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*chuckle*  In the midst of cleaning and reorganizing after the flood of a few weeks back, I found a stack of my old high school poetry (written almost exclusively in Grade 12). I've begun putting the OCR software that came bundled with my scanner/printer to use, reclaiming my writing from those old dot-matrix printouts (yes, dot-matrix). Much of the poetry is dated, some of it is cringe worthy, and a few are... revealing. 

Take, for example, this poem about Death, in which I discovered I had some understanding of a fundamental pagan truth years before I actually became pagan:



Death 

I am Death. 
I am not Evil. 
I am not Good. 
I am feared, and hated, 
Yet I bring lasting peace 
I am an agent of Destruction, 
And by destroying, 
I become an agent of Creation: 
Allowing change, renewal, 
And rebirth. 
I am a destroyer. 
I am a creator. 
I am a bringer of change. 
I am Death.


Yes, not my most brilliant work (I was 18, cut me some slack!), but, yeah, the concept of Death being intimately tied to Rebirth is one I did not realize I had rolling around in my brain for so long.



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This is a true tale, a recounting of how my skepticism regarding things of a supernatural nature, most notably revolving around the existence of an afterlife, received a very solid kick to the groin.

Witness a tale of supernatural going-ons... )

Blessed Samhain!
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In response to [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith 's latest Poetry Fishbowl theme, vampires, I wanted to a provide a prompt regarding the real world origins of vampires. I can't seem to locate the original essay I had read many years ago that talked about this, but I do recall that vampire myths began with the Middle Ages peasants experience with death, especially in relation to plagues. The people of this time period would not have a scientific understanding of decomposition, or of the transmission of disease. Very simply, a body put into the ground was expected to be a skeleton the next time it was seen.

Bloated corpses and other fun things! )
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Waiting for me at the bottom of the large box of comics I've collected through the years of my youth is a set of prints of the character sketches Frank Frazetta drew for the production of the animated film 'Fire and Ice.' I think that film really exemplified the worlds that Frazetta illustrated, these incredibly primal, violent, savage, yet beautiful and, ultimately, mythic realms, populated by epic characters of our era's making: Conan, Kull, Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and many, many others. These are the 'Beowulfs' that I grew up with and nothing breathed more life and power into them than the artwork of Frazetta.

You will be missed, Frank.
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Yep, it's Samhain and, as I've promised myself, I finally broke open that bottle of Crystal Head Vodka that my brother got me for my birthday. I've thus far two shots plus something called a Toasted Almond (which has amaretto and coffee liqueuer, as well as the vodka). The amaretto lends the 'almond' part of the name, but 'toasted', methinks comes from the effect of having downed a cocktail with three ounces of liqueuer in it. *chuckle* (It may seem like I'm typing coherently, but you wouldn't believe how many times I've had to backspace and correct. LOL!) The Dead? They're still working on the first shot, the teatotallers. *chuckle*

I made a nice meal for 'em, too. Sort of a shrimp and linguine dish with a garlic, cream cheese and spinach sauce. Tried the recipe for the first time - very yummm!

And for desert? RUMBALLS!!! Imagine some highly decadent profiteroles... liberally laced with rummy goodness.  :D  (Okay, I didn't make those: they came from a family bakery that operates out of the market I went to today.)

And have the Dead touched a single bite? 'Course not! Must've spoiled their appetites before coming to dinner. Ah, well! I'll leave it out for tonight and they can pick on what they want. Whatever is left over in the morning goes out the natual world.

I lit some candles for the honored Dead. Amongst them my grandmother, though I strongly suspect she's probably already on her next turn of the Wheel. I also honored an old acquantance, Wolfie, from my Lycos Pagan Horde days. She finally lost her battle to cancer this year. Her wild tales of her life as a trucker will be missed. Keep on truckin', Wolfie!

And to the living, BLESSED SAMHAIN!!! (or HAPPY HALLOWEEN, if you are thus inclined! :D )

The wheel in the sky keeps on turning...




The Vow

Nov. 11th, 2008 05:21 pm
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Before a candle lit in honor of the Fallen, I renewed my vow to them, to lead a life worthy of their sacrifice.

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 To me, few songs speak more of love and devotion that this wonderful piece by the late, great Australian musician, Baterz:  

http://survivors.groups.vox.com/library/ audio/6a00c2251d31da604a00d09e670d95be2b .html 

(Sorry, no lyrics on hand; you'll just have to listen to the song.)

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 On Tuesday, Gary Gygax,  the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, one of my absolute favourite past-times, passed away. 

http://entertainment.msn.com/news/articl e.aspx?news=303923 

He was the ubernerd, the one nerd to rule them all. And now he's gone... *sigh* 

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was about twelve years old and have been an avid fan ever since. There's nothing quite like the camraderie of a good gaming group creating a collaborative story armed with books, character sheets, weird shaped dice, and plenty of pizza, soda and other snack food. I owe a lot of my creative development (as well as my understanding of character and story, my improvisational drama skills, the maintenance of my sanity through highschool, my mental math skills, the development of several key friendships, and my knowledge of small group combat tactics) to that game. 

Tomorrow, my 'Strategy Game Club' *coughD&Dclubcough* will meet afterschool. I think I will ask my group to take a minute of silence in memory to the man responsible for the game they've come to embrace as an essential element of their identity.  

Then I'll have them trash some orcs. 

EDIT: History was shared, a moment of respect was given, and many orcs were hacked to bloody bits.

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'cause having my last post on this day being about throwing oneself in front of a train is actually kinda morbid, if one thinks about it. *quirky grin*  

Then again, I suppose it's not wholly out of the realm of romance; look at Romeo and Juliet, as well as Ophelia from Hamlet, just to name a few instances of love and lethality. And who could forget this quaint little ditty?: 

DON'T FEAR THE REAPER

Blue Oyster Cult 

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Tpy_pYXSpP A&feature=related 

All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain..we can be like they are
Come on baby...don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand...don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly...don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man...

Valentine is done
Here but now they're gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity...Romeo and Juliet
40,000 men and women everyday...Like Romeo and Juliet
40,000 men and women everyday...Redefine happiness
Another 40,000 coming everyday...We can be like they are
Come on baby...don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand...don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly...don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man...

Love of two is one
Here but now they're gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn't go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared...saying don't be afraid
Come on baby...and she had no fear
And she ran to him...then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodby...she had become like they are
She had taken his hand...she had become like they are
Come on baby...don't fear the reaper
 

Okay, so I haven't shifted the morbidity factor of today's postings one iota, have I? *chuckle* I'm HAPPY, really!!! 

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I've been rather out of sorts the last couple of days.  

Yesterday, whilst walking to the train station on my way to work, I noticed a number of familiar faces, normally seen on the train platform, heading from  the station. This was a bit worrisome, as this usually indicates a train cancellation of prolonged length. This suspicion was confirmed when one woman stopped to inform me that it was cancelled as there had been a fatality on the tracks just a couple stations away. 

Aside from being the start of a strange day that involved mock exam invigilation, a crack down after an incident involving firecrackers, and a surprisingly pleasant final period class spent with normally obnoxious year 8s, this incident served as a omen for me. When I heard the news, I couldn't help wonder if it was someone who had committed suicide. It wouldn't have been the first time that throwing oneself in front of a train crossed my mind as a solution to much of the grief I've suffered during my time teaching here. Yes, I've had some pretty rough times over the last four years.  

But those are soon to come to an end! Today, I handed in my notice for the end of April; I am now officially a short timer! I just have to count down the weeks now. Already, I can feel parts of my psyche beginning to decompress! I still have to sort out all the logistics of shipping my butt back to Canada, but that's now a 'sooner,' rather than 'later.'

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Evel Knievel is dead.  

I won't go into his amazing history of death defying acts; you can find that easily on the net, especially if I point the way to places such as this: http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/last -ride-for-man-of-steel-and-scars/2007/12 /01/1196394688218.html 

What I am going to go into is a bit of a reflection. Now, Evel hadn't crossed my mind in years, but finding out about his death brought back memories for me.  

I've never seen any of his stunts performed, either live or even recorded. Heck, I've never been to ANY stunt show. I do recall, though, as a child, knowing EXACTLY who Evel Knievel was. I recall looking forward to, when visiting a particular cousin, playing with the Evel Knievel stunt cycle set he owned (and it was well cool!). I remember seeing bits of footage on TV about his failed attempt to cross the Snake River Canyon and the talk that went on amongst the older kids when it happened. I remember hearing the rumours that he had broken every bone his body.  

I never witnessed any of the acts that made him a legend, but he was, for me as a child, just that: a legend. 

And with the passing of this legend, somehow the world seems to have lost a small portion of its magic. 

Evel, that was one hell of a ride.

the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)
Blessed Samhain to All who celebrate it in its myriad forms!

May your celebrations be filled with joyous reflection upon the fruits of your labour and loved ones past.

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... I pause to think upon the many meanings associated with that day. For most, thoughts turn towards Halloween, its Christianized, modernized, and commercialized equivalent, and about jack o' lanterns, getting cute costumes for the kids, ensuring a good supply of treats, worrying about the "tricks", and thinking about what to do for one's own costume to win the contest at the company Halloween party.

 As much as I miss my childhood days of trying to get as much candy as possible, my thoughts are a fair bit different. Yes, I do think about whether or not to try for a costume this year (but, sadly, cannot afford one yet again, nor do I have the skills, time and/or equipment to make my own) and I also wonder about what to expect from this neighbourhood (shall have to ask the neighbours) in terms of how ill behaved the local youth can be.

But, in the front of my mind, I think about the ancient Celtic view of Samhain (pronounced "sa-wen") and the celebration of the harvest (Samhain being the final harvest rite). Now I'm pretty far removed from the farming traditions of my family, but the idea of reaping the rewards of one's labour over the course of the year is still quite relevant. Afterall, when would be a better time to celebrate one's accomplishments over the course of the year?

 Okay, okay, I can already hear a number of people shouting "New Year's Eve!" and in response to that, well, you're absolutely correct. And, for the Celtic peoples, Samhain was, indeed, New Year's Eve. Of course, for a people whose lives revolved around the cycles of farming, the last day of harvest would be the most appropriate one to celebrate the year with.

So what have I to think about this year? Well, it did see a huge change in my health, including finally being rid of the need to use a CPAP machine to deal with obstructive sleep apnea, as well as actually running a 10k race (a HUGE accomplishment for me). Career wise, it was nice to kept for more than a year, even if I was given all crap classes to teach this year. I no longer question my own ability as a teacher and no longer have anything to really prove to myself in that regard.

This weekend, I'll be marking year 11 Original Writing coursework. In a very true sense, I will being seeing the results of a LOT of effort I have put into their Hero's Journey project over the past half term. I am already well pleased by how many of them actually produced work (this is a very low ability and under-motivated group). Like I say, I no longer really have anything to prove to myself, teaching-wise.

Family wise, this summer proved very important in that I returned to places and people that I hadn't seen since my childhood. It was a great time of spiritual and emotional healing. I was also pleased and relieved to see two of my grandparents, who will not be much longer for this world. It is quite possible that I have seen them for the last time, but, at least, my final memories of them will be pleasant ones.

Traditionally, the Celtic New Year was celebrated with large bonfires used to symbolize purification. In many instances, two bonfires would be set and both people and livestock would be passed between the two in act of purification (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain).

 As Samhain saw the end of the old and the beginning of the new, it was also a time to reflect on one's departed loved ones. By legend, the barrier between the world of the living and that of the dead would be thinnest, as the Summer Lord (Holly Lord, Green Man, etc.) made his descent in the underworld to await rebirth in the spring. There are a plethora of different practices associated with this aspect of Samhain. "Trick or treating" is derived from practices involving leaving offerings for the dead, such as food and drink. Many modern pagans utilize the tradition of the "dumb feast," in which a place is set at one's dinner table for the honoured dead. I, myself, tend to light special candles and share a drink with the dead, in a fashion that would be similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead (one day I'll have to explore the reasons for the many parallels between such similar practices on this day for such differing cultures).

Interestingly, during my early years as a pagan, I actually didn't have any specific people from my life to honour. I gave thanks to my ancestors, as an abstract generality, and to a person of substantial effect on my own spiritual values, O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba. That changed with the death of my grandmother some years back. Now, I light a candle specifically for her, as well as one for my ancestors.

Of course, such communion with the dead also includes the God, as embodied by the Holly Lord. The solemnity of this ceremony is tempered, though, by the acknowledgment that, whilst He and the land pass into a time of darkness, Spring will see His rebirth, as light and warmth once again begin to embrace the world. Oh, and also all that celebration (The Dead drink a lot, you know! You have to keep pace with 'em!).

Sorta goes well beyond "Shall I dress as a witch for Halloween?", don't it. *chuckle*

 I think I'll end this reflection with the suitably seasonal song, Holly Lord, by the Australian folk band, Spiral Dance. The song can be heard here: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/songInfo .cfm?bandID=461752&songID=3411737

 

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The first day back to school wasn't boring, thankfully. Much of the time was given over to departments to get some planning done. The free breakfast and lunch were a nice touch. On my end of things, though, little got done; time tables and the like hadn't been printed out yet, so I still have no clue who I'll be teaching and when. Hopefully, that'll be resolved tomorrow... if I don't wind up replacing our missing science teacher (the one that was supposed to teach for the term and then leaving for Australia apparently, as has only very recently been discovered, already IS in Australia).

Speaking of Australia, it was really saddening to learn of Steve Irwin's recent death. As often as I may have made cracks about his antics, I still had quite a measure of respect for him and his work. At least, though, he died whilst truly living.
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By now, my folks are about half way across Canada. They're on their way to see my paternal grandfather, who is dying of cancer and has been told he hasn't much time. They have to drive as they really can't afford airfare, but the driving really cuts into their available time for this trip (which isn't really all that much before my father starts work again). When I last spoke to Mom, she was a bit stressed out about the whole thing as there was so much to do before they left.

Before they left, I asked for my grandfather's telephone number. I'm not sure if I'll call or not; I picture the whole thing being quite awkward between the two of us (especially given that we do not share a language of proficiency (he is solely French speaking and my French "est la merde")). On top of that, we haven't really given a damn about each other for over a decade. In those years, the only conversation we've had (if you could call it that) was when I would answer the phone on the rare occasions that he was calling my father. Any attempts to engage in even simple conversation ("How are you?" "I am fine.") at such points met with failure. Just to be clear, I don't bear him any malice; I just don't really bear much of anything for him. I'm guessing the feelings are mutual.

But the opportunity to speak with him is now coming to a permanent close. And that finality is making me question whether or not I should break the silence. If I call him, what would I say? ("Hi, how are ya?" "Merde, I'm dying.") It's not like we can really sustain a meaningful conversation, given language differences (even with the translation help of my mother when she arrives). Should I even call? Would calling him give him him any comfort, knowing that I've thought of him or that his grandson has finally achieved some measure of success in a career? Or would it just uncomfortably remind him of the long standing distance between us? It's a bit of a conundrum.

I've still got a couple days to think about this, before my parents arrive back east.

In the meantime, I'd best get on with enjoying the last week of my vacation.
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(sigh...) I just got an e-mail from my mother; poor Chip, the family dog of nearly fifteen years, had to be euthanized earlier this week. It is kind of hard to imagine that the little bundle of energetic joy is now quiet forever. I feel sad, but, given how much he has been deteriorating in the last couple of years, I knew this day would come eventually. The poor little guy had bad back, was losing both sight and hearing, and, I'm pretty sure, was going senile, too.

For those who didn't know him, he was the cutest, friendliest pomeranian imaginable. He didn't have the buggy, chihuahua-like eyes that many have; instead, he closely resembled a husky puppy, albeit with a lot more hair. He also had a matching puppy-like enthusiasm that he would carry with him well into his twilight years.

Now, I can no longer look forward to hearing his joyful barking as he jumps up and down excitably at the door, eagerly waiting for me to enter. Somehow, the world seems a little dimmer.

I will have to be sure to make voice contact with home; his passing has been difficult for my family.
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A couple days ago, I was watching a documentary about a small group of people who enacted an unusual rite. Guided by a small number of modern day shamans, an assorted group of people underwent an ordeal where they fasted for three days, hiked out to a lonely meadow, dug their own graves, and were buried alive in them overnight. The basic idea was to come to grips with death. I watched this program with a bit of interest and from it came two lines of thought.

First, I realized that I should, at some point in my life, undergo a similar ordeal which would bring me to the alternate states of consciousness that these people obtained. I would like to undertake a "vision quest." Unfortunately, this comes upon me too late to take advantage of the contacts I have here to find a suitable guide for such an endeavor and I would be hard pressed to find someone I could trust in England, given how little time I would have available. Ah well! It's not like I will be away forever. I suppose I could follow the example set by a friend of mine and indulge in 'shrooms or the like, but that seems too "easy." I want this event to have profound meaning for me and popping drugs doesn't cut it.

Second, I realized that I would not want to undergo this particular type of ceremony for the same purpose these people did; I've already come to a comfortable understanding with death. Now agony and suffering, those I still have a healthy terror for, but death doesn't frighten me. It simply marks the end of all concern and desire: game over. But what of the meantime? The people in this documentary spoke of realizing that could come for them at any given moment and they should live life accordingly. How so? Contact all your loved ones and tell them you love them? Spend as much time with them as possible? Go do all things you ever wanted to do right now? I don't think so! There are reasons why we don't do this already and those revolve around emotional, physical, and financial limitations.

For me, the solution to how to approach life in the face of inevitable death is to simply live life well. No, I don't talk to my family every day, but when I do, I let them know that I love them. No, I don't spend as much time as possible with everyone I love, but I do take the time to so now and then. As for doing all the things I wish to, well, I can't to them all yet, but I can take a bit of each day to do something I enjoy. I do my best to find joy and fulfillment in each day and strive to share that with others. Simple, no? As for any regrets of things left undone when I die, well, regret is only for the living.

Speaking of things left undone, I really should get around to doing something to mark Lughnassad; in all the chaos of packing and sorting, I just missed another holiday. Yerg! (rueful grin!)

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