In a bid to actually focus and finish the Dedicant Path, I’m keeping this online journal to consolidate all my thoughts and writings on my path and to document my growth as a Druid and a Pagan.

Starving for nature

Condensing a long thought process over many years, I've decided that instead of waiting until a mythical retirement when I have the money to stop working and tons of time to enjoy myself, I need to focus on actually living in the present and stop postponing life in favor of frugality and putting off following my dreams 'until I retire'.

The truth is, I need nature and deep connection now, not 20+ years from now. Instead of saying, 'when I retire, I'll go camping and hiking', I need to say 'let me go camping and hiking now on the weekends and on mini vacations while I'm young enough and healthy enough to enjoy it'.

That being said, I need to begin aligning my life to be able to do this. I need to start engaging in the activities and planning that will start getting me out in nature now.

I realise that's a big part of my unhappiness. When I was a child, I spent hours walking and running and biking and playing with my dog anywhere there was an open field, a park, even our backyard. As an adult, by contrast, I've spent hours and hours sitting in front of a computer in an office, and hardly seeing the outside world except parking lots and grocery stores and sidewalks. Even my backyard is tiny, mostly paved and storage buildings. I'm starving for nature.

Main altar update

I tend to update my altar 4 times a year. The candles I update twice - once to signify the dark half of the year with black cherry candles - and the second to signify the light half of the year with currently the golden orange. I'm still not feeling right about the light half of the year candles.

I think I do my altar slightly differently than most folks - my dark half of the year starts the day after the Autumnal Equinox, the moment the days begin to shorten and nights lengthen. To me, that's the dark / light dichotomy - from Equinox to Equinox. So, that's when I will switch my candles back to the black cherry. My problem is, I'm so pleased with the black cherry, but I'm not so pleased with the 'light half' candles, that I leave my black ones far too long.

Anyway - here's the Vernal Equinox to Summer Solstice Altar, showing how the green is getting darker and stronger, and we still have flowers, but it's getting late into the season. Colours are rich and strong still, before the blistering heat hits after the Solstice and the green greys out and everything gets 'tired' looking.

Looking back at more than a decade of Gaelic study groups

I took a moment today to really think about how long Gaelic has called to me and what I've DONE about that calling. You know, I came to the path of Druidry through the language. I had a dream... the ancestors told me through the blackness 'you have to study Gaelic. Not Irish, not Welsh. SCOTTISH GAELIC.' That was the entire dream, the voices in the darkness. Heading that dream brought me many interesting experiences, wonderful friends and of course, reconnection to the Ancestors and my spiritual path.

But the language is always first.

Fifteen or so years ago, when I was in college the second time, I had an Irish professor from the Republic of Ireland who was a native Irish speaker. He enjoyed comparing and contrasting what I knew of Gàidhlig with his Gaelige. I've never forgotten his comparison of my given name with its Gaelige version. He said the two were different because of the Norse / Icelandic and Pict influence from North. I've always looked for those differences in the languages, and because they're just different enough I've never tried to learn Irish. I would just be a mess. It's hard enough to just focus on Gàidhlig.

In my native South Florida, I studied online with a man who became my main Gaelic partner for years, and, although we never met, we attended many classes together and even ran a business together. At that time we started out with Teach Yourself Gaelic. TY was our first manual, our first foray into a language that felt both exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. Later, when he attended an actual classroom with a fluent Gaelic speaker, we switched to Gàidhlig Troimh Chòmhradh, the Catriona Parsons set used at the time at the Gaelic College in Cape Breton. I loved them, and we spent hours on the phone, parrying back and forth, and stumbling along. We used Everyday Gaelic, too, and made conversations about restaurants and cleaning and ordering food. My books fell apart from handling.

When I moved to Central Texas, I was finally able to meet a group face-to-face, and it is this group that has held together over the years, and we still continue to meet, now 4 times a month. Our leadership has changed over the years, and that service is now mine to claim, but, still, the language is still an exhilarating challenge and a joy. We've gone on Gaelic immersions together, most notably one in Arlington a number of years ago taught by Muriel Fisher of the Tucson Gaelic Institute, who is a lovely individual; and I studied alone at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the long-distance course. Our primary books for the group have always been my personal favorites, the ones I'd never go without: Gàidhlig Bheo. They were originally developed for the Scottish Certificate of Education Gaelic 'O' Grade at the National Extension College in Scotland.

Our latest thing is to do another immersion next year at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, and be ready to have the entire group go into something other than beginners' Gaelic. Wish us luck!!!!

Teach Yourself Gaelic. French & European Publications: n.p., 1992. Print.
Parsons, Catriona. Gàidhlig Troimh Chòmhradh. Ceap Breatann: Na Colaisde Gàidhlig Ceap Breatann, 1991. Print.
MacNeill, Morag. Everyday Gaelic. Glasgow: Gairm, 1984. Print.
Macdonald, J. A. Gàidhlig Bheo. Cambridge: National Extension College, 1978. Print.

To a deeper understanding

The saying 'when you're ready, the teacher appears' has never been more true for me at this juncture of my life. Internally, something has shifted, and it became readily obvious to me only a few months ago. Something shifted internally. My energy is different, and changing. The best way I can describe it, is that the anxious ruminating - constantly internally talking (thinking) and fixating on either what has happened, or what needs to happen in the future, has stopped. This is not something I've consciously made a decision to do - it has spontaneously stopped.

I have now been walking nearly daily in nature for over 4 years - since I started with ADF. I can now feel my breathing, and how my body moves, and how the air tastes, and the amazing wildlife even in such a seemingly barren place is just overflowing and obvious to me. When I walk now, I feel my muscles move, my breathing, I glory in the physical sensations of heat and air and noise and movement, instead of anxiously fixating and dissociating. I can stay in what I refer to mentally as 'absolute reality'.

When I was a kid in math class, I learned about 'absolute value'. |3| = 3; |-3| = 3; three is three, positive or negative. If you graph a 3, it's certainly different than a -3. But, in absolute value, they're the same. There's only positive integers. I liken my focus on the physical world around me as 'absolute reality'. To me, at that time, only the physical world with my 5 senses exist - all worlds are the same - everything is One. No Upper, Lower, Middle Worlds. No physical vs. spirit. It's just all - THERE.

Enter Martha Beck. She wrote a new book, and in it she speaks of magic - and although she may not realize it, she really is talking about Magick - and her secular descriptions of accessing Oneness and the Eternal Now are spot on. In fact, she couches it in terms that made me finally realize what is meant by some of the poetic nonsense out there.

Here's a for instance: I never understood what 'live in the now' meant. Those were just meaningless words to me, like trying to explain color to a blind person who had never seen the physical world. What does that really mean? Well, if someone had said to me 'shut off the mind chatter, stop endlessly verbally thinking, and start looking at things without thinking about them - just SEE them - don't describe them verbally in your mind, just SEE them as they are in that moment, then I would have understood.

This is the same problem I had as a child when people told me 'just stand up for yourself'. What does that mean? What actions, thoughts, body language and verbalizing accompany 'standing up for myself'? I needed to know those things, not the nebulous and confusing 'stand up for yourself'. The issue seemed to be, folks think they're being clear and what they're saying has some sort of universal meaning understood by all, so if I wasn't 'standing up for myself', it was a choice I was making and I would understand what they meant when they gave me that advice. But... I was not taught those skillsets growing up; in fact, it was actively squelched when I was a very small child, so I had no frame of reference, or permission, nor any skillsets to 'stand up for myself'. It was a giant disconnect between what others assumed I knew, and what my actual abilities and knowledge were.

This is why I love this new book. Beck talks about things like dropping in to Oneness and Stillness, but she doesn't give these nebulous frou-frou words that are totally meaningless; she actually describes HOW. How it feels in the body, the activities she engaged in to achieve it, what she was thinking, feeling, experiencing and verbalizing (or not, as the case may be). The timing seems really right for me to deepen my path, and she is a wonderful guide for me at this time.

Tapadh leibh!!!!

Citation for reference:
Beck, Martha Nibley. Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want. New York: Free, 2012. Print.

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