Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The King Who Rained

When I was a kid, we had a book called The King Who Rained about what a kid pictures when she hears the things her parents say.  I still think that way.  

An applicant to a graduate program was talking about waiving the GRE.  I imagined holding his GRE scores in my hand and waving them around.

My grandmother was telling me that despite my being middle aged, there's still hope that I could some day get married.  She said, "there are still a lot of men floating around."  I imagined a herd of men floating in the sky, a bit like the above picture, but without the rain, crown, and robe.  When my grandmother told me this, I was looking at the crabapple trees, so I imagined these men floating somewhere slightly above the crabapple trees.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fighting the world

Two of my siblings have it.  This thing where they are surrounded by people offering to help them, offering them jobs, offering them a place to live, offering them a ride.

I don't have it.  For me, I work really hard and I still don't get anything. When I was unemployed, I was applying for jobs all the time of course, but also I thought I'd do some volunteer work.  I thought it would be good for me to be doing something of a professional nature.  It would help me be more happy and confident.  But no one wanted me! Even when I was offering my services free of charge, no one would take me.

My life feels like that a lot of the time.  That me trying to do anything is going against the grain.  That the only time I don't feel the world is working against me is when I'm home alone reading and writing, or when I'm wandering outside looking at trees.  Inside or outside, the only time I don't feel the world is working against me is when I'm in solitude.

People always say it's my fault.  They always say, "You work too hard," "You worry too much," "You think too much," and "You should be more like your sister."

I'm not my sister.  Yes, I know the world loves my sister.  Yes I know the world doesn't love me.  But this is who I am.  World, I will not bend to you.  I will not try to be my sister.  Because my job is to try to be me.

My friends

One calls me and goes on and on about neckties.  Or he used to.  Then he got sick, and the topic changed from neckties to mucus.

The other one waffles and drags and then finally says no whenever I try to make a plan with him.  Even if it's a favor to him that he asked me to do, and he told me a few days ago that today was the day he wanted to do it -- when today comes, he is indecisive and finally says  no.

But there's something about each of them -- intelligence, humor, wit, compassion, kindness.  These are my friends.  I have no doubt in mind that I chose them, and that I am committed to them.

Most people don't make sense to me.  Most people care about stupid stuff.  They watch TV. They like to go to the mall.  Or they are passionate important stuff -- politics, activism -- but stuff I just don't relate to.

But occasionally, along comes some oddball, and I see in that person something to be treasured.  I am grateful that these treasures have touched my life.

Grizzly man

She was walking with a cane, but it wasn't enough.  As she walked, she clung to a parked car, and then to a tree.  She was heading for the door of the coffee shop.  I was inside the coffee shop, standing up to go to the cashier to pay my bill.  I went to the door and held it for her.  At the same time, a man coming down the sidewalk also reached to hold the door for her.  I pushed it outward toward the sidewalk, but once it was out there, he held it and my help was no longer needed.  I went up to the cashier to pay my bill.  Behind me in line was the man who had held the door, and behind him was the woman with the cane.

As I was standing in line, I became aware of an odor.  What was it? Where was it coming from? I hope it's not coming from me. It reminded me of an alley that has been used as a urinal on many occasions.

Oh, it's from the man behind me.  A grizzly, shabby man.  Maybe he is homeless.  Maybe he does not often have access to a toilet or a shower.

After I finished paying, it was his turn.  He ordered a small coffee.  It was just before closing time at the coffee shop.  A small coffee.  Was that what he was going to use to try to stay warm through the night?  Was small all he could afford?

We look at such people with pity and fear.  Or rather, we look away from them with pity and fear.

He held the door for the woman with the cane.  He is not only the object of pity and charity.  He can help others.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wrapping myself in green

Depression has not fully gripped me since January 5, but there have been moments when there have been twinges.

Yesterday was one such time.  The feelings were thus:

"No one cares about me.  Everyone has something more important to do than spend time with me. If I organize a fun activity, people will show up, but it's like I have to come up with an exciting activity in order to entice people to spend time with me.  No one wants to spend time with me just for the sake of it.  I go out to events and meet people, and I like some of the people I meet, and I hope that some day some of them will like me, but I don't know if they ever will.  I do activities, and people think I'm cool because of some of the activities I do, but that's not me.  If I stop doing the activities, people won't like me any more.  I don't want to have to earn people's liking like that."

I was listening to a playlist I had put together.  "Green" by Peter Mayer came up.  It's about how even in winter, there is green.  It talks of how in winter, we still have evergreens, and ends by saying
Winter brings browns and grays indeed
But when it comes, remember green
And so, in my meditation, I wrapped myself in green.   I realized I don't have to do everything.  When I feel lonely, I tend to want to go out and do social activities, but often the loneliness comes from fatigue, so that's not always the remedy.  Instead of trying to turn myself into a social butterfly, someone people like because I do so many interesting and fun activities, maybe it's better to ground myself.  To do something for myself.  To stay home, read, savor some tea, listen to music, and find my inner peace.

Thus, when I find my heart feels dark like winter, I find the green things in my life, the things that bring me comfort, and I wrap myself in them.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Failure and compassion

I like Nimue Brown's blog Druid Life.  Yesterday in my post "Stoic Smugness," I complained about a coworker who thinks others are weak.  Today, Nimue writes about the same thing, but with more eloquence and sympathy.  In "Of failure and compassion," she writes, "Those places we have not been, can so readily look like weakness, shortcoming, lack of proper effort."

Friday, January 18, 2013

Music, color and Celtic knots

With the gift certificate I got for Christmas, I ordered some druid books, specifically, some books for the AODA Second Degree curriculum.  And I ordered something else: Celtic Knotwork Stained Glass Coloring Book by A.G. Smith, as well as a set of oil pastels.

The package arrived, and I have been coloring my Celtic knots.  It's like learning to play songs on the ukulele.

Music is so beautifully complex I can't grasp all there is to it, but when I memorize a song on the ukulele, I come to know more about its patterns.

Celtic knots are so beautifully complex, I can't grasp all there is to them, but when I color them, I come to know more about their patterns.

At work, I'm mostly writing emails.  At work, my life is filled with words.  It's good when I get home from work, to be immersed in languages other than words, to enter worlds of notes, rhythms, movement, color, lines, and shapes.

Stoic Smugness

When people are out sick, my coworker thinks they are just being weak.

Someone had the flu, and she said, "I have the same thing, but I come in to work anyway."

Gee thanks, that's how the rest of us got infected.

Or, do you think it's possible that they might be sicker than you? Your cold doesn't knock you out.  Is that definitive proof that everyone else's illness is just as mild as yours?

And now someone else has let us know that she will be out for the next three weeks due to a medical problem.  She is keeping the nature of her illness private, but that doesn't keep my coworker from speculating.  "I think it's stress.  I have stress too, but I can deal with it.  Some people can't deal with it."

Humans irk me.

But then I go home to my refuge.  Immersed in music, dance, color, the patterns of Celtic knots, I luxuriate in contentment.

News stories

I have an email account on Yahoo.  Usually when I'm done using it, I just close the browser.  But for some reason, occasionally I log out of the email account without closing the browser.  When that happens, I end up on Yahoo's home page.  They have news stories on that page.  News stories from a culture that disgusts me.  Lots of celebrity gossip. 

That is not my culture.  People say that is American culture but I am American and that is not my culture. 

I get most of my news by listening to NPR in the morning before work.  Usually they have a lot of interesting stuff.  Today, they had several stories that I did not care about: 1) a famous athlete confesses to using performance enhancing drugs, 2) another famous athlete said his girlfriend had died, but this girlfriend actually never existed, and 3) when TV shows reference some other TV show, a book, a movie, or a celebrity, people are less likely to get the reference now because our culture is more diverse than in the past. 

I don't want this garbage polluting my brain.  I want to learn.  NPR does have many stories that I do find to be valuable, such as:
One good thing about the internet is that it gives us choices.  If we don't like the news that Yahoo brings us, we can look to NPR.

But humans do not seem to always make wise choices.  It seems that many people choose news sources that foster ignorance, narrowmindedness, and lack of compassion for others. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reading is not going to bed

I get a lot of catalogs in the mail.  One that I got recently is offering a pillow which has a picture of a book and the words, "She who reads never goes to bed alone."

My first thought, " Going to bed with a book is hardly a substitute for going to bed with a hot guy."

My second thought, "What's wrong with going to bed alone?"

I like reading.  I am happy that in the past week, there have been a number of occasions when I've had enough free time to sit surrounded by my books, reading a bit of one and a bit of another.

But reading has nothing to do with saving me from being alone.  Reading is about enjoying  the freedom to do as I wish, free from demands and distractions.  Reading doesn't make me feel I am not alone.  Reading reminds me how much fun it is to be alone.

Reading also has nothing to do with going to bed.  When I read, my mind is busy.  When I sleep, my mind is at rest.

So, reading is not an antidote to going to bed alone, but reading is wonderful, going to bed alone is wonderful, and going to bed with a hot guy is wonderful too.


In The Path Through the Forest by Julie White and Graeme Talboys, I have been reading the chapter called "Wisdom."

They say that all religions go to the same truths, but they take different routes, because people are different, both individually and culturally.

They say:
The conflict and the wars may be conducted in the name of this, that, or some other religion, but that is merely a pretext.  No conflict, no matter how just it may seem, can be termed religious....Religion is to do with the uni-versum, the becoming one. Conflict is to do with fragmenting the one.
They also say:
Each people has its own way into the search for this wisdom....For the Celts, it was wood-sense, tree knowledge, forest lore, an understanding of the natural world that provided a surface system with which to train the mind to the point where mystical apprehension of the wisdom was possible.
The say that the wisdom is all around us.  It is within us, and in everything.  We just have to learn how to see it.  They say it is
in every blade of grass, every flower, every tree, every mouse, dog, cat, cow, hawk, and fish, in every cloud and star, in every human being.  It is written in huge letters in the world about us.
They say, "The only true temple is Life."  That sounds pantheist, except I think pantheism would say that the universe is the temple.

They say that the goal in druidry is not enlightenment, but service.  We seek enlightenment not as an end in itself, but so that it may enable us to be of service.  They say that druids "aspire to harmonizing the material and the spiritual in this existence." They say that it's about maintaining balance where it exists and restoring it where it has been lost.  They say it's about "showing that the universe has a voice that must be heard."

They say:
we must accept that we do not know very much and that we understand even less.  We must accept that we are a part  -- a small facet of the great jewel that is the universe.
And so, here I am, druid, seeking to grow in knowledge and wisdom, seeking to do my small part to hear the voice of the universe and heal that which is broken.

Beyond gender identity

I never doubted my gender identity.  Perhaps that is a reason why I never felt compelled to embrace the models of femininity placed before me.  I knew who I was, so I didn't need to try to prove how feminine I was.

I don't remember liking many female characters when I was a kid.    I think in those days, we didn't have so many good female characters presented in our culture.My brother loved Star Wars.  When we played Star Wars, I had to be Princess Leia.  I never liked Princess Leia.

There was a boy we played with who memorized and recited Monty Python.  He thought we should act out Monty Python skits, and that I should play the role of a female character.  This character apparently spoke in an abrasively high voice, and made some comment about cooking, which was not something I've ever been particularly interested in.  I believe that in the original skit, this character was played by a male actor, acting out a caricature of a woman.  The character I was supposed to play because I was a girl certainly did not seem to have anything to do with me.

In school, I was mostly a loner, but when I was with other kids, it was girls I hung out with, because that's the way it was done.  I didn't feel I had much in common with them.

But the neighbor kid was a boy, and at the two places I regularly traveled to for family visits, the kids my age were also boys.  So I played with my brother, and I played with other boys, and that always seemed right to me.

The neighbor taught me to climb trees.  That was one of the highlights of my childhood play.

When I was a teenager, I read a lot of books by Madeleine L'Engle.  Female characters written by a female author.  I could relate to them.

I think it was one of those Madeleine L'Engle books that said we don't call female doctors doctresses, so no point in calling female actors actresses.   I agreed, and still feel the same way.  I don't like words that make distinctions based on gender, words like princess, queen, or waitress.

I've also never embraced causes that are female-oriented.  The causes I'm most passionate about don't include feminism, breast cancer, rape, abortion, and pornography.

My outlook focuses on the universal.  Sure we should end rape, but we need to end violence of all kinds.  Sure we should end sexism, but we should end discrimination of all kinds.

I don't like to wear high heels.  I don't like pantyhose.  I don't wear make-up now, though I have tried it in the past.  I wear a little jewelry -- one ring most of  the time, and earrings usually at the office but not so much when I'm not in the office.  I don't like shopping.  I don't like cooking.  I don't like knitting, crocheting, or making things in general.  I don't squeal when I see photos of babies.  I do like to talk about people though, I remember the names of your kids and the names of your siblings.

I do like clothes.  Not all clothes, and not necessarily the most feminine clothes.  I like tie-dye and rainbow colors and fleece and clothes that have pictures of trees.

I do wear skirts and dresses in the summer.  Only long ones, because at the office, they might expect pantyhose with short ones, and out of the office, it's hard to sit on the ground in short ones.  And in the summer, on workdays, I usually do sit on the ground every lunch hour.

When I was a kid, the other kids I played with were boys, and that has never really changed.  The college I chose to attend was formerly an all-male school, and you could kind of still sense that in some of the traditions and culture.

My boyfriend's family thought I might be spoiled because I didn't jump up to help them with cooking.  Then I helped them with roofing.  Hopefully after that they realized I wasn't spoiled.

Of my college friends, there were five I cared about enough that they kept a place in my heart after college was over: four male, one female.

Since college, my groups of friends have been either about equally male and female, or else predominately male.  My one-on-one friendships have been more with men than with women.  At my job, the majority of people are men.  In my free time, I love Morris dancing, which was traditionally something done only by men.  I'm a druid, which is based on a male archetype.

I don't embrace the extreme end of the masculine stereotype.  I don't like drinking beer, watching sports, and guffawing at dirty jokes, nor do I like being around people who do that.  I don't tinker with car engines.

The men I'm close to are usually, like me, people who don't fit the extreme end of their gender stereotype.  The men I'm close to tend to have a lot of female friends, and tend not to be interested in sports.

I like to be around men, but I've never felt like I was a man and never wanted to be a man.  Reading fiction, I most readily identify with female main characters written by female authors.

The ideas we have about what is typically feminine and what is typically masculine aren't just things made up by our culture to oppress us.  Among three-year-olds, you'll find boys fascinated by trucks more than you'll find girls fascinated by trucks.  There are trends.  In general, there are some things that women are more likely to be interested in, and other things that men are more likely to be interested in.  But each one of us is an individual.  Each one of us has our own unique combination of interests, values, and outlooks.

And so, here I am: druid, Morris dancer, wearing blue jeans and rainbow tie-dye socks, reading books, going on nature walks, paddling kayaks, frolicking with children.  Stereotypes are irrelevant.  I am woman, and I am uniquely me.


Usually week day mornings while I'm getting ready for work, I listen to the news on my local public radio station.  I think it was yesterday morning that they were talking about voice-activated home, where you can say, "turn off the light" or "turn up the heat," and your house will do it.

Is that what we really need to be putting our energy into? Coming up with technologies to save ourselves the trouble of walking across a room?  We have poverty, violence, prejudice, hunger, illiteracy, and illness.    Maybe we could devote a bit more energy to those instead.

Then a little later they were talking about how five years ago Bank of America bought Countrywide, and thus was saddled with all Countrywide's problems.

This is not what's important in life.

Let's go look at the trees.  Let's make music.  Let's dance.  Let's read a book.  Let's learn.  Let's go to the farmer's market. Let's plant a garden.  Let's care for our children.  Let's sing a song.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Let Me Sing

"Let Me Sing" by the Honey Dewdrops says:

Let me love like a wild river runs
Strong and free from God’s own hand
Give me time ‘til I love like that
Let me love let me love

Let me go and make me free
Break the chains that wrap me ‘round
Give me time ‘til I get where I’m bound
Let me go let me go

 Let me sing with my own voice
Make my words clear and true
Give me time ‘til my song is through
Let me sing let me sing

Can I do it? Can I escape my chains and sing with my own voice? It seems like an impossible task, and yet I keep on striving for it.

Contented dreams

I usually have content dreams.  Actually two recent nights in a row, I had dreams of anxiety, but usually I don't so much.  Sometimes it seems that my dreams are what keep me content.  That is, when my real life does not fulfill my emotional needs, then I fulfill those needs while I sleep.  And because those needs have then been fulfilled, I can go through life with a sense of okayness.

Last night I dreamed that I went to sing with a chorus.  It was big, like a hundred people.  They were an established group, and I was going for the first time.  The leader of the chorus was someone I know in real life, who in real life is a musician, but not a leader of choruses.

I was sitting beside the chorus leader.  It was like the chorus was in an auditorium, and she and I were on the stage.  I had brought two books that had the songs I most like to sing, and the chorus was singing all the songs that I like.  I mean, their repertoire just happened to coincide with the songs I've been singing since I was a kid.

At the end, the chorus leader hugged me and said, "It was fun singing with you."

Now, I am not a good singer, and this was true in the dream as well.  So what the chorus leader was telling me was that it didn't matter about singing ability, that my company was what mattered, and my company was fun.

That's what I needed to hear, as can be seen in the blog post I wrote last night when I was depressed.  And today, I was not depressed.

Now my depression has a lot to do with fatigue, and sleep helps with fatigue, but it seems that sometimes sleep does more -- it brings me dreams that fulfill my emotional needs.


Today I am enjoying some quiet time at home reading.  I finished a book I had started last summer: Timeless Wisdom of the Celts by Steve Eddy and Claire Hamilton.  It is a brief, easy to read book.  It gives the basic concepts of druidry, and may be a good starting point, but to really get into historically accurate information, additional reading is necessary (such as books by Ronald Hutton).

One thing that I found interesting was that it said that the first monastery in Britain was founded by Ninian, and that Ninian's view was "to perceive the eternal word of God reflected in every plant and insect, every bird and animal, and every man and woman."

That sounds like pantheism to me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


I made an appointment to see a counselor.  I can't live like this.  It hurts too much.  I'm so alone.  So I should do things I enjoy.  I like trees.  I like music.  I like dance.  But it all seems so pointless.  They are just things that temporarily take my mind off how alone I am.

I spend my time going to that stupid job, where I enforce rules I hate.  It sucks me of energy.  Nothing is left.  People go out in the world and have fun, but I can't. I 'm too tired.

And besides, there's no point in going out among people.  Occasionally people find me useful.  That's it. They find me useful.  They don't enjoy my company.

I have been listening to Beggar Folk tonight.  Did you know, their song "Only Stories" is about God? I just realized that tonight.  I didn't pay enough attention to the words before.  And the song says that God is about love, not about judgment and rules.  

See, there is hope for me after all.  I was in the depths of despair, and music caught my interest.

These days, music and dance and trees are all I have.

But music and dance and trees are no small things.  

Still, it would be nice not to be alone.  It would be nice to be healthy.  It would be nice if people enjoyed my company.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I love music and dance

I love music.

I love dance.

I love dill havarti cheese.

I love listening to music by Beggar Folk.  The soaring vocals give me chills.

I love practicing the ukulele, and all that I learn about music when I do so.

Did you know that Amazing Grace is in 3/4 time? And that beats one and two are a half note which corresponds to one syllable of the lyrics. Beat 3 also corresponds to one syllable, but it may include more than one note.

I love dancing freely, my body giving expression to the music.

And I love learning prescribed steps, and what it teaches me about music, same as practicing the ukulele teaches me.

I love moving in sync with other people.  Together we create moving pictures on the floor, like the ones marching bands create on fields.

I love the way I feel so free and joyful when my body loosens to dance.

I love the way I feel so free and joyful when my body loosens to sing.

The Beggar Folk sing:  "the soul inside me seems to soar when music finds me."  And so does my soul soar, when music fills my veins and moves me to dance.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Interesting comment by Nimue Brown in her post Druidry and Drunkenness:

"Balance is not about just holding the safe middle ground. You can create balance through extremes as well."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

David Rackoff on losing abilities

David Rackoff, battling cancer, and having lost the use of one of his arms, said:

"I no longer have that feeling, although I remember it very well, that  if I just buckled down to the great  work at  hand, lived more authentically, stopped proctrastinating, cut out sugar, then my best self was just there, right around the corner.  Yeah, no, I'm done with all that.  I'm done with so many things....Mine is not a unique situation.  Everybody loses ability as they age.  If you're lucky, this happens over the course of a few decades.  If you're not --- but the story is essentially the same.  You go along on the road as time and the elements lay waste to your luggage, scattering the contents into the bushes until there you are standing with a battered and empty suitcase that frankly no one wants to look at anymore.  It's just the way it is."

New Year

The culture in which I live celebrates a new year today.  Traditionally, druids celebrate a new year at Samhain.  But also, druids see the world cyclically.  I think that from a cyclical point of view, life just keeps going round and round, and it's arbitrary to say a year begins or ends on a certain date.  However, it does make a certain amount of sense to me to consider the winter solstice the turning point of the year.  That's when the sun starts its return.  Also, we can look at the solstice observance as a multi-day celebration.  If we celebrate from December 21 through January 1, then January 1 does in some sense mark the start of the next phase.  It sounds like a stretch, but it does actually fit my life.  I have been off work December 21-January 1.  Tomorrow I return to work.  So, today is a good time for me to reflect on any wisdom gained in my time apart from my regular life, and to think about my intentions for the future.

2012 was a time of wonderful new beginnings.  I got involved in new activities and met new people.  I want to continue to develop what was started in 2012.  But, I don't have it all in balance yet.  For most of this solstice break December 21-January 1, I was feeling that 2012 has been an ordeal.  It's not that there has been anything bad, but that there has been too much, and it took its toll.

I started to feel okay three days ago.  It kind of came and went over the past few days.  Right now I again feel okay.  Where does this feeling okay come from? It came from having time to myself, time to rest and to write.

The contrary thing is that when I'm tired, I feel this emptiness, and I feel a drive to make my life more exciting.  So the more I need to rest, the less I want to rest.

My life is still the same as it was two days ago when I wrote Rebuilding for 2013.  I still want to do many more things than I have the time and energy for.  But I have more of a sense of peace about it now.  Now I think that I just have to find my way, step by step.  Before, I felt that I could not bear to give anything up, and that I had to push myself beyond my limits.  Right now I feel like maybe it's okay that I can't do everything.  It's more important to stay grounded than to do everything.  I will have to let some things go. I can't get as thoroughly and deeply involved in everything as I would like, but maybe I can at least dabble in things now and then, and accept that that's my limitation right now.