Saturday, November 21, 2009

Travel: Witches in the Woodwork - 1

"Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, I've got seven women on my mind...", so goes the song from the 1972 by the Eagles.

About the same time this song was gaining airplay, I took a few road-trips. Along the way I met some interesting people.

I'm a talker. I like people. I find them interesting, so it's not unusual for me to engage in conversations with strangers during my travels. I've been doing it for years.

A week or so ago I watched a BBC production called Dr. Who. My wife spent some time in her youth in Scotland, and the Dr. Who series is part of her personal culture. I was just tagging along. In one particular episode, The Shakespeare Code, three unique extraterrestrials play key roles in the unfolding drama. Two of the three look very much like our Halloween witches. The third is a pretty, but conniving, blond. The third was more typical of the witches I've met.

The story line suggests that maybe these women were the prototypes for the witches that appear in some of Shakespeare's works. The story suggested to me that there are witches in the woodwork: real life practitioners of wicca who lurk at the edges of our awareness.

I've met a few.

Wika-pedia defines wicca as a neopagan, nature-based religion. If political correctness applied to witches, then we'd call them Wiccans.

Wiki-pedia informed me that Wiccans "typically worship a Goddess (traditionally a Triple Goddess) and a God... Other characteristics of Wicca includes the ritual use of magic, a basic code of morality, and the celebration of eight seasonally based festivals."

The Wiccans I met seemed nice: misunderstood nature lovers perhaps?

The first two appeared on my radar while I was on a month long motor trek up the West Coast. Starting out from my hometown of Anaheim, the home of Disneyland, Nick and I headed north. Mostly we camped out along the way. Mostly we stayed in state parks. It was beautiful.

We weren't great planners, so we had no reservations. That was only a problem the first night when our targeted state park was full. For a slightly higher fee we were able to camp out in an adjacent privately owned campground.

An LA Times writer provides a description of the area, "Waves splash over the tide pools at Carpinteria State Beach, a popular coastal camping spot southeast of Santa Barbara. When day trippers leave, campers can enjoy empty stretches of sand and the sounds of crashing surf. There are hiking and biking trails with beautiful views of the Santa Ynez Mountains on one side and the Channel Islands on the other."

We camped next to that. One of the features of our campground was an open recreational pasture-like area. Nick and I enjoyed a game of Frisbee until a youth group from a local Baptist church set up a volleyball net. They invited us to play. I joined them, and Nick retreated to our campsite to relax.

When I returned an hour or so later to the campsite, Nick was not alone. He had attracted the attention of two slightly "older" ladies. Nick was probably 19; I was 18. The girls appeared to be in the mid-20's. Go Nick.

In the course of the ensuing conversation, I discovered that our guests were Wiccans. They too were enjoying the beauty of the beach. They had moved to Santa Barbara, drawn in part by the Wiccan community that lived in the area. They were saving up their money to buy some land. They wanted to plant a grove. (Add eerie music here.)

I left Nick to the converse with the witches while I meandered over to the youth group's campfire. They had invited us for dessert and some singing. I opted for the fire, Nick opted for the shadows. (Truth be told, the girls were more interested in Nick anyway. Had the positions been reversed, I might have stayed in the shadows as well.)

For me the night was a bit of a fork in the road. At the campfire, I heard for the first time the stirring lyrics of "For Those Tears I Died." I was left pondering the question, "What if God really is real? What if Jesus is really alive and cares about my tears?"

Nick and I were pilgrims of sort. Like the title of the Cat Stevens' song of that era, we were "On The Road to Find Out."

Little did I know the reality of the lyrics of another Christian hymn that says, "I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of thee."

Regardless of that watershed night of Wiccans and Christians, Nick and I continued our journey up the Coast.

It was several years later, on another road-trip that I met my next pair of Wiccans.

More on that... next time!

Here's Cat Steven's singing the anthem of my heart at that time: On The Road To Find Out.

Here's the compare/contrast to the song I heard at the youth group's campfire:

Was it the 70's or was it just the time of early adulthood? Or maybe both?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Twins! (and other blessings)

A special bulletin: Today, in central Illinois, a set of twins were born. Mom and identical twin boys are doing fine.

I have no pictures yet... but here is a "before" of their mom, my daughter: Joanna.

Joanna is and has been an athlete. That paid dividends at delivery. (The boys are welcome additions to her family: Abby, Rachel, and husband John.)

My son, Joel, who lives, works, and plays in British Columbia is also active. Here are two pics I unearthed of him online. (In the PS to a post I almost missed, was a link to a race called Phantom Run. He won the 12k mountain trail race on November 14th. An hour and seven minutes to cover seven plus miles of trail.) The other picture of him, in better weather, is from the Mountain Madness website that sponsors these "fun" runs.

The last two pics are of my youngest daughter. (She's in Illinois to help out the new mom!) She worked this summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains repairing and building back country trails, including parts of the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon National Park. Here are a couple of pics from her summer job. (She's the one in the blue bandana.)

Kids and grand-kids: the dividends of a life invested in family.

The highlight of my birthday on Saturday, was hearing my two granddaughters sing Happy Birthday over the phone. Good times. Great blessings.

Happy Birth-day Twins!

PS: Just as I was getting ready to post this... I got an e-mail... with an attachment. (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... Ain't they cute?!!!!)

Travel Stories Anyone?

One of my fellow bloggers, Chase, has been after me for some time to recount a few stories from my various travels. (He just spent a year in Taiwan.)

I'm writing today on my 56th birthday.

At my age, I have lots of stories. (Many of them I repeat. Just ask my family.)

I have purposefully refrained from reminiscing on this blog. I've worked hard to stay in the moment, to spend time looking forward, and to explore rather than rest.

But after 200 plus blog entries, I feel okay about exploring another set of topics: my past.

I am a traveler. One of my favorite books is called, The Universal Traveler, but it's not a book about travels. It's a book about problem solving. Travelers solve problems. They encounter strange places and strange people. They do it on purpose. Strange only means different, unusual, not customary.

I have encountered many non-customary people in my travels. I converse with people. I "interview" them, and I learn.

One non-customary group of people I've met in my travels are witches.

I was reminded of them while watching an episode of a British sci-fi drama series called Dr. Who. My wife has visited Scotland several times in her life. As a result she has some interest in things British, like their TV.

Here's a taste of Dr. Who and some witches he encountered. (Next post... I'll talk about some that I've met on my travels.)

PS: The eucalyptus trees are in bloom.