Posted by: BART Station Bard | October 16, 2017

Dear Mayim

WTF? Women have so internalized our own oppression that we are tearing one of our own apart for making her own choices? I stand with you on this article, Mayim. This is not a perfect world, and as this article proves, it’s a minefield. No matter what choices we make, we will be vilified by some. The proud nail gets hammered down. I need not agree with everything you have said in print to recognize and understand what you say now in my own life.

I get these choices. No, it shouldn’t be about clothes. But it is, for both genders. I, too, have been harassed in nondescript clothes. My first bad memory was at the age of seven when a guy at the flea market tried to entice me into his van. I wore shapeless jeans and shirts at that age. I felt dirty and weird and I never told anyone. But I didn’t get into that van. At 15 or so I was followed home on the bus. A guy rubbed his crotch against my shoulder as I sat still, petrified. He whispered filthy, frightening things as he stood there and nobody noticed, or helped. He followed me off the bus and I did the only thing I could think of. I knew better than to let him know where I lived. I went into a store where we kids were known and told the adults. They got rid of him.

Clothes won’t stop harassment, but they will cut it down considerably. For good or ill, clothes send a message. That is a fact. I make completely different choices in different situations. At the East Coast OBOD gathering, I was deliciously free. I wore a tank top, an Irish dress and a long black skirt with a tartan brat and was relaxed, happy to be myself again at last. It was safe there. At work I wear a uniform. I hate it, but it allows me to do my job effectively. It is a requirement that allows me to make a living and it goes with a persona because yes, men harass me at work. I let it slide off that skin of conformity because I know that those guys see that uniform, my white hair, and my older face. They aren’t looking at me. Old men think they’re being gallant and I need to keep my job so I hold my tongue and move them along. If you think those choices are easy or cowardly, I will likewise let your words slide off those clothes that are not my choice and dedicate myself to the resources I protect. You have not earned the right to judge me.

On my commute, I make different choices. I get it, Mayim, I really do. I don’t wear that uniform to and from work, generally. It attracts unwanted attention. People think they know who I am, and I am expected to do my job when I’m in it, so I leave it in my locker. I love big, bold t-shirts, but I no longer wear them to commute either. I have plain ones now, and a plain jacket. I’m tired of the stupid comments and unwanted attention. The transit system in my area is overloaded and unpleasant and I just want to get home. I walk most of my morning commute to avoid it, and I just want to be invisible so I can be alone with my thoughts. Plain clothes give me space.

I’m creating the life I want. I’m old enough to know what I want. I live as I please on the weekends and I won’t have to be at the beck and call of others forever. I didn’t choose the work I do right now, but I did choose the workplace and I still work for the Ladies in their Sanctuary. I will do what is needful until the day I can lay that uniform aside, and I will do what I need to to remain myself and serve the other paths that I choose to walk.

All of us do the same, male, female, and genderless, as I am. Mayim, I honor and salute your choices.  I don’t agree with all of them, but I think we all have a right to voice our opinions. I don’t think it is wise or fair to dismiss anyone completely because we don’t agree with everything they have said in the past.

The Daily Dot article is worth reading, as is the New York Times editorial that has generated so much heat, noise, and light.  #metoo

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Posted by: BART Station Bard | October 9, 2017

Little Things Make A Difference

smashed Bombay Sapphire bottle in the street

Study in Blue

Sometimes it’s all you can do to get out of bed in the morning. We’ve all been there. Sometimes, like now, very little progress can be made on things. The next election is an eternity away, the bill is stalled in Congress, payday won’t come any faster. The trash is piling up in the streets—

Wait a minute.

Okay, I can’t clean up the neighborhood. But I can keep that wiggly plastic bag from hitting the water and becoming an enticing jellyfish to a marine mammal. I’m walking that way anyway and there’s a trash can at the end of the block. It’s hardly any effort to bend down and swipe it off the ground as I pass.

I can’t ban plastic bags all by my lonesome, but I can keep a few reusable bags in my pack or in my car and use them whenever I buy something.

I can’t stop Starbuck’s from using paper cups and plastic lids, but I can carry my own cup and stop using them myself.

I can build small actions into my life in such a way that they take next to no energy. I can create a new routine for myself so that these things are just the way I handle these everyday tasks, and as they disappear from my bandwidth I can look for more things to add. I can spend my energy on the big things, like town hall meetings, letters to the editor, protests—you get the idea.  The most important benefit is the new mindset I’ve created for myself. I’ve become part of the solution instead of the problem. A person who picks up trash doesn’t create it. A person who actively looks for ways to be of use will find them. And it feels good. It fills part of the hole in my heart that living in a neighborhood full of trash and tags can create. The new way of life that will get us to a future we can all live in starts with me.

What does that future look like to you? What do you see around you that has to stop? What do you see around you that we need to see more of? Most importantly, how can each one of us facilitate it in ways that don’t alienate others? For instance, I was recently at a large event. The organizer bought bottled water for an outdoor lunch. Given the situation and the community level of awareness, it was the best choice, and she’d committed herself to recycling the bottles. Yet people still complained. I was part of the work crew for this event and someone took it upon themselves to snipe about the choice to me. I took a deep breath and chose my words carefully. I had a pewter tankard of water in my hand, and I said as nicely as I could that it was our choice to take a water bottle or not. If they preferred, there were glasses in the dining hall and tap water. I don’t believe I changed a mind, but at least the subject was dropped. And my choice was clear, in my hand.

I find it very freeing to eschew guilt whenever possible. We are, after all, not necessarily the ones who caused the problem, but we are responsible, both for our choices, and for cleaning up the messes we have inherited. There’s no one else, after all, and we are responsible for the world we leave to the next generation. Will they curse our name, or revere us as the ancestors who made the right choices when it was crucial?

Our small actions add up. What we pay attention to grows. How many plastic bags have been avoided by the fact that reusable bags have become a fashion statement? How many pounds of garbage have I pulled out of the woods, a pocketful at a time? How many pounds of garbage can we avoid generating in the first place by choosing to buy quality items, avoiding over packaging, and using things until they wear out? What other changes will occur to us as a result of these small actions? Slowly, the feedback loops that spin towards extinction move more slowly—then stop—then slowly begin to spin the other way…

“such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere” —JRR Tolkien

Earth balloon, lying deflated in the street

Larder, or Living Organism?

Posted by: BART Station Bard | September 29, 2017

Y Mabinogi: An Ancient Tale Retold For Our Time

Sun on the cliffs seen from the top of the falls at Pistyll Rhaeadr

Pistyll Rhaeadr, Wales

The scholarly retellings of ancient tales can be hard going. The path to the past is often overgrown, the thread of the story difficult to follow as it passes over unfamiliar ground. Far from being work, Damh the Bard’s new album Y Mabinogi makes an ancient Tale new again. I know I’ll be listening to this many, many times, not just for knowledge, but for pleasure and inspiration–as I wait impatiently for the other branches of this tree!

I got lucky the first time I read the First Branch of the Mabinogi. The instructor in the Celtic Literature class I’d taken on a whim really understood these tales, and one of the ones she selected for the class was the First Branch. She taught us that these stories were passed on the breath, from poet to poet, meaning and understanding as vital to the telling as the words and events. She traced the path for us, from the filidh of Ireland and Wales to the bardic schools where the skills of memory, poetry, and philosophy were taught, where a tale written down was a tale killed. She taught us of the changes wrought by the first Christians who arrived in the same era that Viking invaders began killing the living libraries that held that knowledge, how the poets and priests learned from each other, and put the words they had in the cold storage of vellum and ink so they would have a chance to survive. She also showed us how to unpack that knowledge, to make it live again, and to tease out the meanings that lay hidden in the Tales. We all lived for those classes, to spend one evening a week with red-eared hounds, goddesses of sovereignty in the form of horses, or hags, and Tales chosen with care, to complement and illuminate each other. During her office hours, a line always stretched down the hall. When I listened to this album her wisdom and learning came to mind.

Damh the Bard understands these Tales in his very bones. His new album, Y Mabinogi brings the First Branch of the Mabinogi to life for our time. It is as close as we’re ever going to come to that spellbound tribe around the fire, listening to a gifted poet tell the tales that inspired a people, showed them who they were and how to live lives of connection with their past, present, and future. On his breath floats the wisdom and the beauty of the living tale, and somehow he straddles the past and the present to bring it to life again for our time. In our Now, it’s time for all of us to gather around fires, in concert halls, and yes, around iPods and speakers to share the stories of all peoples. We are living in an amazing moment in time, where we have a chance to experience the living threads of story that make up the wisdom of our whole world and learn from them all. We needn’t fear difference when we have the chance to celebrate it, and Damh’s inspired telling of this pan-Celtic Tale is something to savor, to be carried away by.

These tales were never meant to be hard work, at least in the listening. They were the movies, novels, and albums of their time. They were teaching tales, political commentary, serving as the warp of familiarity that a trained member of the Druidic class could and did use to weave the messages the people and the nobles needed to hear. The different recensions of each story that have come down to us, separated in time, snapshots of a particular era, show the remains of this process clearly. The differences in time and place are in the process of being woven together to give us a clearer picture of the Celtic world and how it changed, but the work is hardly finished. There are still many manuscripts that have not been studied, translated, remade. What might we learn as people are inspired to do the work of scholarship by beautiful retellings like Y Mabinogi?

These Tales can and should be made new again–we are lucky enough to live in a time when some of them have been. Morgan Llywelyn’s novels, for example, are excellent retellings of the Ulster cycle, the coming of the Milesians, etc. OBOD’s courses, among others, use them as teaching tools, as they were in the past before the cultures of the Celtic world were shattered, their living libraries of inspired and highly trained poets killed. What Damh has done, however, seems to me to be a recreation of the kind of performance the oral tradition might have produced–tales that could hold a people in thrall for an evening, or a series of evenings, each installment weaving them closer together in a shared experience. These stories are layered, revealing more to the listener each time they are told, and as a person or a tribe grew in wisdom, the stories grew and changed over time.

The Tale is always the same, but the emphasis and point of view has to change to fit the time it is part of. It has to be relevant to the listener in order to become part of us and whisper to us the insights we need to gain from it. This album has that power. Damh has not only produced an incredible piece of entertainment, he has drawn deeply from the source of inspiration to give us a new version of what each generation had, up until the time these tales were put in written form, and so frozen in time. The path to their power and the passion they inspire became harder and harder to reach as times and languages changed, and the cultural body of knowledge necessary to make sense of them became the province of a few specialist scholars. Luckily for us, the incredible flowering of the nineteenth century and the Celtic Twilight brought us people with the skill and the will to unpack these stories for their age, and inspired enough people to learn their nearly lost languages, to study the remnants of glosses and other materials the last generations of poets had left behind, to bring these stories through to our age and put them in the hands of a new generation of inspired poets. Damh has brought a medieval telling of this Tale into the 21st. century, and given humanity a new snapshot of our understanding of this ancient story. He has edified us, and honored the people who first committed these Tales to writing for a future they would never know.

Massive gnarled oak hanging over a trail at Point Reyes

Point Reyes, California

Posted by: BART Station Bard | May 15, 2017

On the Mountain

Green meadow, a trail, and a view all the way to San Francisco

I spent the first day of summer on the mountain. I had planned to go up there by bus, as I generally do, but a good friend offered me a ride, and so the trip began with us in a grove of huge firs on the edge of the continent.
Being carless can open up possibilities that aren’t available if all you have to do is walk out the door and turn a key to get somewhere. A shared experience can be, like yesterday, deeper and more satisfying than being up there alone. That particular grove was full of ghosts last time I went there by myself. It was nothing more than the passage of time. The people who first took me there, in the morning of my life, are both gone. So many other friends who shared the place with me are scattered, gone or moved elsewhere. There are so many memories, mostly sweet, associated with the place and those moments in time. How could I not miss them? My partner and I were wed there. So were some of our circle. The only cure seems to be bringing others there, and making more memories.
The grove has changed over the years. Some of the trees are gone, others are growing, not in their place, but as a younger part of the grove. I remember the aftermath of a fire that wiped out a new stand of saplings. It taught me something about the role of fire in this landscape, for the following year the blackened, bare ground was transformed and the grove was new and fairy-beautiful. The thickets that had been taking over the edges were gone, and the green had returned, delicate and more varied than before. The saplings returned too, in time, and now they are taller than I am. Going there with others is similar to the greening after fire. I may have gone alone for a bit, but others use the space as well. After all, it is only my circle of friends who had their time and are now gone. We found the remains of flowers near the altar stone on this day before Beltane. The circle of stones around it was scattered and I did not put it right. Maybe next time, or maybe that is yet another change that has come. That circle was not there when I first came there, after all.
My camp was minimal, but comfortable. Pantoll is first-come, first-served, and since my days off are Sunday and Monday, I usually have the campground largely to myself. If you come without a car, there’s a hike and bike spot that is considerably cheaper than the rest of the sites, but I chose to take a site by myself at the top of the hill instead, a place where I could see the sunrise and be away from the noise of the road. I had a new tent and camping stove to try out and wanted to see how much it would add to my load. The bus stops at the ranger station, so it is possible to camp by bus with more than you might want to carry long distances. The camp has lockable food boxes, and I brought a lock with me, so I dropped my gear, pitched the tent and was off to enjoy the last day of Spring.

Flowers of spring on Mt. Tamalpais

From Pantoll there are many paths to explore. I chose the Old Mine Trail, which is steep, but beautiful. There are plenty of places on the way up that will tempt you to linger, and it’s only a mile and a half to the top of the hill. All those places were full on this day–the entire mountain was full of people–but they were all there to enjoy this day between Spring and Summer—and they were outside. I hiked up slowly, the peace of the mountain settling around me. It’s changing again. So many oaks are dying, sudden for them, but years of human time encompassed in their passing.
Sudden Oak Death is endemic now.  The trees that have it can’t be removed, doing so would only spread it faster. I can see the mountain adapting. So many places that were shady and green are now bared to the sun. Firs and laurels are moving into the light left, and like any dying thing, portions of the process of the oaks being reclaimed by the earth are not pretty, but there is such beauty in others.

Dead oak, branches strewn around its trunk with young firs growing up around it.

Once their tangle of twigs and branches is cleared, the fallen limbs fall apart in rivers of rich brown. Their silver branches contrast with the green around them, particularly in this year of abundant water. The new growth on the living trees is so pale it approaches chartreuse, and so luxuriant this year that whole young firs shine that color. The laurels and firs will have their time now, for the rest of my short human life I’ll watch the oaks decline, but they too will adapt. The ones who learn to survive will have a place in this woodland and we will learn from them in our turn. For now, the dead and dying oaks stand like ancient statuary, shorn of limbs, shooting out new growth for as long as they can. Their trunks are marked by their disease, myriad patterns and so many shades of brown all the way to the silver that surrounds them in their dead fallen branches.

Brown rotted wood spilling out of a silvered trunk.

I sat with that grove of oaks for a while. I was sorry I hadn’t seen it in its green coolness, but on a day like today, I was venturing farther off to the sides of the trail for rest. I could see what it had been, and I’ll have a chance to see the beginnings of what it will become. By the time I got up to Rock Springs the parking lot was so full people were pulling to the sides of the road, using any turnout they could find. I find that being without a car limits me a bit in what green places I can get to, but it also allows me to get to know the places I do go in a deeper way. A place like the mountain has so many layers and so much beauty that I am still discovering places I’ve never seen after years of exploring.

A small seasonal streamlet flowing across rock next to the path.

There was so much water! The whole mountain was singing the song of it. I could hear Rock Springs before I got there and filling my bottles took seconds. I drank deeply of the cold, clear water in a way I haven’t in a long time.
I came back to a nearly empty campsite, wanting a cup of tea. The ranger at the window when I’d checked in couldn’t sell me kindling for my camp stove, only a bundle of wood, but when I came back there was a plastic mesh bag with kindling in it lying on the stump at my site. At a campsite, you really do subsist on the kindness of rangers… It turned out to be more than enough to boil a pot of water and I found out that while the new biolite stove (URL) is indeed efficient, and the perfect toy for a firebug like me, it is also voracious. It turns little bits of wood into power, heat, and light, but you have to be there to feed it. It seems a fair trade to me and I was happy to be able to top up the charge on my phone. It was actually nothing short of magical to know that here is a tool that feeds off of what is abundant in any forest–small sticks, and with nothing more than a steady supply of that I can cook without damaging the ground and keep my electronics topped up.

Stove and electronics charger in one

I woke up as the sun was coming up. I’d had a fire as well,  since I had the wood and who doesn’t like a fire when camping? I fired up the stove again and made a cup of tea, then went walking on the trail to Stinson Beach. I wanted to see the wildflowers and walk in the early morning. When I got out there I wished I’d taken the time to pack up, because I’d have been free to walk all the way to Stinson Beach. Another nice thing about going without a car is not having to return to where you’re parked. It’s a different kind of freedom. I can’t stop at every place that looks interesting by the side of the road, but neither am I tied to the road. The trail to Stinson Beach is only 4 miles, but by the time I got back to camp and packed up, there wasn’t time to walk the whole way by the time the bus left.

San Francisco from Mt. Tamalpais

There wasn’t enough time by any measure. I only had a day and a night, and I knew I’d only get a taste of what I was after. A car wouldn’t have made much difference and I wouldn’t have been able to spend the whole time on the bus down the mountain looking at the scenery if I’d driven. The trip would have had a different quality and I would actually have seen a lot less than I did. Walking every day has slowed me down in ways I never expected. The journey is every bit as important than the destination, and I’m free to spend that time in conversation with the landscape.
The trees and the rocks tell stories, and not all of them can be photographed. In a wooded section of trail, for instance, an oak had begun to fall. A crotch in a limb broke its fall against a fir. The oak was sick, the two ends of the limb were ravaged by Sudden Oak Death and reached out in something that looked like terror–or was that just a trick of perspective? It had hit the fir many years ago, hard, because the trunk was knocked well off center, but the fir had had time to grow upward again in a graceful arc. Both trees were still alive, and the drama beside the trail will likely be playing out for many years to come, barring further catastrophe.

Oak breaking its fall on a fir tree

Farther along is a laurel that lost the battle with wind and  torrential rain. It lies downhill, roots like a wall next to the trail. The crater that they occupied has now become the trail and there’s a rock there that was the perfect place to sit and look at the parts once firmly in the soil. I was sitting where the tree had once stood, looking at the stones still wrapped in roots, and each other.
In a forest that has been allowed to have these conversations with itself there is much to be learned. Root and branch and rock intertwine and shape each other. Straight, salable timber is nowhere near as interesting or as alive as a forest that has had time to get to know itself and has many different species living and growing together. The meadows, largely bare of trees, are full of flowers now and the dark green and the light show us where the water is. It is early summer now, and every flower and green leaf is singing life with all it has in it. Very soon, now that the rains have gone, the green will slowly fade to gold. The song of bees will turn to grasshoppers and the high song of Summer with its one clear, clean note. If I go there then the days will be hot and dusty, and just as I smell of oak right now, then I will smell of Lugh as I walk the trails. I’ll be doubly grateful for the spring then.

Spring wildflowers in the evening sun

If you want to camp on Mt. Tam, directions and total trip time from your location are available on 511.org. Just search for directions to Pantoll Campground. You can get a number of buses out of San Francisco near Civic Center that cross the  61 South Route. 

Oak wood on ground

Posted by: BART Station Bard | April 17, 2017

We Choose Life

Gibbous Earth rising over moon

Earthrise from Apollo 8. Dec 24th, 1968

Every morning I leave my house before the sun is up. As I walk to work I see the trees leafing out and the good green Earth opening to the rain, the sun, the fog. Our current situation, the spectre of global warming, our separation from each other, the roar of traffic, I see them all as quaint relics of the past. I spend a few minutes in mythic time and see past, present, future. I see this moment in time when we stood at the center of the hourglass, the choices we have made narrowing behind us until we reached this point between past and future. I see the moment when we chose life.

We are living through the beginning of planetary awareness. We are also at the beginning of an extinction event. We exist in wonderful, terrible, pivotal times. The decisions we make now are changing the very face of Gaia.  We are the descendants of those who took the terrible road to dependence on fossil fuels, the stored sunlight of the ages. We are the ancestors of those who will live in the world that we leave them. Will they curse our names, if they have breath to do so? Will they revere us as the ones who changed the course of history and left them this good green Earth to live and grow on? Will the spiral of life and growth continue ever upward as the hourglass fills once again?

As I walk through my neighborhood, I name my blessings. On nearly every city street there are trees. Grass grows in the cracks in the pavement. Gaia clothes herself in green no matter what we put between the soil and the sky and she will not be denied. As I walk through downtown San Francisco and along the base of Telegraph Hill, I do the same. Small trees grow even in the heart of the Financial District, but the steep sides of Telegraph Hill are wild, barely tamed by retaining walls and nets of cabled steel that hold back the falling rock, once mined to ballast the deep holds of ships. Trees cling to the earth, their roots spread like fingers dug deep into soil and rock. Birds sing here and in this wet spring, water sings a song of plenty in the concrete we have set to direct it to the Bay.

I give thanks for my job, my home, my partner. I am thankful for the deep peace of knowing that in all likelihood we will both come home safe tonight. I take that deep peace that pervades my life and spread it over the whole world, thick and green. I take a moment to see what the world might be like if everyone had that peace, if everyone had food, shelter and clothing appropriate to their needs and their creeds. What would it be like if we all realized our connection and that what we do to this world we all share we do to ourselves? What would it be like to live in a world where everyone was doing exactly what they were meant to, giving their unique gift to the whole?

I see a world where we all woke up and realized that we are determining the shape of this planet and what creatures live and which ones die. This knowledge shocked us, saddened us, shamed us. It also can bring out the best in us. We brought the world to this place, where the Great Barrier Reef is dying and the jet stream itself is changing its course. We did this, and we can undo it if we remember and act on our connection. I see a world where we chose life.

We chose life.
We chose to assume responsibility equal to our power.

We chose life.
We chose to count the cost of our actions on all beings before we took them, and to apply that same calculus to the actions we had already taken.

We chose life.
We chose to become the awareness shining out of Gaia’s eyes that we were evolved to be.

We are a sense organ of this planet. We don’t own this world, we give Gaia a way to perceive it in its entirety. We showed Gaia her face for the first time, beamed it across television screens and printed it on paper, then stored it on the internet where you can look at it right now. You are Gaia looking at herself. We are Gaia, aware of past, present, and possible futures. Extinction is bearing down on us and for the first time, Gaia can see it coming. We can work to stop it, or we can let our peculiar line of evolution and awareness be swallowed by it without even trying.

I don’t think we’re going to do that. I think that the ape falling over the cliff is endowed with superhuman powers at that moment and will manage to snag a root or a rock before going over the edge. I think enough of us realize what is happening and are willing to do the work that needs to be done. I can see it happening in this early morning, as I travel across town as my hominin ancestors did, millions of years ago, on two feet, looking with intelligence, memory and awareness at the world around me. Step by step I travel, part of the city of my birth, knowing the path I follow and seeing it change every day.

I see how it could change going forward. What if we chose to walk to our destinations? What if telecommuting replaced the river of metal, each car carrying one passenger, automation being turned to the service of all to free us from the “daily grind” instead of enriching the fortunate few? What if we all walked in our neighborhoods and so reconnected with each other and the place we inhabit? What f we could get the things we need in our neighborhoods, from people we trusted because we see each other every day? Walkable cities are possible, and property values are going up in places with neighborhood restaurants, coffeehouses, grocery stores, parks. The more time we spend outside the healthier and happier we are. As I walk I know that it makes a real difference in my life. I have time to think and I know where the olive trees grow. My body may not fit the ideal, but it is strong and healthy, and the aches and pains of age are manageable, so far.
If we worked fewer hours because we all shared in the gains in productivity, we could do more things for ourselves, things we outsource now. More than that, we could do what we were meant to do. Vocation has been defined as that thing each of us can’t not do. Might the reason that we spend so much time chasing happiness be that we haven’t the time to pursue it? Since most of us must take the job that is offered rather than do the work we love, is it any wonder that so many of us exist in varying degrees of misery?

What if we all knew each other? What if neighborhoods were not empty by day and full of strangers by night? What if we shared meals, and those huge expanses of concrete where we store so many cars were instead our gardens? What if apartments came with garden plots instead of parking spots?

What if we realized that true wealth has nothing to do with money? Clean air, clean water and the living, vital earth are far more important. We cannot live without these things. The wealthiest among us cannot escape the consequences of pollution. We all breathe the same air, after all. When was the last time you looked up at the stars? Even in the city it is possible to see at least some of them. What if we turned down the lights a bit and began to see the phases of the moon and the constellations as they change with the seasons? Our world would be a very different place, one where we would make different choices and where we might find our way past that great narrowing that is the story of Now.
The fresh air of morning, the darkness before dawn is the time for visions. We have so many of them between the covers of books and on screens of all sizes. Our awareness of past, present and future allows us to create and choose which to work toward. I hope enough of us choose life.

Moss-covered standing stone silhouetted against clouds and blue sky

Penrhos Feilw Standing Stone, Anglesey

Posted by: BART Station Bard | April 3, 2017

Searching For The Oldest Tree In The Forest

A broad flat trail through a spring landscape

Spring in the East Bay Hills

I’m a city kid, born and raised in San Francisco. I’m also a Druid, and while I love the urban forest, there are times when I just have to get off the pavement and into the woods! Here in the Bay Area we are blessed with wild places. It’s surprising just how many of them are accessible on public transit. Today I’m going to share one of my closest “nature fixes,” complete with directions, should you choose to see it for yourself.

Last weekend I found myself overcome with spring fever. I was close to a BART station, so I jumped on the Fremont train. Fruitvale Station is easy to get to for many of us, and blessed with many buses to the hills. If you feel like a cup of coffee or something more substantial beforehand, there are also lots of choices there, which makes it a great starting point. The 54 line to Merritt College begins its run there, and I was soon aboard on my way to paradise. The ride winds up 35th Avenue, through the Laurel District and up the hill past a variety of places of worship. Since my church is the forest, I felt right at home. I got off at Merritt College, the end of the line. From there I crossed the street, walked across the broad lawn and crossed the street again on the other side. This put me at the head of the York Trail.

Redwoods in the sunlight next to a narrow trail

Redwoods beside the York Trail

Almost immediately I was in redwoods. The trail winds down, switching back and forth across the steep slope. I didn’t cut the switches—why miss a single minute of this? Water was running down the trail, the last rain was yesterday, after all. There were few flowers, but the green was everywhere. In a few weeks, this place will be a riot of color and I am already planning my next visit. I could hear the creek running long before I got to it. At the top of the trail it is confined in a concrete culvert, a reminder that this is still the heart of the city. I crossed the little bridge that met the trail and turned right, going downhill with the creek.

Laurel marking the York Trail

Laurel Marking the York Trail

The only marker for the York Trail is a laurel tree next to a dip in the side of the main trail. The way is rougher and steeper than the main trail, but it is an invitation to inhabit your animal body. The hazels were just beginning to leaf out and the wet, wild smell of earth and new growth surrounded me.

Leona Heights was logged a century and more ago. The redwoods that grow in the canyon are all new growth, all but one. This was the adventure I chose this wet, spring day. Old Survivor grew in a hard place and was spared the axe. I found its crown, sticking high above the tops of the younger trees, but the drop from the trail above isn’t possible, or at least I don’t want to chance it. Today I worked my way down the trail till the forest called me, then struck out across the hillside. I followed the ways the deer took across the good green earth, through hazels and poison oak. I took my time, sang to Brighid as I stood next to a hazel with leaves and branches so small and fine they seemed to be floating in midair.

Hazel in Leona Heights Just Leafing Out

Hazel in Leona Heights Just Leafing Out

I could see the York trail below me and hear the song of water, so loud in this year of plentiful rain. I trusted my boots, jeans and thick canvas coat to protect me from the poison oak, like the hazel, just budding out, and to hide me from the spring breakers whose voices rang through the canyon. I was glad I’d heeded the call of the forest and that the wet undergrowth was quiet beneath my feet as I followed the deer paths from redwood to hazel to laurel. At every opening in the canopy I looked up, hoping to find the tree I was looking for, but the forest wasn’t going to give up its secrets today. The oldest tree in the forest would remain a quest for another time. When I ran out of deer paths I climbed back up to the trail I’d started from and looked once again for Old Survivor. The French broom was so thick from the rains that it was hard to find, but there it was, and the drop over the edge of the trail was just as bad as I remembered. I followed it to another side trail and back down to Mountain Road. A ten minute walk had me back on the Redwood Road, and at the 54 stop next to the Safeway. Home was only two buses away.

If you’d like to take this adventure yourself, here is a basic page on the area. If you find Old Survivor, let’s go hiking together!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: BART Station Bard | March 30, 2017

So goes the East Bay, so goes the country

Full disclosure–I wrote this, instead of my semi weekly blog post. And if you have an Indivisible chapter near you, it’s a great way to get involved in the movement against the Trump administration.

Indivisible East Bay

I wasn’t an activist when I arrived at Barbara Lee’s town hall meeting last Saturday. I’d RSVP’d to attend a day or two before the event, disgusted at the antics of Congress over the AHCA, hoping that I’d find some way to plug into the movement I can feel coalescing around me.
Indivisible East Bay did an amazing job of putting together the event. The energy was infectious. It was more than just the failure of the Dickensian “replacement” for the ACA, though we pulled strength from that victory. Our voices and applause filled the gym at Laney College. We knew we were part of something, and many of us, like me, were there for the first time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and our numbers are growing. We have to, as Barbara Lee said, “stay woke, work hard and resist.” She praised us for fighting, graciously…

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Posted by: BART Station Bard | March 27, 2017

Magic for the People

Another binding spell for45–well thought out and researched.

Crown of Stars

In February 2017 a ritual began to circulate on line that was designed to bind Donald John Trump, aka 45, aka any number of names one might wish to ascribe to the individual sworn into the Office of President of the United States in January of 2017, and all those who abet him.

That ritual is posted here: https://extranewsfeed.com/a-spell-to-bind-donald-trump-and-all-those-who-abet-him-february-24th-mass-ritual-51f3d94f62f4#.sfcwqlijo

I, along with others, participated in this magical action on the February New Moon. Following the ritual’s completion there were many conversations about its efficacy and other possible approaches to using magic to stop 45 and his crew from doing harm to the people they are sworn to protect. One idea was to go through the very oath he and his people had already taken and broken. I found this very appealing and set out to craft a ritual from this perspective.

What follows is the Working portion only.

All elements…

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Posted by: BART Station Bard | March 20, 2017

Disposable Values

   This is a little thing, but it’s something I’ve noticed and tried to do something about now that I’m part of a group that runs public events. The sheer amount of garbage that can be generated by one public ritual with food or one potluck in the park is surprising. Once upon a time, when most of the trash was paper or glass, it wasn’t that bad, but now that just about everything comes wrapped in plastic, it’s come time to think about what we’re doing, and what it says about us.
   I don’t want to load more onto the backs of unpaid, overworked organizers of events–I know how hard it is to even pull these things off, let alone think about sustainability in a world that does nothing to make it any easier, not even the simple things like providing drinking fountains and bathrooms with running water in public parks. I get that even getting to a potluck for some requires a quick trip to the store on the way and the choices will rarely be optimum. I don’t want to shame people, I just think we need to think about what we do, why, and how we can begin to make personal and cultural changes. I think it begins with honesty and awareness. When we make a choice, we should own it. No excuses, but no finger-pointing either. We can do more than talk about being connected to each other and the earth, and we can show it by respecting both.
   Now I know it’s a pain for an organizer to shlep a bunch of tableware to an event. I do it myself, and there’s a limit to how much I can bring. So I really appreciate it when people think ahead when they can. Drinking fountains have sadly gone out of fashion, but water bottles are available and could become the in thing for us. Likewise the steel insulated cup. If our personal tableware became as much of a fashion statement as our clothing and jewelry, it could even be fun.
   We run a room at a local Pagan con. We’re new at it, but getting better every year. One of the first things I pack are cloth dish towels, a sponge and a bottle of dish soap. It’s made things a lot easier for us and now I’m wondering if this could be a possible culture change. It’s a whole lot easier to bring washing gear than tableware for fifty, even the disposable kind. If we had ways to wash what we brought, and washing our own eating gear was as natural to us as washing our own hands, the “ick” factor would go way down. What if it became something that spread to the wider culture, like hand sanitizer seems to have? Manufacturers wouldn’t like it much, of course, as they wouldn’t be able to sell as much stuff to us in the form of disposable products, nor would they be able to plaster advertising over quite as many coffee cups, but would that really be such a bad thing? We seem to be adjusting to reusable bags after all. Could we go back to washing our own utensils as a means of knowing that they were really clean instead of needing something brand new every time to assure us of the same thing?
   I know these are big changes. I know there’s very little chance of this becoming a “thing.” I know there’s a very real possibility that no one has even read this far. But if you have, I want to leave you with a concrete example of a place where this kind of awareness worked.
   I worked Renaissance Faire for many years. We all carried tankards, knives and eating gear. Often we brought foods that would be eaten in the time we were portraying. It was part of the fun, and like our clothing it was another way of displaying originality and personality. It was also handy. I didn’t realize just how much easier it was on the land. Faire was, incidentally, the place I was introduced to Paganism. Sleeping on the ground, my eyes adjusting to the rhythms of day and night, I felt part of the time and place we were portraying. Those times and those people are long gone now, but the feelings and the habits remain. They bring me closer to connection.
Posted by: BART Station Bard | March 13, 2017

Druids? In Berkeley?

macrolevel

Sure! You can probably find us anywhere, if you choose to look for us. I did have quite a time finding my way into Druidry, but when walking in the forest, I’ve always tended to take the harder path. It’s usually the most interesting, but there are generally fewer folk on it. I found a few though, and the more fun we have, the more people we seem to meet up with. Are you in the San Francisco Bay Area and interested in what we do? Read on—

East Bay Druids and interested folk in the East Bay have been gathering in Berkeley since around Beltane of 2015. Our next public Beltane ritual will be on April 23rd in Live Oak Park in Berkeley. While the ritual will be Druidic, we’ll be doing the Anglesey Druid Order’s Triskelion ritual, all are welcome, of any spirituality or none whatsoever. We do two gatherings a year, around Beltane and Samhain, and if you want to get on our events mailing list just email us at eastbaydruids@mail.com.

We also gather once a month to do something Druidic, anything from learning a skill to talking about a topic to taking a walk in the woods. We take it in turns to lead a meeting, and here are the next three scheduled offerings:

Anglesey Druid Order Triskelion Ritual
Sunday, April 9th from 12-3PM
We are currently meeting in North Oakland, within walking distance of Ashby BART.  Email eastbaydruids@mail.com for location.

This month’s offering is an introduction to the ADO Triskelion ritual in preparation for our Beltane ritual in Live Oak Park on April 23rd at noon. Erin Rose Conner will be presenting. Three of our members learned this ritual from Kristoffer Hughes. It was created by the Anglesey Druid Order and works with the Realms of Land, Sea, and Sky, rather than the four elements. We’re gauging interest in this form and also looking to train others so you aren’t always looking at the same folk taking the ritual roles, and so we have some people in the circle who know the call and response bits! (hint—a little basic Welsh is involved and easier to pick up than you might think—particularly if we’re all doing it together!) We don’t do anything without translation, and we were complete newbies not very long ago.

Druid Forest Walk
We’ll meet in the Redwood Bowl Staging Area in Oakland near Chabot Space Science Center.
May 14th 10:00 (note the time! Two hours earlier than our usual meeting time!)
Google Maps directions from Skyline Blvd and Joaquin Miller Rd:
https://tinyurl.com/zpreyvr

Our possible destinations include the Fairy Ring, the Redwood Bowl, and the Blossom Rock Navigation Trees.
There are bathrooms and water available at the Redwood Bowl, but water bottles, sunscreen, good walking shoes and clothing for a range of temperatures recommended.
If you can offer a ride or are looking for one, email us at eastbaydruids@mail.com and we’ll try to match you up with someone. It is possible to get there by public transit, AC Transit Line #339 goes to Chabot Space Science Center and #39 goes to Skyline and Joaquin Miller Rd. Email for more detailed directions if you need them.

Talking With Odin at the Hearth
June 11th from 12-3
We are currently meeting in North Oakland, within walking distance of Ashby BART.  Email eastbaydruids@mail.com for location.

Dave Shultz will be reprising his Pantheacon offering Talking With Odin at the Hearth. The World Tree will be involved as well.

We’re always open to new folk, and new presenters. You need not attend every meeting, just the ones that interest you. All Druids of any order or none whatsoever welcome. Consider this a spiritual salon of sorts, on the topic of Druidry.

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