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Welcome dear reader to Chrysalis!

Chrysalis is one part online journal with a spiritual focus, one part bully pulpit for my opinions and ideas and observations on Paganism and spirituality and life in general, and one part page of resources for folks in or interacting with the Pagan Movement.  Originally I focused on spirituality, but over time I am realizing that whatever your religious persuasion it interweaves with every other aspect of your life, so you never know what you might find me writing about here.

Fair warning… ;-)

Feel free to poke around the various pages(links via page titles above ~ a number of them are under going revision btw…), or to scroll along the links and quotes and link-buttons on the sidebar, or, well heck, even read some of my posts if you want!

Peace, Pax

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The Whispers of my Ancestors

(Revised and expanded upon from a Facebook Post)

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Dear Friends,

Since shortly after the riots in Charlottesville, and with the Wheel of the Seasons turning towards October and Samhain, I’ve been looking at this bottle a lot this week-end.

It came down to me from my Mother, who got it from my Great Aunt Lois. Lois picked it up in Egypt during WWII. What was my Irish American Great Aunt doing in Egypt you may ask? Working for the OSS (the Wartime forerunner of the CIA)  or so the story goes.

One time when my mother and older brother were visiting her, in the early 1980’s, Lois received one of her letters from the CIA. She received these every once in a while, basically telling her that she could now speak about her activities from such and such a date to another, as the information had been declassified.

The one mission I know something about involved sneaking onto a Nazi occupied air-field and spreading caltrops to destroy the tires and hopefully sabotage and crash Nazi planes.

Now I face the reality that a young woman died, was murdered,  in Charlottesville  standing against Nazi’s and White Supremacy on U.S. soil. At the same time as a realist and someone who is reasonably historically informed, I know that she was hardly the first to be killed by Nazi’s or White Supremacists on U.S. soil in history, or even in my lifetime, perhaps not even the first this month.

Holy Mother in Whom we live, move, and have our being;
Holy Father Who lives, moves, and has being in every atom, every cell, and every soul;
Help me, please, I pray, in whatever way I may,
Contribute to the world in such a way,
That she is one of the last.

Disaster Foreplay, the Disney Scale, and me.

Dear Friends,

Living in Hurricane Country is not so different from living in Earthquake Country is some respects. You tend to try to keep a full pantry and emergency supplies read. But it’s in the predictability of hurricanes. You can see one developing and coming, but you can’t really uproot for every storm…and sometimes they change track and sometimes they suddenly develop in scale. The meteorological foreplay over a developing storm can be nerve wracking at times.

With earthquakes…they happen or they don’t. *shrugs*

Then again I grew up with them, we did earthquake drills when I was in grade school.

I remember one time I as out to dinner with a friend who was new to Alaska and he started freaking out… “What was that?!” I blinked, confused for a moment, and then saw the hanging light fixture above the table swinging. I realized that a minor earth tremor must have happened. You get so used to them growing up in earthquake country that if they are below a certain level you stop noticing them.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, you get used to Tropical Storms and Hurricanes… in a different way of course.   It becomes a level of worry and preparedness.  You have so much more covereage of the weather in an area prone to hurricanes, every local tv station has an extensive weather bureau for example.  If it’s ‘just’ a Tropical Storm or below a certain level of Hurricane of if the dominant storm track isn’t to bad, your kind of zen about it.

Last October with Hurricane Matthew for example, the storm was going up the Eastern Coast of Florida.  Orlando and Central Florida were expecting high winds and heavy rains, but would have been on the outer edges of the storm.  Even though it was a Category 5 it was not actually making landfall.  Even with the curfews and the constant emergency alert coverage, and the mandatory evacuations along the coast, Central Floridians were relatively ‘meh’ about it.  We bough our supplies and prepared…

But then Disney announced they would be closing the Parks…

(Which they have done this 4 times since the park opened in 1971 )

THAT was when folks in Orlando and Central Florida started to get *real* nervous…

Anyway, the Fabulous Jonathan and I are keeping an eye out and my fingers crossed…

Peace,

Pax / Geoffrey

 

 

Speaking Truth to Tragedy

Dear Friends,

The day of the homophobic terror attack on Orlando, my home city.  I first heard of it in the car on my way to work, I had posted a quick something via my phone, to let people know I was ok.   Responses came in throughout the day.  That night I had to stay overnight at the motel I work at, a part of my job when I cover the General Manager’s night off.  I watched news coverage and posted to Facebook via my phone.  Flailing about for information, connection, or perhaps distraction.

“I have a lot of conflicting feelings and thoughts as I watch the coverage and think about the terror attack. Moments where I have been on the verge of tears… hearing the numbers of the fallen climb to become the worst mass shooting in US history, and then becoming the worst terror attack since 9/11. The sense of violation that it happened in a gay club, which is supposed to be a refuge from the violence and intolerance of the larger world. The stormy confluence of grief and surprise and hope at seeing the flag of my nation at half staff for my community…. the simmering fury as I flip between the news channels and not once hearing Fox even utter the word gay even once…all this and more… I will be writing about this in more depth later….”

 

So the next night, I stopped by the corner market on my own, and the nice Spanish girl who Jon and I chat with when she is on the register was all “Are you guys ok? Everybody you know ok?” and I started getting a little teary eyed…. I told her we were fine and that no one we knew was in the club…

In the car after I started getting really emotional and I had a realization.
There is a part of my mind and heart…or perhaps subconscious, that does NOT expect decency or sympathy or compassion for me as a gay man or for the LGBT community from either the larger community or my government.   Intellectually I know times have changed and that the culture has shifted in many ways… but at the same time I am still the product of the world I have grown up and lived in.
“The stormy confluence of grief and surprise and hope at seeing the flag of my nation at half staff for my community…”

I was born in March of 1972.  In December of 1973 Homosexuality was (mostly) removed as a mental illness from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Association.

I remember the news reports of the White Night Riots in 1979 when Dan White was charged with manslaughter instead of murder because of the “Twinkie Defense” for murdering Harvey Milk and George Moscone.

I remember the backlash from the Radical Right, and the Fundamentalist Christian Right, against LGBT rights starting in the 1980’s and have continued to witness it ever since.

I remember in 1982 watching the sniggering jokes in the White House Press Briefings when reporters asked Larry Speakes about AIDS.  How society at large did not give a good god damn about HIV or AIDS until it started affecting straight people.   How the LGBT community had to organize ourselves with charities and social service organizations to provide for our own sick and dying because neither the governments nor many churches would do so.

I remember sobbing outright when I discovered Magic’s Pawn, the first book of the Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  It was the first book I had ever read that had a gay man as a hero.  It was 1991 and I was 19 years old.   It was published in 1989.   I had been aware of gay male characters before in fiction and pop culture…but so many of them were either villains or stereotypes played for comedic effect, or their gayness was widely talked about in the popular culture as being controversial….

I remember how “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was instituted as a compromise, as opposed to simply allowing all citizens to serve their Nation, to placate the homophobia and ignorance.

 I remember seeing television panel show hosts not calling out the hypocrisy and specious arguments of their co-hosts on the issue of marriage equality.
I remember when a Republican President advocated for a Constitutional Amendment to limit the definition of marriage to exclude me and those like me.

I remember the genuine surprise and shock of The Supreme Court declaring that laws limiting or preventing Marriage Equality violated the Constitution.  Elation certainly, and at the same time a feeling of unease at the thought that so many would think to themselves that we had won and had nothing left to fight for.

I remember years of having to think about word choice and body language because I had to be careful what I revealed about my self, and my relationship with someone I loved, for fear of being in physical danger or losing a job or facing any number of injustices simply for being the person I was born as.

 

 

The sense of violation that it happened in a gay club, which is supposed to be a refuge from the violence and intolerance of the larger world.
.
Before we had LGBT Community Centers or Community Organizations, or Open and Affirming Denominations and Congregations, or Pride Parades, or Gay Bookstores or Gay Magazines or Newspapers or Television shows and even Networks….  We had the bars and dance clubs.  That is were we gathered and could find a space to be truly ourselves.  After Stonewall they became places of a more genuine refuge, no longer constantly in danger of a police raid…or at least less in danger of such things.
The bars and clubs were where we met, where in the 1980’s we started networking and building our charities and community organizations in the face of the AIDS epidemic and the larger societies aforementioned lack of giving a damn.  We found strength in numbers and started creating other avenues for community…establishing neighborhoods and enclaves and businesses…
For so many of us though, the bar or nightclub was the first place it was safe to be ourselves and the first place we started finding friends and families of choice that were like us.
… the simmering fury as I flip between the news channels and not once hearing Fox even utter the word gay even once…
.
The news segments that focus more on the relatively easilly parsed Islamist Extremist Terror angle and avoid the Hate Crime aspect, because at the heart of it examining Homophobia in the United States would bring up the Media’s and Society’s continuing complicity in it.
The Politicians and Pundits on the Right who express their sadness and thoughts and prayers but do not mention the LGBT community, because of course if the Right acknowledges the LGBT community has been victimized or attacked, then the Right would be in danger from not being able to make political or financial profit from attacking the LGBT community and our rights.

…all this and more… I will be writing about this in more depth later….

 

 

One of the thoughts that occurred to me today is how “Silence = Death” was another way of saying “Queer Lives Matter”; and how many of the issues raised by the folks in the Black Lives Matter movement have resonated for me as a Gay Man.   Not seeing positive portrayals in the media.  Systemic challenges to ones life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.  The fear of violence if you go to the wrong place at the wrong time.  The trials and tribulations of code switching…

Another darker thought that has run through my mind is the fact that at its heart the attack in Orlando is nothing all that new to the LGBT community except in terms of scope, and the fact that the rest of the country and the world seems to actually give a damn.

So, yeah, these are a few of the things stirring my mind and heart in the wake of the attack in Orlando.

#speakingtruthtotragedy

#silenceequalsdeath

#queerlivesmatter

#paganvalues

 

 

 

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes

(found this lurking in my drafts from about 3 years ago…)

Dear Friends,

I have lived at and under the Poverty level my entire adult life.  I am one of those shady worthless poor people that some politicians have liked to dismiss and denigrate, or I have been.  It has been hard, but partly with help from my family I have always been able to JUST make rent and bills.  It’s been a path of fear and frustration as I made just barely enough to not quite qualify for things like food assistance, and Gods know there were times it would have been a blessing.

The frustration of looking at the pantry and asking ones self ‘Do I buy groceries or go to the low cost health clinic for this hacking cough and fever?”

The paralyzing fear and frustration of knowing things in your workplace are not being run to the company standard, and wanting to either report it to your company or to look for work elsewhere…BUT…what if you get fired…or what if you get hired and your bills are late because your waiting for the new pay periods to kick in…what if ‘something’ happen?

When my father fell ill, and then a week later died, I thought about trying to get time off and my brother’s help to fly across country to see Dad one last time..but it was the busy season and I did not want to inconvenience the business that I basically depended on for everything.  (The fact that I did not want to face Dad’s mortality or my own is also floating in the background there, but is not my focus for today…)

Dad was always there for me to help me through the rough times and help financially and even give me a monthly bit of help to make my rent and bills.  I felt a lot of guilt about that, but did not know what else to do.

That’s one of the things about poverty, it leaves you feeling helpless and leads to a scarcity though process that helps keep you poor, or it can.

Dad had some money.

It’s now being split into some trust accounts for my brother and I, and so now I am in the very new place.  Relative financial security.  I have money.  Pay the bills without worrying about what I have to short change to do so, kind of money.  Able to buy a house of my own, outright, money.

With this sudden change of finances, I am exhilerated and afraid.  I have my brother riding herd on things as he is the Trustee; and I have a few close friends riding herd on me with advice on how NOT to spend all my money and how do I find a CPA and all sorts of other things that I had really thought would NEVER apply to me in this lifetime!

I have, for the first time in my adult life it feel like, CHOICES!

I could go back to school, get a bachelor’s, pursue some dreams, find a career that feeds my pocketbook and more importantly my soul.  I may someday be able to actually retire and not have to struggle and work every day until I die.

This is a strange cross-roads for me to be standing in, one I really had lost hope of finding in my life’s journey this lifetime.

A Library of One’s Own

Dear Friends,

I used to dream of being a writer, I yearned for it.  As a boy I was always filling notebooks with poems and story ideas and fragments of writing; I was also a voracious reader.  My parents probably dreaded the sight of the Scholastic catalog handed out each year in grade school, do they still do that I wonder?

Luckily we were (I now realize) middle to upper middle class and they could afford to indulge my eager and curious mind.  Usually stories of mystery, or history, or often trivia and ghost stories and books about folklore and sci-fi and fantasy.  Like I said an ever hungry reader, I remember days when there was nothing on the three tv channels of the time (yeah I am that old folks) if I could find nothing else, I might page through our dictionary or encyclopedia…

(it was the early 1980’s and this whole Internet thing was still emerging into it’s place in society at the time; these days I can often fall down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia or other online sources quite easily)

I won awards for composition, and even took part in some state wide Youth Writing Conferences.  Later on in Middle and High School I got involved in the Debate, Drama, and Forensics (informational speeches)  tournaments.  One of my two High-school letter’s was in DDF.   (the other was Theater…)

In my late teens I discovered Paganism, and given the old joke about Pagans being people of the Library, as opposed to being a people of the book, is it any wonder I was drawn to it?

I kept at it, writing poetry and amateur journalism here and there.  Then I started this blog, and briefly achieved the dream of being a professional writer… for a Pagan magazine that soon folded.

Around the same time the magazine folded, my first serious relationship…my first Partnership and the life I had moved across a continent to begin… crashed down around me.

Through out it all, I have collected, and kept in storage, a large collection of books; heck I still have some in boxes back in Alaska…

Now, recently through some twists of fate and a modest family inheritance, I am a home-owner.  I do not just have some book-shelves, I have a Library.   Books, and reading, and writing, have always been there in my life; the last few years they have been much more in the background.  But now I have a Library!!

I can walk up to my shelves and see the books of poetry and fiction and religion and spirituality and magick that have inspired and informed my life’s path and dreams.  I can leaf through many of my old notebooks and folders with fragments of my writings and poetry and recall that strange thrill that comes from communion with one’s Muse.  I can open some of them and smell the incense-smell of some of the book shops I used to frequent.

The Library, and the rest of the house, are still being put in order as day by day boxes are unpacked and our lives are sorted in the magical act of transforming this house into our home… but tonight I stretch my fingers and crack open the eggshell of my years long retreat from the written word to share these thoughts with you.

Peace,

Pax / Geoffrey

Wrestling with the evils of the world, and inside ourselves.

Dear Friends,

A few years ago I had a conversation with someone about injustice.  I made the point that here in the United States, the history lessons we receive often seem to take the attitude of “…But we dealt with it and moved on and are good…”  when talking about racism, sexism, and injustice of all sorts.

Unlike battles in some fantasy novel, there is NO final battle against evil.  The thing is that the nature of these tangled and painful evils, that lurk sometimes unseen or unrecognized in the world around us and in our hearts, is such that each individual and each generation must face them down.

This holds true not only of the larger evils of prejudice and injustice, but the more personal evils of fear and self-doubt.

The Gods demand excellence, whatever your path, and the world presents us with constant challenges to overcome.

Blessed be your Struggles and your Journey,

Pax

Where to turn?

Dear Friends,

The altar has been cleaned and rearranged and reconsecrated, an ancestor altar has been set up.  I am journalling in fits and starts, and engaging in my basic practices regularly.

I find myself wanting to write here, but at the same time I am …not afraid, but feeling uncomfortable with… the idea of opening myself up here again.

I think it comes from the fact while I was working and growing and developing as a blogger and writer here, other parts of my life were falling apart…I was at one and the same time running to the Divine and running away from life, lost on the road of my life’s journey.

It can be heartbreaking to realize that things have fallen apart.

Times like these often have me turning to the book “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron.  A collection of essays by that talented Buddhist Abbot and teacher.  At the same time I find myself lamenting the lack of books and guidance for the Contemporary Pagan.  It often seems like other more ‘mainstream’ religions have books and websites and resources to help guide their followers through the many rough and painful struggles in life.

At the same time, I can see that contemporary Paganism has these sorts of resources, just in different forms and places.  Websites, and blogs, and podcasts, festivals and workshops and our large and sometimes complicated tribes of Pagan fellow traveler’s.  The resources are there, but are trickier to categorize and find.  Many times the advice or guidance we need in the moment is interwoven with the writer’s observations of everyday life or the current dramatic scandal of the moment.

What do you think of these observations?

Peace and Blessings on your journey,

Pax