TL; DR.

For awhile I didn’t think I would come back to this space. It seems part of a different time of my life, so integrated with our old house, with the city and life that we left. 

But I keep thinking about this blog. The title: This Pagan House. I am still a Pagan, and I still have a house. More than ever, after this past couple of years, I am more confident in the identities that I have chosen. It seems like every day I desire to walk more publicly in who I am, what I believe. To begin the walk of becoming who I want to be. 

I keep thinking about how I want to take up writing again. 

—–

It’s been about a year. 10 months. Hello, again. 

I look through these old entries and some of them feel familiar. 

Oh, hello! I still do that. I’m still like that. I still think that.

And some of them feel very…young. And hopeful. And naive. 

I read those posts with a half-smlie, and maybe a prickle of tears. To make the choice: stay, or go? Stay, or become? 

——

Briefly: 

I see that the last set of posts I wrote informed this space that J had lost his job. That I had Eleanor, successfully, but returned to the hospital. October 2013 was a time of refocusing, reinvention. I remember that time; everything was going pretty well, considering. 

In the latter part of October I developed a severe case of pericoronitis, basically inflammation of the wisdom teeth, most likely due to a super-stressed immune system (read, the mystery illness after Eleanor) and crowding from my jaw. The surgery to remove all of my wisdom teeth had to be done immediately. This wiped out the last of our reserve money from selling the house. In December, we broke our lease and moved in with J’s parents. J also had the chance at a Supreme Career Maker Opportunity, the kind of job that only comes along once-in-a-blue-moon. He was told by the HR rep after the on-site interviews that he was a virtual lock. They loved him. They’d be in touch soon. 

We were so excited.

Two days after we moved in with his parents we learned that he did not get the job. It was devastating. 

We lived with his parents for almost six months. I weaned Eleanor and took a full-time retail job. Promising job prospects came and went, often with enough interviews to make him, us, feel hopeful. But they never actually resulted in anything. 

One job, an entry-level job in a town we didn’t even have on our radar, came up. It was in the right field, not quiet what he wanted to do, but still. Something. Enough to keep going to the interviews. They flew him out. They offered the job. At the time he tried to leverage it into another job, another promising prospect that was another Supreme Career Maker Opportunity. It looked for a few days that it might happen. 

And again, disappointment. The preferred plan again fell through. But he accepted the other job. We had to at that point. Everything in our life at that point was brittle: our relationship, our relationship to our children, and to his parents, the atmosphere at my job. We had to leave. 

Two months (due to security clearance) later we found ourselves moving from Texas to the Midwest. 

And here we are, in the suburbs of St. Louis. 

—-

To prepare for our move, I flew up to St. Louis to find a house to rent. We both agreed that if we could get it as settled as possible before we actually moved that would be best. I met with a rental agent, we toured the city, I settled on a house in the County, to the north-west of St. Louis. I signed the papers, reassured that we could pick up the keys as soon as we got in to town. Everything was ready. 

Well. In St. Louis County there’s something called an occupancy permit, that can only be obtained after an inspection of the property. It’s basically a (corrupt) moneymaker. I was told when I signed the papers that the inspection was done, and that the permit would be waiting for us when we got to town.

J went to the City Hall the first day in town. The leasing agency hadn’t done the inspection, thus, no permit.

I was livid. The leasing agent gave us the run around. J’s new company began legal proceedings. They had one inspection done later that week–and they failed it, meaning no permit. They greased some palms, got a date for another inspection less than a day later, and passed it. Yeah, not suspicious at all. 

When we finally moved into the house…it was a mess. Not at all like I had been shown. They had contractors come in during the week to fix some things so they could get the inspection passed, and they had left the house in shambles. Broken kitchen drawers. Three cups of sawdust in the carpets from cutting off the bottoms of the doors so that they would fit in the doorway–and then, the cuts were jagged and crooked. Nails sticking out of cabinetry. 

To top it all off, when we turned on the shower to clean the tub, water began pouring from the pipes into the basement. The leasing company hadn’t overwintered the property, and all of the water pipes in the basement had shattered. 

(So…how did it pass the second inspection? You tell me.)

Needless to say, we broke the lease and demanded all of our money back. 

When I did a move-out inspection a week later, the representative hopped out of his car and came up to me with a puzzled look on his face. 

“Are we doing a move-in inspection?”

I paused. “Um, no. We’re moving out.”

His frowned deepened and annoyance clearly showed on his face. “What do you mean, move out? I’m the agent who okays listings to be put on the market. I expressly did not approve this property.”

We went into the house, I showed him around, and asked him if he wanted to see the basement to make sure it was okay. 

He gave a half-laugh, the kind you give when something is not very funny. “I don’t need to go down there. I know it’s a mess.The pipes are shattered, and there’s a leak. We have those water-absorption buckets all around.  Now tell me. Who was your leasing agent?”

—-

We found a new house. We moved out a week after living in the Broken House. 

The new place is homey. The new leasing company is responsive, kind, and eccentric. The hardwoods shine. The kitchen is stuck in the ’90s, but that’s okay, because there’s a three-season porch, and a finished basement. It’s taken awhile, but we’re painting the walls and decorating and making it home. It’s only a rental, and we’ll probably be leaving soon-ish. But it’s our home, for now. Probably for the time that we stay in St. Louis. 

—-

Two weeks after we moved to St. Louis, J got a call from a company that had initially passed on his resume. They’re exciting, a lot of influence, research, and innovation. They were very keen to interview him, wanted to talk to him about a new position that had come up. 

It was in Texas, close to family. Close to friends. Good benefits. Awesome opportunity. 

We laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I rolled over and cried. 

—–

I go to therapy now. I like her. She’s earnest, beautiful, and I detect a bit of kookiness. I enjoy it. Some of our sessions involve talking, some involving trance-meditation. My kind of therapist. 

I’ve struggled to cope with this move. Hell, I’ve struggled to cope with the past two years. My first therapy session I finished a long tirade with: “How did I even get here?! This is not the life I wanted. This is not the life I want!”

She nodded, very calm, like a therapist should be, and told me that we’d figure it out. But it was going to take some time. 

—–

One thing I love about St.Louis is that it rains. Right now it’s thundering and lightening and just pouring down. Before the storm began, nature became a visual and sonic cacophony. Clouds purpled and multiplied. Lightning pierced the suburban sky in eerily straight lines. Thunder clapped and rumbled. The cicadas roared a deafening tune. 

So loud that C stood in the driveway, clapped her hands over her ears, and yelled at All of the Forces of Nature to cut it out. They didn’t listen, much to her consternation. Her four-year-old self is giggly and joyful, but also imperious. Of course Nature should obey her, and why not? All she wanted was a gentle, cool summer evening so she could play outside. 

But only the downpour ceased their racket. 

Now it’s the sound of softly falling rain, distant rolling thunder, and the gentle song of crickets. Green leaves, a bit on the tired side of summer, weighted down by heavy drops of rain. A cool breeze, finally, in the wake of the storm. 

—–

It’s taken me a few days to write this. I went back and forth on whether or not to post it, but if I keep up this space here—which I intend to—then this part of the story needs to be told. 

One last thing. 

Being a pagan in a strange land can be difficult. I intimately knew the gods and landspirits of Texas, especially Central Texas. I felt them in the cliffs and brush and oak and dry creeks. In the searing heat of summer, in the sharp stillness of those brief winter nights.  I celebrated Dionysus in the vineyard I worked; I touched Aphrodite in the silky softness of May evenings. I saw mischievous faces in the hedges of the park where I ran. 

Here, I feel displaced. I intellectually know that this is a place of rivers and waters and hills. Trees tower over the suburbs. It is so humid that the mornings shimmer in the sunlight sometimes. There is emotion here, so much of it, and so much hurt and displacement and regret. It is an area with a deep and complicated history.  You can feel it simmer over St. Louis, and indeed, it burst forth a few weeks ago in tragedy.

I find that in these places–there is deep, deep magic. Old magic. It’s palpable here. As I write this I feel a certainty that even though this land is unfamiliar, that there is a rightness of me being here at this time in my life. 

Even though this place is complicated, and I don’t always like it, I know that I am supposed to be here.

Tuesday Musings.

The Thursday North Austin Pagan Meet-Up went swimmingly! I actually really enjoyed myself.  Yes, that was worthy of two adverbs.

There were upwards of 40 people crammed into an I-Hop on a Thursday night. Lots of talking. Lots of pancake eating. I saw some Pagan stereotypes that made me giggle–I mean, they exist. It was fabulous. I’m sure that as I become more involved in community it will get on my nerves–just like goatee Christian hipster dude went from amusing to annoying–but for now, after so long being an observer, it’s just kind of…delightful.

The Meetup was also awesome because there are so many connections to be had! I learned of a proto-Gardnerian coven, a Celtic Wiccan circle, a ADF grove, a Celtic Recon group, and an Asatru kindred. And despite all the fractious behavior online, guess what? All of these people were sitting in a room, shooting the breeze, and having a good time. Do I know what goes on beneath the surface? No. I don’t. But at that moment, it was just a bunch of people having some pancakes and talking shop.

I’m also excited because Pagan Pride Day is September 22nd in Austin. Hopefully I can volunteer or at least go. I might have to work…we’ll see. I work all this coming weekend, have a wedding next weekend, PPD and work the next…looks like September is shaping up to be just as busy as the previous four months.

Nothing much else is going on…seasons are changing, as I’ve noted below. School’s started so our neighborhood is much more quiet. We fostered a kitten for two nights, but J just can’t handle cats, so we gave it back to its owner (who was looking for a new home for it, that’s why we kept it two nights).

I have some spiritual doings on the horizon. Thinking about committing to the ADF Dedicant Path, or setting out a coursework for myself to take through the fall and winter. Not sure how that’ll shape up. We’ll see, we’ll see.

What about you, dear readers? What’s going on with you in this weird, in-between time?

 

Going Public.

Ahhh!

I’m going to a Pagan Meetup group. It’s rather large–30 people attending–and at an IHOP (pancakes FTW).

I’m also really nervous!

But this has to be done! I have to put my money where my mouth is, as they say.

Wish me luck. I’ll report back all the sordid orgy details, promise.*

 

 

 

*Kidding, non-Pagan readers. Kidding. What really happens is people eat pancakes, drink coffee and talk. You know. Like in the Fellowship Hall after Big Church.

Of Cats and Bags

Once upon a time, in a land right where I am today, I was a very Charismatic Evangelical Christian. If you’ve read the blog at all, you know this. It made a big impact on me. More than developing a lasting faith in x, y and z, I developed a handful of lifelong, cherished friends.

However, starting in 2008, I began to grow away from the church. Little things at first (why can’t women be elders in our church?) to bigger things (what do I do about these experiences outside of the Christian norm?), and finally, I made a break with that particular church. Not too long later I broke up with The Church as a whole. About 12 to 18 months ago, I began labeling myself Pagan.

But I didn’t tell anyone, except my husband. Why? Because I had made these friends, see. These were people that I  had been through the most developmental part of my life with. We lived together, went to school together, were instrumental in each others dating relationships with future spouses, in each others weddings, went on vacations together, got pregnant and were at each others deliveries in some capacity or the other. Now, our kids play together, and we still see each other a few times a week. So when I say that we’re close friends–what I really mean is that we’re chosen family.

Chosen family, I believed, predicated on the fact that we believed similar things. And when I didn’t believe those similar things anymore–I was, I feel, justly terrified that I was putting them in a very bad position and threatening my community and support system. It wasn’t a good feeling.

For awhile, I avoided dealing with it because I wasn’t exactly sure what I believed. When I figured it out, I felt a huge pressure to TELL EVERYONE! that was allayed by another feeling that…the time will come when it’s right. So I waited.

Friday night, one of my close friends and I decided to hang out after a baby shower. When I turned off the car in a parking lot there was a tense silence for a moment, and then she started telling me she had something to say.

I knew right away it was two things: One, she was pregnant, or Two, she found my blog.

Turns out it was two.

I wasn’t surprised. That’s the deal with an Internet presence, and one I chose to make. Lesson one, Pagans who don’t want to be found out, don’t have an Internet presence. Either that, or couch it very well.

For me, though, the potential of Internet Pagan community was a risk worth taking.

We talked for a long time. There were no recriminations. No arguments, accusations, banishments. It was…can I say anti-climatic, in a way? The best possible way. We talked. It was out and the open, there it was. I was a Pagan.

The best part was one that I would suspected would happen–she wasn’t surprised. And I feel like, if someone really is your true friend, and this conversion has been going on a long time, how could they be?

We didn’t get into much of the particulars, and these things may (or may not) have to be dealt with at a later date.

There is the looming issue of salvation. As Jax wrote in her Wife of Pagan series, traditional/evangelical Christians desire others to become Christian for their eternal salvation; this is a conundrum that has no answer. Really, there is nothing to say, no argument to make. It’s a choice of faith, and most likely, every Insert-Other-Faith/Christian relationship has to navigate that territory on its own terms.

Luckily, this friend (M) wanted a relationship with me more than…_______.  That’s a true friend, no matter what the stripes. The interaction did make me ashamed that I had waited so long–that I had doubted her loyalty. However, who knows? This was most likely the perfect way, in the perfect time. I had faith that these confrontations would come when they should, for all parties involved, and that was borne out.

So, now, I’m basically an Out Pagan. The freedom of it is a strange brightness, a bit perplexing in its own way, but something to grow in to.

Pagan Geography: A Place of Our Own

Sometimes, I wish I had a place to go light some incense and pray. A place where I could murmur liturgy to a public shrine. Maybe investigate some gods/goddesses/figures that I don’t know much about. A place where someone could stand beside me and do the same, both of us in quiet communion/community.

I envision this place being a house on a half an acre or so. Altars and shrines set up both inside and out. Candle light flickering, incense spiraling, softly whispered prayers. Perhaps volunteer attendants to ritually clean away debris and sacrifices, polish the statues, mop the floors. You know. All the little stuff that needs to be done in a house of worship.

Maybe it’s because I’m a solitary practitioner that I feel the need for some sense of community, but I feel that it would be helpful for all of us (::gesticulates wildly to all of the us::) to have a place that we’re more the same than different. No preaching, no rhetoric, no questions. Where it’s about common devotion, and everything else recedes into the background.

Feminism

I’ve been thinking about feminism a lot lately. It’s a mix of reasons.

The first reason being the recently bandied about news phrase ‘The War on Women” (from recent news and blogs 1, 2, 3). This issue has come to a head recently when, during a hearing on contraception, only men were present. They actually kicked out a woman for not being ‘qualified’.  Also, a Personhood bill and transvaginal-ultrasound-before-abortion bill were up for votes in Virginia–both were retracted to be revised.

Second, this whole Pantheacon mess*  has brought to light how much I do not know about…well, anything to do with feminism, the transsexual population, sociological gender structures…Nothing. I know, intellectually, about the struggles women faced throughout history. I know–again intellectually–about the foundations of which Z. Budapest created Dianic Wicca and advocated for women’s-only sacred space. I know–one more time, intellectually–about why transwomen would feel hurt, excluded and angry. The only other thing I know is that I certainly do not understand or know enough.

In an age where Rick Santorum is considered a viable candidate for the presidency (and indeed–Republican women are beginning to favor him), when Rihanna and Chris Brown are recording albums together, when families like the Duggars popularize the Quiverful theology…I think it’s time to start (re)considering feminism, women’s spirituality and what, exactly, is going on.

Honestly, for me, it’s time to get started.

I’ve read one-and-a-half books/texts on feminism. Growing up it was something I took for granted. My parents loved me, supported me, told me I could do whatever I wanted, I was smart, I was never pressured to wear makeup, dress a certain way, be a ‘girl’. Never. My parents valued brains and character and kindness more than looks and normative feminine behavior. For that I’m forever grateful.

The first–and only, thus far–feminist book I read was called Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. Funnily enough, it was the book that shook me right out of Christianity. It opened my eyes to the rotten core, and try as I might I never could reconcile my longing for a spiritual truth to the Christian doctrine or institutions.

Grateful as I was to that book and those ideas, I didn’t pursue it further at the time. I leaped into Pagan literature. Which was fine. It broadened my thinking in tangential ways.

Then, last year’s Pantheacon controversy happened. I spent a lot of time researching transsexual issues, something that I never knew much about. This year, when it became an issue again–right in the middle of all of this GOP hatred of all things women, gay, different, other–something in me seems to have snapped a bit.

Or, rather, I’ve realized that I’m hungry. I’m hungry to read, to think about all of these things that I’ve always taken for granted. Truly, I don’t know what I’m hungry for, in a way. If that makes sense. It just seems that something out there has to make all of this (::waves hands about to the news, etc.::) make sense.

…Right?

Recommendations for literature happily accepted.

**For those of you who don’t know, Pantheacon is a large Pagan festival held every year. The past two years (2011 and 2012) there has been much controversy over a beloved (by some) elder holding rituals that discriminated against transsexual women. You can read more here and here.

First Public Ritual

So, I went to my first ever public ritual. It was an esbat held by the local CUUPS in a Methodist church. How is that for mind-boggling? Kind of weird to be doing a circle invoking a goddess under a cross. However, the church is a ‘reconciling’ congregation, and very other-faith and gay friendly.

It was nice. I was surprised by how much older everyone else was—I’d say the average age was 50.

The ritual itself was contemplative, focusing on Aphrodite. The ritualist seemed nervous, but during the guided meditation she really hit her stride. Her voice turned suddenly rich and soft and the meditation itself was incredibly evocative. What disrupted it was people coming in late. I like the yoga take on that–five minutes late, don’t even bother coming in. The energy is set, and it only serves to disrupt.

I felt nervous before going, so nervous that I did a small Tarot spread before hand. It was a three card spread. First card reflecting the nature of the group, second card being the implication if I did go, third card being the implication if I didn’t.

First: Three of Cups

Second: The Tower

Third: Six of Swords

Having the Tower card show up was…interesting. With the group seeming to be genial and 6/S evoking a certain listlessness if I stayed home…well…I decided to go. While the ritual didn’t exactly shake me to my core, it did remove a certain hesitancy I’ve had about attending pagan gatherings. You know…like…wow. Everyone’s so normal. Who knew?