered there.

Movie Skeletons

Is this what people are worried about, that the dead are going to suddenly spring up like skeleton warriors from the Hydra’s Teeth in an old Ray Harryhausen movie?

Did you know that in the 19th Century, cemeteries were treated like parks?  People strolled the paths between the stones, they picnicked on the wide green lawns within sight of the markers of family and friends.

In the early days of the Roman Republic, the dead were buried in the homes of their family, where they could be properly honored and cared for by those who loved them most in life.

We think of ourselves as an advanced culture, sophisticated in ways that the ancients could never hope to understand.  And yet as we have advanced, we have drawn ourselves further and further from the fields of the dead.  Empty bones have become objects of dread and ancient feast days must be rebranded so as not to offend those with delicate sensibilities.

Say what you will about the dead, the living are just weird!

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Filed under Culture, Death, Holidays, Modern Life, Religion, Spiritual Journey, Traditions

The Homeless Christmas Tree (is dying)

I’ve never been one for telling Christmas stories.

The reasons for this are, I am sure, quite obvious to anyone who professes to know me in the slightest, as well as to any who have spent any time reading this blog.

What does come as a surprise, to some, is how much I enjoy Christmas stories.

There is something special about that moment when John Boy opens his gift, only to discover that his father has known all along about has passion for writing.  I always find myself grinning, when that troop of postal workers come marching into the courtroom where Kris Kringle is on trial, dumping mounds of unaddressed ‘Letters to Santa’ across Judge Harper’s bench.  I can’t help but wonder if poor Ralphie will ever get his Red Ryder BB-Gun, or if Charlie Brown will buy the right tree for the Christmas Play.  I have always longed to attend one of Mr. Fezziwig’s famous holiday gatherings, and I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t swell during those moments on the bridge, when George Bailey cries out for Clarence to give him his life back, and the snow begins to fall once again.

I like Christmas stories.  I even like the first one.

These tales come together to form their own special mythology, one which lends unto them a kind of truth which runs deeper than the actual fictions they describe.

I read them, and I watch them, but I don’t tell them.

Until now.

Carla Christian lived on the streets.

I do not know what combination of fate and circumstance made her homeless, I only know that for a time, she was.

I have read that she drifted in and out of the shelters on the east side of Fort Worth, until she was finally able to get back on her feet.  And don’t all Christmas stories include a moment of personal triumph over impossible odds?

Well, I suspect that most people, in her position, would simply move on with their lives, never looking back.  Some would just want to put an unfortunate episode behind them, while others would feel shame that they had fallen so low.

But Carla was of another sort.

She didn’t want to forget that she had been homeless.

She didn’t want anyone to be forgotten.

And so one day, just a few days before Christmas, she carried a box full of ornaments up a windswept hill.  At the top of this hill, overlooking the Interstate just a few short miles from the shelters she had once called home, was a single mimosa tree, leafless in the winter chill, which she decorated for all to see.

She called it the Homeless Christmas Tree.

Its purpose, she said, was to remind all those commuters streaming past it on their way into town, that not a stones throw away from that stretch of pavement, people were sleeping homeless on the cold streets.

I remember the first time I noticed that tree.  It was years and years ago, and I’d passed it hundreds of times without noticing it, perched there, alone on its little hill.  And then one day I glanced up and it was covered with tinsel and ribbon, and ornaments hung from its bare branches.

I didn’t know what to make of it, except that someone must have been feeling festive.  Still, it made me smile, and it made me notice that tree.

I watched it even after the ornaments came down.  I watched it leaf out, its branches swaying on particularly windy days.  I wondered if it would be decorated again the next year – and it was.  It made me smile again, to see it.

Later, when I learned the story of the Homeless Christmas Tree, I wondered how many other commuters into the city, knew its secret meaning.  I wondered how long the tradition of decorating this tree would go on.

Long years have passed since I first started watching that tree.

I understand that Carla died some years ago, but determined friends and neighbors kept alive the tradition of decorating the tree for Christmas.

And for a while, all seemed to be well.

This is what the tree used to look like during the first blush of spring.

This is what the tree used to look like during the first blush of spring.

But things have changed, and not, I am afraid, for the better.

Where once I could look forward to seeing that lush springtime burst of leafy fronds, in the last few years there have been only scattered tufts of green.  Instead, throughout the year, the tree is almost constantly wrapped in ribbon, like some festive mummy.  Its branches droop with wooden and plastic baubles throughout the year – decorations commemorating every passing holiday.  Flags often festoon the area immediately surrounding the tree and on many occasions I have observed a huge wooden cross, nearly as big as the tree itself, leaning against its strangled trunk.

And just a few weeks ago I noticed that one of its largest branches had fallen.  In a strange irony, that branch, which jutted out from the trunk toward the southwest, once pointed almost directly toward that part of town where the homeless still seek shelter at night.  But that’s okay, because the tree really doesn’t seem to be about the homeless anymore.

I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be a symbol for now.

I know it’s not about ‘hope’, or about caring for the least among us.

The Homeless Christmas Tree is dying, and I’ll never understand why certain people choose to take a beautiful symbol and ruin it in an effort to make it their own.

The tree didn’t want to be a symbol for anything, it just wanted to survive in an impossible situation.  The people I see, huddled on the sidewalk outside those shelters on East Lancaster are trying to survive an equally impossible situation.  But the folks I talk to tell me they try not to drive down that stretch of road.  They avoid it because they don’t want to see what’s there, because they look down on those people, or fear them.

And besides, the freeway will get you there faster.

And look, someone wrapped that tree in ribbon and bows – how festive!

And that, my friends, is why I don’t tell Christmas stories.

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Filed under Holidays, Modern Life, Mythology, Proselytizing, Religion, Spiritual Journey, Traditions

When it rains at Lughnasadh

We have come to that time of year when I would usually avoid even thinking about the weather forecast.  It’s the height of Summer in Texas and that usually means a long blistering stretch of 100° days.  I find that looking at “cheery” graphics of big yellow suns and triple digit numbers spilling out into the foreseeable future, is an exhausting exercise and should be avoided.

Texas Summer Forecast

And yet, so far, this summer has been refreshingly mild, with some days in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s breaking up the usual summer tedium.  And so, I have been a bit more willing to look at those 10-day weather forecasts, than is my habit.

And that’s how I came to see this…,

Lughnasadh Forcast

 

Oh, sweet mercy, the weather people are calling for cooling temperatures and a reasonable chance of showers at the turn of the month.  There could actually be rain at Lughnasadh!

Okay, I’m not going to hold my breath – it’s a 10-day forecast in Texas where you are lucky to be able to predict what the weather will be like minutes, much less days ahead of time.

But still, just that slim chance has given me something to look forward to.

I am NOT a Summer person.  At least, not the way we do summers around here.

I don’t like the heat.

I don’t like the glare of that wretched fireball hovering in a cloudless sky.

For all my love of the natural world, this time of year usually makes me want to shut myself away someplace cool and dark.  My door is closed, the window shades are drawn down.  If possible, I’ll avoid going outside, or even looking outside, until the sun has dipped below the horizon.

It’s not a very Pagan attitude, I know.  It’s not “nature friendly”.

-shrug-

At this time of year I don’t feel that ‘nature’ is very friendly towards me.

I need a place that is both natural and sheltered from the Texas heat.

Maybe a cave!

Caves are natural, and dark, and usually cool, and always great fun to explore.

We need more caves in North Texas.

I seem to recall reading about a few caves in Ireland that are important during the Lughnasadh season…, but I can’t seem to find the references I was looking for.

Hmmmm…,

What I do know is that rain on Lughnasadh, the ancient Irish celebration of the first harvest, is considered a good omen.

Maybe this is true, simply because drought seldom leads to bountiful harvests, and a little rain suggests that our crops will not “die on the vine”.

Or perhaps it is because Lugh (for whom the day is named), while often considered a solar deity, was likewise associated with storms, his “flashing light” being the variety that comes before the thunder.  As always, attempting to pigeonhole the Celtic gods into particular roles, is a dangerous business.

Whatever his nature, I am hopeful for a bit of rain, a freshening breeze, and a reprieve from the oppressive heat of the season.

Lughnasadh has always been that one holy day on the calendar that is most difficult for me to celebrate.  Everyone seems to be doing something else, and I don’t want to do anything at all.  It comes around again and again, like a spiritual flat spot in the great wheel of the year, a sudden jolt, shaking both my focus and dedication.

It is difficult even for me to write about.

I feel, at these times, as if I am incomplete.

Yet I love three out of the four seasons, is that not enough?!

Lugh,
If you hear me,
I seek no portents of gain.

Lugh,
Simply bless me,
And let me walk in the rain.

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Holidays, Nature, The Gods, Traditions

“Maybe you shouldn’t live in Texas…,”

It is a phrase which, over the years, has been visited upon me with a dogged regularity.

There are, of course, phrases which turn up more often in debate.  But while a less frequent visitor than that old standby, “The Bible says…,” I find it infinitely more offensive.  At least I know that if someone wants to use the Bible, the Constitution, or even the freaking ‘Daily Shopper’ to debate me, they are engaged in the conversation.

“Maybe you shouldn’t live in Texas…,” is neither argument nor plea.

It is a dismissal.

It’s “fuck off”, disguised as friendly advice.

Excuse me, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Allow me to explain…,

The Open Carry Brigade

The above photo was taken by one of my coworkers on Memorial Day and posted to his Facebook page.  You may have seen other photos like it in the news recently.  It shows members of an ‘Open Carry’ group casually strolling around Fort Worth, with assault rifles strapped to their backs.

The purported goal of these guys, and a handful of folks like them, is to demonstrate their 2nd Amendment right to stand about awkwardly, like extras in a ‘zombie attack’ movie, while making innocent passers-by incredibly nervous.

Or…,

Maybe their goal is to desensitize the public to the presence of ridiculously large weapons in the public sphere, thus reassuring us all, that if some crazy starts shooting indiscriminately into the crowd, there will be good upstanding folks there, more than willing to catch you in the crossfire.

Or…, maybe it was something else.  It’s hard to say.  If you watch the videos that these guys take of themselves, it seems as if they just crave attention, only to react belligerently when they get it.

In any case, back on Facebook, a lively debate sprang up regarding the demonstration.  Was it a brave display of constitutional goodness?  Or, was it a totally unnecessary display, in callouss disregard of recent tragedies?

The conversation was moving along as politely as one could hope for, given the topic (although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I ‘did’ suggest that there might be some disproportionality between gun and penis size among the demonstrators) when one of the participants dropped that familiar old cliché…,

“You know, Texas probably isn’t the state to live in if you are so opposed to the gun laws.”

Ah yes, that old familiar song!

If you don’t like gun fetishists walking the streets…,

…or organized Christian prayer in our schools…,

…or our laid-back attitude toward executions…,

…or the way we treat the disadvantaged…,

If you believe mixing religion and government is unconstitutional…,

…that women should have control of their bodies…,

…that same-sex couples should have the same rights we do…,

…that the place of public schools is to teach science, not scripture…,

…and that there is more to our relationship with the land than seeing how many dollars we can dredge out of it…,

Well then maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t live in Texas.

Welcome To Texas

“Political progressives,” I have been told on more than one occasion, “have no place in this state.”

“So you’re not christian?  Why do you want to live here?”

“Wouldn’t you be happier someplace where the people think like you?”

And maybe I would.

Certainly, there seem to be enough people who think they would be happier if they didn’t have to share space with people who think and believe and act like me.

Maybe we should all just congregate ourselves into enclaves of likemindedness where we never have to encounter an opinion that differs from our own.

It’s an attractive idea on some levels, and one that I have heard bandied about more than once among my fellow reconstructionist pagans.  Imagine, having our own polytheist communities, set apart from all the dogmatic ballyhoo and funny looks we deal with on a daily basis.  Think of something along the lines of Amish country, but without the eschewing of technology and a wider array of fashion choices.  It would be our own little pastoral, techno, pagan, paradise, where no one need pretend to be something they are not.

Barring that, there ARE places that are friendlier to folks like me.

And I didn’t choose Texas, after all.  My parents did that when I was but a child.

So where then?

Over the years, dear friends have beckoned me to the mountains of Colorado.

More recently, it has been the coasts and the forests of Washington state that have called to me.

And then there is Ireland, so distant, and yet every time I have visited, the land and the people have felt more like home than any other I have ever known.

So why not?

Why not give ‘them’ what they want and just leave?

Well, I have family here, of course.  And there are my friends as well.  And lets not forget the mortgage, the half-finished remodeling project, a job, a hungry cat, remarkably little monetary savings, and an entirely reasonable fear of failure.

There is also, I must confess, a certain amount of determination to make THIS place better.  I want to contribute to a positive change, and the thought of leaving to find a better fit somewhere else just sounds like retreat.

I don’t know.

Maybe I shouldn’t live in Texas, but that’s for me to decide.

Let’s have this conversation again in a couple months when we’ll be suffering through our latest string of 100-degree days.  I may be thinking more clearly by then.

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Politics, Religion

Leprechaun Elvis

I was finishing up my last couple hours of work this last Friday, already mentally checked out and embarking on a rare weekend off, when one of my fellow employees dropped this particular nugget of wisdom…,

“There are no African Americans in this country, except for those who have come here and earned their citizenship within their lifetime.”

So I let him stand there for a moment, all proud of himself, and then I asked, “so, you are also saying that there are no Mexican Americans, or Chinese Americans, or Irish Americans?”

His answer: “Yeah, if they’ve been here for a hundred years, then no.”

Huh, I guess the next time I visit San Francisco, I’ll swing by Chinatown and let them know.  They are all just Americans, the same as everyone else, and it’s about time they started acting like it.

Right.

I remember being taught about our national heritage in grade school.

We learned how all those varied heritages — African and Middle Eastern, Asian and Slavic, Irish and German — they were merely ingredients for the great “Melting Pot”, the goal of which, as far as I could tell, was to distill away everything that was special and unique about them until all that was left was ‘American Culture’.

Or, as I would argue it, ‘until nothing was left at all’.

And the old “Melting Pot” has been very successful in its work.  So many people in this country seem to have no greater connection to their ancestors than the seemingly arbitrary arrangement of letters that make up their last name.

And yet, for all that, my pontificating young associate is as wrong as he could be.

I spent most of this Saturday among fellow Irish Americans (and Scots and others besides) at the North Texas Irish Festival, held yearly in Dallas’ Fair Park.

Like many other ethnic communities in this nation, the survivors of the Celtic Diaspora have learned that in order to survive in the face of the accursed melting pot, you have got to market yourselves to the masses.

And so we have Leprechaun Elvis, ambassador of all things green and kitschy, and I don’t know what we would do without him.

And he's holding a hunk, a hunk of green-clad pup!

And he’s holding a hunk, a hunk of green-clad pup!

Some may choose to cringe at all the plastic bric-á-brac lining the shelves of a show like this, but to do so is to court disaster.  Interspersed among booth after booth of Guinness T-Shirts, are crafts people fighting to keep alive the arts of weaving, crochet lace making, ceramics, and weapon smithing.  Here and there you will find gathered those dedicated to the preservation of the Irish language, history, and mythology.  And it would be hard to overlook the musicians and dancers who flock to such an event, hoping to grow their audience, and the audience for Celtic music in general, beyond our own limited community.

The North Texas Irish Festival brings you only the best Celt-Inspired memorabilia and deep-fried everything.

The North Texas Irish Festival brings you only the best Celt-Inspired memorabilia and deep-fried everything.

This years theme was "Erin Go Bark" with special attention being paid to the many wonderful dog breeds of Ireland.  As always the North Caledonian Pipes and Drums (right) were on hand to keep things 'regimental'.

This years theme was “Erin Go Bark” with special attention being paid to the many wonderful dog breeds of Ireland. As always the North Caledonian Pipes and Drums (right) were on hand to keep things ‘regimental’.

Dozens of Celtic musical groups were on hand including one of my favorites 'The Town Pants', hailing from far Vancouver, Canada.

Dozens of Celtic musical groups were on hand including one of my favorites ‘The Town Pants’, bringing their own brand of ‘West Coast Celtic’ from far Vancouver, Canada.

And so I raise my glass…, ummm…, my plastic cup, and I salute you, Leprechaun Elvis.

May we meet again under sunny March skies!

No matter how great a time you are having, eventually you are still gonna be like this little guy - one tired pup.  Sláinte!

No matter how great a time you are having, or how awesome the company, eventually you are still gonna be like this little guy – one tired pup. Sláinte!

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Filed under Culture, Ireland, Modern Life, Photography

Seeking my inner patriot.

Perhaps you have heard of “Christmas Depression”.

It’s a fairly well known condition that seems to be caused by a combination of lowering winter daylight levels and increased social pressures associated with the holiday season.  In other words: you already feel miserable and everyone’s expectation that you should feel “jolly” only manages to make things worse.

I’ve seen polls that show almost half of the population has experienced these “holiday doldrums” to some degree.

Typically, as the holiday season recedes, and the days grow longer through the seasonal shift from winter to spring to summer, the depression also dulls, replaced by a happier attitude.

In rare cases, this cycle seems to be reversed and longer days bring darker moods.

So here it is…,

I have a hard time with Independence Day.

There, I admitted it, and it’s not an easy admission to make.

There are so many pressures to get out there and furiously wave our little flags and declare for all to hear our unabashed love of country.

Are you not grateful for the many freedoms you possess?

Have you no honor for the thousands who have died to defend your liberty?

Have you no national pride?

And I do feel some measure of pride to be sure, but it is a pride more focused on the individual than on the institution.  I am proud of those who have, over the years, stood up and fought against a system that seems hell-bent on denying liberty and equal-rights to all.  Yet, for every measure of pride I feel, there is a much greater quantity of sorrow and shame that these battles must be fought at all.

And then fought again, and again, and again.

As I sit up through the late hours of the evening to watch a woman filibuster the Texas legislature, whatever pride I feel in her efforts is overwhelmed by disgust as I watch lawmakers breaking their own rules and then falsifying their own records in an attempt to ram through a law that their constituents never asked for and which is itself, a lie of the worst order.

When, on the following morning, I hear the happy news that DOMA has been struck down by the Supreme Court, my pleasure is tempered as scores of religious demagogues begin to shout and bluster that the end-times must truly be upon us.

Sorry folks, the combination of dirty, religion soaked politics and blistering Texas heat, do not put me in the mood for a heaping slice of apple pie.

And yet, I know that my spirits should be lifted in these days.

The forces arrayed against us may curse and cheat and wave their flags in our faces until the fabric begins to shred, but the smell coming off of them in these hot Summer days is not one of conviction.

It is the stink of fear.

As they begin to see more clearly that the tides turned are against them, that fear will only grow, and like our friends in Austin, they will do all they can to turn back the clock.

July 4th Parade

And so I say to all those who love the Summer sun, and who are roused by parades and picnics and the red, the white, and the blue, to you I wish a happy and peaceful Independence Day.

I will keep to myself in a nice shady spot, away from the crowds and the bluster.  Perhaps I will watch the fireworks from a distance, (it’s the one tradition associated with this time of year that I have always enjoyed) and I will do my best not to rain on anyone’s parade.

Oh, but gods, what I wouldn’t give for a nice refreshing rain, just about now!

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Filed under Holidays, Modern Life, Politics

Guinness in a Plastic Cup

“You don’t take enough time for yourself.”

Friends and family remind me of this from time to time, usually as I am hurrying from one unfinished project to another while fretting over a dozen more which seem eternally out of reach.

They are not wrong.

We all need to give ourselves a little break from time to time, which is why I always look forward to our yearly trip to Fair Park in Dallas for the North Texas Irish Festival.  It’s nice to just roam around with my camera, taking in an afternoon of music, shopping and people watching.  And so for the moment I shall take a step back from my weekly musings and allow you to share, just a bit, in my yearly indulgence.

The best part of the Irish Festival is the musical talent of new artists putting a modern spin on traditional favorites.

Truly, the best part of the North Texas Irish Festival is to be found in the music!  Everywhere you go there are talented of Celtic artists putting a modern spin on traditional favorites.

Kids and dogs are always a magical combination.

We were talking to a vendor who was working the festival for the first time and his impression of what made this one different from other conventions was summed up in two words: “Dogs and Beer.”  The show is certainly a dog-lovers treat with every possible breed roaming the grounds to the delight of adults and children alike.

Animal rescue groups of all sorts (from cats and dogs to wild raptors) are very popular at the Irish Festival.

Animal rescue groups of all sorts (from cats and dogs to wild raptors) are always a popular attraction and make for some otherwise rare photo opportunities.

I sometimes refer to the Irish Festival as “Guinness in a Plastic Cup”.  The obvious reason is that this is how beer is served at the festival – something of a crime against nature.  The metaphor runs a little deeper, though.  There is an almost artificial quality to much of the show.  It’s easy to look at the show with a cynical eye and see crowds of “Plastic Paddys” glomming onto a culture they know little about while buying all manner of shamrock studded ticky-tack.

At the same time, there is a rich, wholesome quality to the show which the cheap plastic packaging does nothing to diminish.  Everywhere you look there are craftsmen, dancers, artists and musicians, who could no doubt make more money in conventional pursuits but who struggle daily to make ends meet for the love of their art and the desire to share it with others.  Many of us who attend have a genuine pride in their Celtic heritage and a desire to preserve that deeper connection with their history and their ancestors.

Visiting the North Texas Irish Festival may not satisfy that deep yearning for the homeland which many of us feel.  Think of it as instead as the biggest “support group” you could imagine, meeting on the first weekend in March.  It’s therapy, with beer and food and music.  Who cares if it comes in a plastic cup!

NTIF2013a

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