Monday, November 30, 2009

Travel: Witches in the Woodwork - 3 (final)

The last Wiccan I met on my travels was on a Greyhound bus.

After two years in college, I took a year off. It wasn't a well thought out year off, but it was full of adventures.

It started by car, my '67 Fiat Coupe. I had just a little money, and two possible destinations: Norwood, Mass. (for a Halloween Party), and Long Island to visit boyhood friends. (The boyhood friends were not from my boyhood, but from the fellow I was traveling with. The Halloween Party... that was with my friends -- one was a former co-worker from my days at Baskin-Robbins. Her name was Toni.)

That road trip lasted about two or three months. We left in mid-September, and I returned in early December. I almost didn't come back. I almost stayed in Norwood, Mass., but that's another story.

I had a job lined up in Norwood, and I had roommates lined up too. But at the last minute, we scuttled our plans. I decided to travel back to California, while my traveling buddy continued his journeys with the aim of working the ski lifts of Vermont. (His plans didn't anticipate a nearly snow-less and jobless winter in Killington.)

My plans involved traveling by bus from Norwood, Mass. to Anaheim, California.

Currently you can buy a non-refundable, one-way ticket from Greyhound to make the 3,325 mile trek from Boston to Anaheim for about $250 dollars. The trip would take 3 days, 2 hours, and 10 minutes. (The trip would also involve 4 or 5 transfers.)

To most of my readers, that doesn't sound like a great trip. It's not.

But that's where I met Wiccan #3. She was a senior in high school and just getting into her studies of Wiccan.

Memory is funny. The first thing I remember about my bus trip was a 35 to 45 year old woman who sat next on the first leg of my trip. She wore a wig and heavy make-up. She had a really sad story. I don't remember the story, but I remember giving her some (if not all) of the little money I had left.

People are like fish. Different kinds of fish live in different kinds of water and at different depths. The fish that travel the Greyhound are different from those who fly. They are poorer and a bit rougher. (A similar contrast can be found in various department stores?)

There is no reserve seating on buses. It's a crap-shoot. My next seat mate was much more to my liking: closer to my age too. (I was 19ish; she was 17ish.)

I don't recall her name, though I've tried. She lived in Overland Park, Kansas. I know that because we exchanged letters for a while. I even visited her while on another road-trip. I stopped by the day she was loading her moving van. (That was a short visit.)

On the bus, we chatted, conversed, discoursed, shared our histories, shared our interests, and perhaps even flirted a bit. We had the time. Plenty of it. We slept, leaning on each other -- sitting up. It was a long bus ride.

24 hours into my trip, I was in Chicago. We had a short layover and transfer in Chicago. She accompanied me out onto the streets. I was trying to find a bank, so I could cash a refund check from Cal State, Fullerton. (I had paid my fees, but withdrawn from school in order to hit the road. They refunded my fees, and now I needed a bank to cash the check.)

We ran into some difficulty: First, I couldn't get anyone to make eye contact. Partly the problem was that in the big city you don't look at strangers; and partly, I looked strange. (I really couldn't blame them.)

Secondly, I was suffering from too long on a bus. It was affecting my mind. Here's how I knew:

I finally got someone to look at me and I blurted my question, "Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find a...., uh, a..... uh..."

They walked away.

I couldn't remember the word for bank! Too long on a bus! Too long on the same side of a bus.

The girl and I gave up and got back on the bus. I got a nice neck rub to sooth my sore neck and fevered brain. (My dad was a banker, and I had drawn a blank. Ouch.)

About twelve hours later, we had reached her departure point.

Perhaps we had developed a bit of the Stockholm Syndrome, only not for our captors, but for our fellow-prisoners -- I mean travelers. (Or each other.)

However it happened, I ended up staying a day or two with her and her sister. Her sister was older, probably early 20s, and she was a dancer, a ballerina. (She had the legs to prove it! Buff.) She also had a boyfriend. The two sisters shared a house. Their mom was... out of the picture... and their dad was overseas working for an oil company.

My Wiccan friend was a senior at an all girls' school. She took me to school the next day: kind of an unorthodox show-and-tell project. Or... look at the young hippie I found on the bus coming from New York! Isn't he cute?

I didn't see her perform any of the spells using special candles she had told me about, but I did meet the German Shepherd her dad had left to protect his girls. The dog had flunked out of police dog academy. The dog could do everything (including attack on command), but could not scale a six-foot wall. The dog tolerated me. I was more suspect than welcomed. (I remember the dog sleeping beside the bed I slept in... quietly growling in the night. -- I kept my feet in bed until daylight!)

For whatever reason, I got back on the bus to continue my trip home. I'm guessing it had to do with limitations on the ticket.

A day and a half later I arrived at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. I think one of my sisters drove over to pick me up. We made the five minute drive to our parents' house: I was glad to be home.

One of the first things I remember doing after getting home was taking a walk. It had rained, but it was still warm enough and dry enough to go walking... in... flip-flops. I smiled. Ahhh... California winters...

* * * * *

So what did I learn about witches?

They're not all bad. The ones I met were people. Most, like me, were seekers. I respected that then, and I still do.

Too often I suspect we need to ask ourselves, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

We condemn things that are alien to us, like witches, but ignore things that are close to us, like __________. (Fill in the blank... for you.)

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (I've read that in the Bible!)

I've also read, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way..."

It's too easy to judge others in order to excuse ourselves. Too easy to pick at splinters in others and ignore planks in us.

Like the religious folk who presented Jesus with the woman (and not the man) taken in adultery, we need to hear Jesus say, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

What happened to those religious folk? "At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first..." (The older ones are sometimes more aware of personal failure(s). Hey, but I'm older...)

I'm reminded of the words of a song:

It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.

Not my brother, not my sister
But it's me, oh Lord
Standing in the need of prayer.

* * * *

There may be Wiccans in the Woodwork; that's okay. That's not my direct concern. One thing I learned on my travels was that people are people. Needy people. People like me. Many of them Seekers... many still "on the road to find out."

When I was a Seeker, I read this, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

And so I sought, and so I found.

How about you?

(And to be honest... I'm still asking... seeking... and knocking...
I believe that life is not about arrival, but about travel.)

PS: In an earlier post I mentioned that I didn't carry a camera (or wear a watch). But one of my cousins had a camera. From my trip up the coast two years earlier (Wiccans #1), Dennis took this picture of Nick and I.


  1. Great picture of the young travelers! You could write a book about all your adventures. It's amazing at how much you can learn if you're open to experiences and different types of people. I'll be surprised if I ever bump into a Wiccan. After reading your post, I'll be more receptive to the idea of getting to know one if I do run into one. Interesting series of posts Don.
    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  2. Wow! What an adventure. I loved reading about it. I especially liked the move you made in the end where you talk about not judging others. That was also the theme of the sermon I heard on Sunday. Acceptance is so important.

    I also appreciated your sense of wonder in this piece. Your sense of continual discovery. It seems to be a motif in a lot of your work. Again, I really appreciate that.

    Great job on this piece. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Good series, Don! I'm glad I was able to find that photo. It took hours.
    It is the kind of thing that is easy to find unless you need it, like the word "bank".
    It is interesting that with all the emphasis from Jesus on not judging others, it turns out that Christians are notable culprits. We get so easily scared and so skittish about unconventionality.
    I don't know if you'd be surprised that certain Christians are suspicious of the authenticity of my life in Christ, just because I happen to be a Presbyterian minister.

  4. I guess the "twist" about Merlin in "That Hideous Strength" is that he is not allowed to use his magic. Instead, Maleldil arms Merlin with with angelic powers that move the planets. Apparently that is a matter of "not I, but the grace of God working in me."

  5. @september: Thanks for posting a comment. Thanksgiving was good. We went to the beach for four days. ;-) Travel is fun, especially if you find good places and good conversations. That's what I love about being married: someone to share the journey with.

    @Miss H: Thanks for stopping by. Glad you're writing on your blog again. It seems I'm often in tune with the sermons you hear. "It is my Father's world, and to my listening ear..." It's amazing what you hear, if you listen.

    That continual sense of discovery is what I've tried to cultivate. I think it's called life-long learner? Hey, that's what us teachers are trying to create! (Let's model what we teach: there's another motif!) ;-)

    @Dennis: Thanks for digging up the photo. This post did turn out to have a theme regarding not pre-judging others. I had to ask myself the question: Why were these meetings memorable and important? (One writer says, "I never know what I think about a topic, until I write on it." Me too.