Monthly Archives: February 2008

I Fail To See…

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…the point of memes like this, but I am nothing if not a joiner. (Joke. That was a joke.) So here is my response to Chas’s challenge. The rules for this book meme:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

That means I get to post the following passage from Queen of Dreams, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:

It looks just as unappetizing as before, only greasier. I sigh and place it, along with overcooked rice, on a tray.

I’m making the banana squash at the request of my father.

And now for the really hateful part: naming five more people to undergo this silly exercise. Because I know they are joiners too, I tag Oak, Macha, Pandora, Moonroot, and Judy. Have at it, ladies.

Meta-Rambles and an Apology

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I am still hoping to write something about my experience at PantheaCon two weeks ago, and I am still struggling with issues of perspective. I could give a jaded insider’s view of the con, complete with snarky gossip-y non-information that some people would think was hilarious but many more would think was self-indulgent and boring. So no, that’s not the blog post I want to write (though it is tempting).

I could give a lengthy, informative run-down of the sessions I attended, the interesting conversations I had, and what I think the state of Pagan-dom is based on all of the above. Yet writing that post does not interest me. I am tired of thinking of the state of Pagan-dom, tired of the responsibility of knowing so much history and holding so many confidences, tired ultimately of being looked to for words of wisdom.

Frankly, the past three years of going through a divorce smack in the middle of the California Reclaiming community (sic) have worn me out. I have managed to stick to the high road most of the time, which has been a Herculean feat. And I have been blessed with many, many friends who have supported me in ways too numerous to mention, all while managing their own complicated negotiations with the strange twilight group we still manage to be part of, sometimes in spite of our efforts to the contrary.

Now it looks as though the end is in sight for my personal marathon, and I have been heaving great sighs of relief. It’s not time to crack the champagne yet, but I will say this: it is chilling. In these last few weeks I need to keep being careful, and to that end I must steer clear of writing about the state of Pagan-dom, particularly the part of Pagan-dom that encompasses the Bay Area where I live.

So ultimately this is my PantheaCon post, in the form of an apology to anyone who has been looking for more reportage on that weighty gathering. I have no plans to embark on another divorce anytime soon, so perhaps by next year’s con I will have a completely different perspective to write from, one that allows me to be light and entertaining while touching on the very real currents of change in this movement which we all come together to celebrate. May it be so.

Back? Am I Back? And Rested? What’s That?

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I did promise to blog again after being “well and fully rested” from the ordeal of PantheaCon. Well readers, I must submit to you today that perhaps such promises are not the wisest notion. For I was no sooner back from Pcon than I was laid flat by the flu, or the bronchitis, or whatever it is that renders people completely helpless, fevering and delirious for days on end.

Okay, well two days on end. On the third day I had to haul myself out of bed for my radio show and a couple other things. Today I felt quite a bit better, though I still haven’t done all my post-Pcon bookkeeping. Yet progress is progress. And considering that this week I have had more rest than activity (besides, do we ever fully recover from ordeals?), I must admit that it is time to blog about the Con.

Here is my main problem: I don’t know what to say. I am caught in the crossfire of my differing perceptions of the Con, needing to hold certain experiences private, and unsure what, if any, of the rest is interesting or relevant enough to post.

PantheaCon is just a lot. Even when you are there for only a little bit, it’s like 15 minutes on a tanning bed: it still cooks you. Ultimately I will process it all in some fashion, and my thoughts and impressions will find their way into future blog posts. For now though, I think the best I can do is a small (very small) photoessay. Let’s call it a photoparagraph.

Here is a picture of all the books I purchased, mostly at the infamous Field’s Books table.Books from Pcon 08 Notice how few books there are in this photo. Not only did I attempt frugality in the book department this year, I believe I actually achieved it. However, this is the sort of victory that isn’t all that sweet. Not as sweet as the smell of a new book, that is.

Pcon badgeAnd finally, here is my badge with its attendant ribbons. Collecting ribbons has become something of an unofficial treasure hunt, and my collection is downright paltry compared to many. I thought there were more funny ones to be had last year, but in any event some of us came up with a great one for next year: Ask Me About My Feminist Rage! It will be the hit of the whole weekend, I promise you. And judging by how much fun we had joking about it without even having the ribbons, I think wearing them is going to be ten times funnier.

So there is my rather lame wrap-up of this year’s PantheaCon. More to come, undoubtedly, but this will have to do for now. It’s high time I got some more rest.

All Roads Lead to the Con

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That’s PantheaCon, for those of you jaded enough to think something else. Yes, the much-ballyhooed annual Pagan gathering is commencing this Friday, held in the splendor of a downtown San Jose hotel, and will run all through the long President’s Day weekend.

My crew and I will be at the Serpentine Music booth just inside the front entrance to the vendor’Lyra at the booth 07s room, playing all kinds of Pagan music, and selling CDs, songbooks, and DVDs. This year I have teamed up with the excellent Jason Pitzl-Waters from over at the Wild Hunt Blog and A Darker Shade of Pagan radio. Jason suggested some great new music to carry, and I managed to get his very favorite in stock. (If you come to the booth and give the secret blog-reader handshake, you can see his whole top ten list.)

Lyra’s art-ifactsAlong with all the music at our booth, my daughter Lyra will be selling some of her original Pagan art-ifacts, I will be offering my dreamwork services and selling articles & books I have written, and we will be visiting with old and new friends as they breeze through the con.

The booth is only half of the story, however. I will also be part of a panel on Pagan theology with Macha NightMare, Gus DiZerega, and Michael York, titled “When We Call, Who Comes?” That will be held on Friday afternoon at 1:30, in some room or another. Both Michael and Gus have written notable books on Pagan theology and Macha is no slouch herself, having written several books on Paganism as well.

I have been joking to friends that I feel like the character in Galaxy Quest who plays the “extra crewman” and is convinced he’s going to get killed in every scene. I have had my share of theology discussions over the years, and certainly have lots of stories about Pagan theology gone awry, but I have some last-minute reading to do if I hope to keep up with Gus and Michael here. So on this panel, maybe I’m comic relief guy?

Then on Monday morning at 9:00 I will be leading a dream workshop called “Dreaming and Waking”, where we will explore some dreams and talk about all sorts of phenomena that occur between dreaming and waking. I am always curious about dreams that people have at the con—or any big gathering, for that matter—because dreams so often express the collective shadow. Add to that the fact that many people utilize the con as a vision quest of sorts, and you have the opportunity for some very potent dreams to emerge.

Those are all the official things I will be doing this weekend—that I know of. There is always the chance of getting roped into a ritual or performance role of some sort, which is what makes it so blasted difficult to pack for this weekend! And there are parties, socials, meeting friends for drinks or dinner, not to mention attending other people’s workshops.

Last year several people blogged about pcon, and I expect there will be even more this year. I will most likely do a post-game wrap-up myself, but not until I am well and fully rested from the ordeal. If you go to the con, do stop by and say hello. Otherwise, I will be back in the blogosphere in about a week. And by Grabthar’s hammer, we live to tell the tale.

A Welcome Reprieve

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Saturday Morning ReprieveWe have had a break in the constant rainy weather of the past few weeks, but this was the first clear day that dawned with no wind. My dog was in desperate need of a bath and I was in desperate need of a walk in the sun, so off we went to walk on the beach.

There was a light haze in the air, it was upwards of 60º out, and still too early for most people to figure out that the beach was the place to be. I wore jeans and a light t-shirt, and vacillated between being speechless with pleasure as my skin soaked up the sun and being in shock that I was walking around in February without a jacket, scarf and hat.

We watched set after set of translucent sea-green breakers curl perfectly into foaming surf. Up the beach a group of wetsuited surfers emerged from their cars and one by one paddled out to meet the morning waves. I gave over some mementos of my dead friend to the ocean, which accepted them wordlessly in a single surge.

We left, and headed for the backyard where Vince got a thorough bathing and an even more thorough brushing. I may be able to go more than a day without sweeping dog hair off the floor now.

Everything feels changed, and yet it is all still the same. Such are the cracks we slip through on our way from one season to the next, one phase of life to another. This year feels full of hope to me. Last year was hard, and this one may be too, but there is a lighter quality to it already, a buoyancy that I never felt last year.

May it be so, may the churning waters of time carry us lightly through the year to come. All praises to the sea, the sky, the sun, and those who dwell within, above, between.

One More for Susan Falkenrath

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We had a lovely memorial yesterday for Susan with her mother and aunt, her young students, new and old friends all in attendance. As was fitting, there was a lot of music throughout the afternoon.

The problem with priestessing memorials is that afterwards you go through not only the familiar post-ritual letdown, but you are faced with the weight of knowledge that she is now well and truly gone. This is made all the more poignant for me by how palpably her spirit was evoked through all the music we sang. The silence left in her absence is deafening.

So here is one last song for Susan, and it is one where her voice figures prominently. She carries the melody line through the whole song (after the opening solo, which is mine). We are singing with Max Ventura, who sang with us yesterday, and Brook Schoenfield. In love may she return again.

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A Brief Foray Into Punditry

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I may hate myself later for doing this; in fact, maybe I already do. But I seem to have lost the struggle against my better judgment, so will say a little bit today about the Democratic presidential primaries.

I have been trying to view the candidates by two criteria: the content of the policies they are promoting, and whether I think they can actually win the election. As far as policy wonks go, I tend to take my cues from Paul Krugman, who in his excellent columns has pretty clearly laid out the difference in the candidates’ health care plans, economic recovery policies, and so forth.

I opined briefly last year about distrusting Hillary and Obama because they were too centrist for my tastes, and in the last few months I’ve been pulling for Edwards despite the fact of the historic opportunity here for us to elect either the first Black or the first woman president. As the media decided a two-way race was easier to report on and let the Edwards candidacy sink in terms of media coverage, his withdrawal from the race seemed all but assured.

The question for me then became, which of the two front runners gets my vote? The guy who is going all Camelot on us, or the woman with the unfortunate husband?

To my surprise, Hillary is the one whose health care and economic plans, thanks to Edwards’ challenge, are the most progressive and inclusive. She’s got a lot of negatives, but the positive about her negatives is that they are known. There are not many lower blows she could suffer that haven’t already been heaped on her publicly since the 1990s; she’s been through vicious personal attacks from all sides and still keeps her eye on the ball. That is what I call formidable strength, and barring the unforeseen I think it is enough to get her through the election and into the White House.

Obama is an inspiring guy. He’s a talented, skillful, strategic thinker who has a great career ahead of him. But I am dismayed at his calls for a “new type of politics.” That naive rhetoric, combined with the fact that his actual policy proposals are weaker than Hillary’s, lead me to believe that we will be very disappointed at what he is actually able to achieve should he reach the White House—all the more so because his powerful message has been so uplifting to so many progressives.

Also, consider how many Republicans are pulling for him. He is the darling of many conservative pundits (even Oprah is more a businesswoman than a progressive, let’s remember), and I suspect that if he wins the Democratic nomination they will quickly reverse their public adoration and proceed to tear him to shreds. The problem with Obama is that he has not yet had the shit kicked out of him by a right wing that will do anything to stay in power. He will if he becomes the nominee. Not only that, but every skeleton in his closet will be revealed—and because he’s a relative newcomer, these are all going to be shocking revelations. I am not convinced he could win against such odds.

The final straw for me came after two events. One was watching footage of John McCain answering a question from a woman in the audience who asked, “how do we beat the bitch?” Instead of immediately saying that such ad hominem, sexist attacks are out of bounds in a presidential campaign, McCain laughed nervously and answered the question.

The second was hearing about the Republican operative who is launching a “new group” to defeat Hillary. Oh, and there’s more. If these were racial slurs aimed at Obama, the public outcry would be fast and furious. But because Hillary is the woman we love to hate, somehow these attitudes are given a pass.

You know, Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person. I have some serious concerns about her close ties to lobbyists, her vote on Iraq, and so forth. But she is dedicated, competent, smart, and knows how to win. In the end, I am appalled at the degree to which misogyny is allowed to exist in our political dialogue in this country. This same kind of minefield will await any woman who dares to run a serious presidential campaign, and it will continue only until one of them actually succeeds. I think it should be sooner rather than later.