"At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he takes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find Nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men who come to her."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, March 29, 2021

Where I'm at after 2020

It's been a long time since I felt focused enough to write a blog post here. I am now a few months into 2021 and the other day was startled to see my google photo memories, that pop up on my phone to remind me of pictures I took a year ago, two years ago, etc. It made me realize it's been over a year since the pandemic started rushing across the world. A year since our governor shut down our state, since the kids left school to remain home the rest of the year. As I looked through the photos of our first days of "homeschool" last year, the beginning of my pandemic sourdough starter, the signs we made to hang on the porch, the first masks I sewed. . .it has been really emotionally difficult.
Back then I had no idea what to expect and for our family, it wasn't that bad. I feel guilty that I feel so empty and exhausted because honestly, our lives were almost normal for this entire past year. I realize how very, very lucky we are. We did not lose any loved ones to Covid. In our family, no one tested positive for covid even though we had some bad colds and thought we might have had it. The boys played baseball. The kids began school in August as usual. Besides staying home a a little more than usual and wearing masks when we went out, life was very much the same as always. 

Why do I feel so exhausted? Why do I feel like I have been straining against an incredible weight, unable to lift or move it? Now that it seems like covid is actually getting under control and things are slowly returning to more of a pre-covid-normal state, I am so tired. I feel angry and old and fragile and empty and like a year passed by with nothing getting done, no progress being made. 

After the start of this year I descended into a very very dark place and it took me a good two months to come up a little. I had no motivation to do anything. I know from past experience that each winter is hard for me and gets harder as I get older but this year was way worse than I have ever experienced. If I didn't have my kids to get up for each day I probably would have laid in bed and stopped eating and drinking. 

 I shouldn't have felt this way. There is no logical explanation for it. My kids are healthy. I think I was and am, in some part, grieving the loss of last year - not because we didn't have it, but because I was so on edge, day to day, reading the news and worrying, I missed out on enjoying my kids like I should have. Like I normally do. I think maybe that is why I feel like I lost last year. I didn't feel the emotional and mental freedom to enjoy each day and my kids and now I am realizing that. I think also I am grieving the loss of that year of growth I wanted to have for myself. I wanted to do so much! Learn so much. Progress. And I didn't. Instead of a year of growing towards maturity I feel like I kind of already had a stunted peak and then began to wither and die. 

 I mean, I got a lot done last year, I think. I still did creative things and took a lot of outings into nearby outdoor spaces where my kids could run and play safely. While I felt that I could handle what every day brought I think I was on auto-pilot a lot. My grandma passed away in July and I am still extremely bitter than due to Covid I was unable to visit her before she died. I am angry. My heart burns and rages with the loss and the fact that due to fear of spreading infection, I could not see my dying grandmother in hospice. So while I did do things, the things I did didn't fulfill me like they usually do and half the year was overshadowed by the quick illness and loss of my grandmother. 
Pine woods at Samhein

How has this affected my path in OBOD? I have been thinking about that a lot as I've slowly come out of the dark few months of this year. For the first time I feel like I've had time to slow down and breathe and think about things I've put on the back burner. I've not gone through any gwersi booklets in over a year. I stopped following the OBOD groups on Facebook and haven't had any conversations with fellow OBODians for a long time. I haven't sat and consciously thought about the things I've learned for a long time. 

I think that at this present moment I feel like this past year and my experience in it has proven to me that the path of druidry is NOT about any organization or reading certain books and learning certain things at certain times. It's a mindset and philosophy that I think is very deeply intuitive in many people, including myself. This past year, especially after the death of my grandma, I found myself very often drifting into long bouts of memory of times when I was a little girl. Scenes from my past and the feelings and thoughts I had then ran in my mind like a constantly-on television. Sometimes it's been frighteningly hard to jolt myself out of that and focus on the present. But now, the dots are starting to connect for me. 

My memories have reminded me that this is who I am. That between this almost 35 year old woman and the little girl I was is a long line of dots and they all connect. The dots that came before me connect to who I was and who I am. Things I did as a child that seemed so weird to other people I still do, although perhaps in a different way. Perhaps the child I was knew more than I do now and instead of questioning it just accepted it as what felt correct and natural. 

I remember putting such significance on the turning of the months. I had a calendar in my room and every last day of the month I would clean my room very carefully and throw out everything that no longer was useful to me or held painful memories. Then, I could allow myself to turn to the next month with a clean and refreshed outlook. I remember laying under trees in my yard as a child and thinking up stories in my mind. Often I would tell them to my friends or my siblings. I wanted to, but didn't quite, believe in fairies. I was, however, very superstitious, "just in case". I felt that the rocks and trees I built forts on and under had names and were warm and sentient beings with their own memories and experiences. I felt that the rays of sun through the trees were paths to magical places that I could never quite get to. 

Art - drawing, writing, making music, writing songs - became the medium through which I COULD get to magical places. Reading also took me far away to places and people and times I deeply desired to connect to. Living so much in memory this past year has reinforced my knowledge that this druid path IS the path I have always intuitively wanted to follow. To honor the earth and draw comfort and knowledge from it. To honor my ancestors. To love my neighbors here in the world today.

After my grandmother passed away my aunt called me one day. She had been cleaning out my grandmas house and had come across a letter my grandmother wrote to me before she had even met me. In it, she describes her hope that I find beauty in the sunset and the sky, the flowers, the beautiful world I had been born into. Her words were written in long paragraphs, eloquently and with such tender joy and love. Another dot. I felt a surge of deep love for my grandmother as I heard the words she wrote almost 35 years ago. 

I made this dress for Solstice from scraps from my grandmothers sewing supplies and some of my own fabrics. 

After Christmas I shut down my Facebook and Instagram pages. I just could not mentally and emotionally handle the content I was seeing, although none of it was bad. It was just too much to look at and think about. I wanted to keep in touch with a few people so began a MeWe account where I could keep my circle very small and not have my timeline flooded with too much information. I followed a suggested page that posted paranormal articles from time to time (hey, I've alwyas been fascinated by that stuff even if I don't quite believe any of it!) One night I read an article that was an excerpt from a book about British folklore. I was drawn in and looked up the book and author so I could find a copy of of the entire work and read it. I found a free copy of the downloadable book - British Goblins: Welsh Folkore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions by Wirt Sikes. 

This is an old book written in the 1880s and enjoyable and easy to read. Wirt Sikes has a wonderful sense of humour that comes through in the way he tells his stories and I quickly sped my way through the book. I remembered that in my family tree on Ancestry.com I had recorded that my grandfathers great-grandfather was born in Wales. I looked it up again to be sure and yes, I had remembered right. My ancestor had been born in Flintshirt in 1854 and had come to America with his wife and son not quite thirty years later. I began to research more about the area my ancestor came from. At the same time, I was continuing reading Wirt Sikes book. Often at night while I was reading I would laugh at something I read and then feel an almost electric sensation. My arms would be covered in goose bumps. While every story I read was new to me, they were, at the same time, not. Almost every story recorded in that book I had thought of, in some form of resemblance, laying as a child under the trees in my yard. The fairies, the elves, the different kinds of fae creatures, the magical harps and fiddles, the ghosts and spirits and the traditions and superstitions. The book contained references to the pagan beliefs of the Welsh people, that still were kept alive despite centuries of Christianity. Connections to druidry. I was stunned and felt a little foolish for not realizing this before.

It has been such a real joy to continue researching Wales (Cymru!) and dreaming about maybe, possibly, someday visiting the country and traveling to the area my fathers family came from. In the darkness of the early year I clung to my reading and research with grateful desperation. It got me through a very dark time. I feel like in many ways I am discovering family I never knew exisited and finding myself part of something very wonderful and warm after feeling quite alone, in many ways, since I was very young. 

I haven't celebrated any OBOD sacred days very much this year, or last. After Beltane I stopped having the energy to look forward to and prepare for the special days with much enthusiasm. I noted them as they came, and that was about all. But this year I did celebrate St. David's Day on March 1st, with all my children. We prepared a meal from the cookbook First Catch your Peacock and watched the 1940 movie The Proud Valley starring Paul Robeson. 

I have been deeply researching the origins of Welsh national costume and have plans to make my own version sometime this year - and, what is more, I feel absolutely enthusiastic and excited about it! Is all that part of OBOD, part of the druid path? I think it is! While I want to soon get back to "proper" studies I am so grateful for having the opportunity to think more deeply about my own past and my own family connections. Doing so has only reinforced my ties to my ancestors and, at the same time, to the path of druidry. 

 Much love, Sarah

1 comment:

  1. Some of this is so sad, but some moves me positively. The accounts of your young days and maybe seeing them again, after reading the letter, and the old book. Peace.


My Approach

This blog is written from the perspective of someone who was raised in a conservative Christian community and who was taught that the spiritual element of nature is a reflection of the glory of God. It wasn't until my mid to late 20's that I was brave enough to question what I had been taught and not until my 30's that I knew that nature based spiritual belief systems existed, though often under the umbrella term "pagan". I began to search my own instincts more thoroughly and this brought me back to the very beginning of my memory store, where I felt awe, joy and awareness in the presence of nature. Over the next years, my studying and discovery of different possible fits for my re-discovered and progressing beliefs brought me to the early 19th century Transcendental movement, Unitarian and Quaker churches and finally back to my first church, the church of Nature. While my Christian upbringing still influences my approach and I find much merit in the Bible, I no longer feel confined to narrow, specific and uncompromising views. When I discovered OBOD in 2018 I knew I had found a community of like minded people. While modern druidry is, at best, a very faint and uncertain reflection of the druids of old, engaging in earth-honoring practices makes me feel connected to the past, present and future in a way that feels natural and right. I am so happy to be on this druid path.