anarchist_nomad: (A Crown of Flowers)
( May. 4th, 2009 09:29 pm)
When last we left our intrepid Nomad, he was writing during the tail end of an international T2K SK video conference, following a day of theatre that kicked off a holiday weekend.

The story continues.....

After said video conference ended, certain other activities -- all in line with the spirit of the season -- kept me preoccupied. No complaints per se, but said activities resulted in this Nomad getting only about an hour of sleep before needing to wake up at 4:30am to partake in the May Morning festivities here in Oxford. We left the Flat With No Name shortly after five and, despite the closure of the Magdalen Bridge[*], we made it into the city centre by half five. Walking to the Magdalen College chapel tower, we passed the usual array of drunken college students -- some in very colourful attire. We made it to Magdalen with plenty of time before the college choir sang the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the rooftops -- a tradition dating back more than five centuries.

Once the singing had ended, we wandered through the city centre, taking in the Morris dancers, and the people dressed as trees or bushes, and the other street performers. At half six, I broke away from the group to transition from spectator to part of the entertainment. I joined a band of ringers from the OUSCR and we rang the bells at the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. This is only the second time that I have rung at SMV -- the first being May Morning last year -- and it is good to get some practice on heavier bells. Also good to ring for such a festive crowd and, best of all, the aerial vantage point from SMV provides some of the best views of the May Morning excitement! Looking out from the tower, one can simultaneously see the Rad Cam, the campuses of Brasenose College and All Souls College, the crowds, the Morris dancers... and more!

By half seven, I was done ringing. Our group reformed and we made our way to the Queen's Lane Coffee House for breakfast. We were home again by nine, at which point I collapsed into bed instantly, grabbing another two hours of sleep before needing to wake at eleven for a T2K UK analysis meeting. When the meeting ended at noon, I promptly fell back into bed, to collect another three hours of sleep. At that point, I was up for the rest of the day and proceeded to cook for [ profile] bunnypip and the two eldest leverets.

Once fed, we left Oxford and made our way back to [ profile] bunnypip's home. During the journey, I introduced her to a number of my favourite David Rovics songs. I may not have done much to celebrate May Day as an Anarchist this year -- something that I plan to make up for in 2010 -- but it was good to get in a sampling of my favourite Anarchist holiday.

After arriving in Northampton and bringing the children to their fathers, [ profile] bunnypip and I were able to have a date night to ourselves, in which we were able to celebrate Beltane properly. Again, Not Enough Sleep ensued -- I estimate five hours on Friday night.[**]

On Saturday morning, we had a failed attempt to bake bread and a successful attempt to hold a private Beltane ritual[***]. Afterward, we made our way back to Oxford to collect [ profile] cheshcat and [ profile] dr_jen. Together, we all headed to Leicester, specifically to the home of [ profile] thehalibutkid and [ profile] sanjibabes. As always, it was nice to see the lovely [ profile] sanjibabes and, for that matter, [ profile] skibbley. However, our main purpose in making the trip was to hold our group Beltane ritual. Ever since Samhain, a group of us have been working together regularly, with organisation done by yours truly and High Priestessing done by [ profile] cheshcat. I don't think that I have ever formally worked all the sabbats in a single turning of the Wheel of the Year before; the experience is turning out to be quite the positive one... not just for me, but for everyone in the group. These are not closed rituals -- most have had "guests" in addition to the regulars -- but the same five people have been at all five rituals thus far, which makes for a nice flow of continuity.

For Beltane, [ profile] cheshcat had organised a fairly traditional ritual: We did a Maypole, we jumped over a bonfire, we feasted, et cetera. Nothing terribly esoteric, but the way that Chesh had assembled the usual elements was excellent -- everything flowed together powerfully. It did not hurt in the least that the weather was good and so this became our first outdoor ritual in this sequence[****]. Flowery head dresses were assembled -- mostly with nimble expertise by [ profile] bunnypip, though the talented and charming [ profile] dr_jen made quite a lovely one on her own. Here are a couple of photos from just before we started the ritual )

After the ritual was done, we all sat around the bonfire and talked for a bit... just enjoying the energy and the warmth and the flames. Then we hugged [ profile] thehalibutkid and [ profile] parallelgirl goodbye and returned to Oxford. Not quite sure how much sleep I got on Saturday night, but I estimate that it was another five hours.[*****]

Sunday morning, I spent a little more time with [ profile] bunnypip before sending her on her way and spending the day with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. I finished the first Sandman trade paperback -- Preludes and Nocturnes -- and then she re-read it so that we could discuss. We got in a fair bit of cuddling. And we managed to spend a bit of quality alone time together.

Today, Monday, [ profile] cheshcat and I took a day trip to the Stowe Landscape Gardens, a National Trust property about twenty-five miles from Oxford. The gardens were founded in the 18th century by Sir Richard Temple, also known as Lord Cobham. The site takes up 750 acres, though much of it is parkland. The gardens themselves are quite beautiful, with several lakes and valleys and fields. It is then further enhanced by forty-two monuments scattered about the grounds. There are sculptures and temples and columns and bridges (oh my!), so that our map became a sort of checklist guiding us around the gardens today. We spend most of the day at Stowe and managed to take in the entirety of the garden, much to our pleasure! At the end of the day, [ profile] cheshcat and I wound down with cream teas before heading back to Oxford and home.

Overall, it has been quite an excellent weekend! Happy Beltane! Happy Spring!

Now then, time to end the weekend by ringing up my darling [ profile] tawneypup, who has also been away. Cannot properly claim to have celebrated Beltane without including her!

[*] To prevent drunk students from jumping off and breaking their legs in the very shallow water below.

[**] Bringing the running total for the two nights to eleven hours thus far.

[***] As distinct from the celebration of the night before.

[****] Not counting our Yule ritual, where the circle did remain open through the longest night... which included our trip to Stonehenge to welcome in the dawn.

[*****] Raising the running total for three nights to sixteen hours. Not serious Sleep Deprivation -- certainly nothing like what I pulled last Decemberween -- but definitely not running on a full tank, either!

anarchist_nomad: (One Day More)
( May. 1st, 2009 12:11 am)
I'm being bad right now, writing this entry whilst also participating in an international video conference for the T2K Super-Kamiokande working group. What can I say? We are up to the final talk, on a proposal for a blind analysis... which is not exactly a topic that I care about.

Today has been a really good day. My darling [ profile] cheshcat and I got to sleep in until about half ten, as we were both taking the day off from work. Catching up on sleep was definitely a good thing, as I have not been resting nearly enough of late. The beauteous [ profile] bunnypip arrived at the Flat With No Name around noon, with L1 and L2 in tow. After getting food and whatnot, we made our way into city centre, where we had two o'clock tickets at the Oxford Playhouse.

The performance of the day was a theatrical adaption of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, performed by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. As it is too long to reasonably collapse into a three hour show, the show was presented as two three hour shows. Part One ran from two until five, after which we had a two hour break for dinner. Part Two ran from seven until ten.

Alterations from the novels still needed to be made to make the show fit. For instance, Mary -- the dark matter researcher -- was completely removed. So was Lee Scoresby's death. Nonetheless, the show worked well. Really well. During the second half of Part Two, I was starting to feel frustrated... but then the ending was done so well that I ultimately ended up forgiving them.

Overall, then, I thought it was a really good show. So did L1, who absolutely loved the books. Additionally, it was most appropriate to see it performed in Oxford, where much of the story is set. Indeed, at the end of Part One, I announced that I had found a window to another world -- if we walked through the theatre doors then, like Will and Lyra, we would also find ourselves in Oxford! The author, Phillip Pullman, lives here as well... and apparently he made a surprise cameo appearance in last night's performance!

After the show, there was a short question and answer session with part of the cast. I asked a question about the puppetry in the show -- which had been excellent -- and started a discussion about that. Needless to say, [ profile] da_pupdetz[*] were quite chuffed by this!

When our day at the theatre finally ended, we zipped back to the Flat With No Name as quickly as possible, as I had my video conference beginning at 11pm. Is still going on. When it ends, I am off to bed immediately, as I need to wake up at half four to go back into city centre to celebrate the May Morning festivities. [ profile] cheshcat, having done it all before, is sleeping in until her regular wake-up time, then going to work as normal. [ profile] bunnypip is joining me, though, as is L1 and L2. The usual singing from the Magdalen tower will happen at six, I am ringing with the OUSCR at half six, the usual contingents of Morris dancers and street bands will be present, and breakfast is at half seven.

Looks like sleep isn't on my agenda for the next day or so. I only expect to get three hours tonight, due to the late-night meeting and the early-morning festivities. Last year, I was asleep again by nine o'clock in morning for a nice nap. Not so likely this year, as I would like to bring L1 to the Oxford Botanic Gardens[**] when they open at nine o'clock tomorrow. Then, at 11:15, I have another meeting to attend, this time from the T2K UK analysis group. Should be done by 12:30, at which point I can squeeze in a little bit of rest before tomorrow evening, when I have a private Beltane ritual and celebration to attend!

Still, sleep or no, this is a four day weekend with many fun things in it... and it is just beginning! Can't really complain about that! (Who need sleep, anyway?)

I hope that all of my fellow Pagans are also having an excellent Beltane weekend... and I wish all of my fellow Anarchists a marvelous Mayday!

[*] Who may well be my daemons.

[**] Largely to flesh out his His Dark Materials experience, as Will & Lyra's bench is located in the Botanic Gardens.

On the Oxford Tube right now, heading home. Yes, the timestamp on this entry is correct. It is indeed after 11pm. I should be home shortly before midnight; plenty of time to microwave a quick dinner, grab seven hours sleep, then head in to do it all again!

Work has been really picking up of late. I don't think I've left the office before 8pm this week! This means that I have been to no extracurriculars at all. There has been something going on every evening... but I have had no time for any of it.

Whilst I am obviously becoming a very boring human being -- "all work and no play..." -- this is actually not a particularly bad thing. Progress is being made, and being productive feels good. After all, I like my job; I enjoy being a physicist. At the moment, I am directly supervising two students, getting ready to supervise a third, and have my fingers in four different pies (i.e., projects).

All in all, not bad... just somewhat time consuming.

One particularly memorable part of the week was yesterday. I am a convener of the T2K Super-Kamiokande UK group. Over the past few weeks, RT[*] and I organised a T2K SK UK meeting. Once it became clear that said meeting would be held at Imperial College, most of the organising naturally fell to me. This is the first time that I have organised a non-local meeting -- we had participants from as far away as Lancaster and Liverpool. It is also the first time that I have chaired a meeting. I will confess to being a tad nervous at first but, not surprisingly, everything went rather well. So well, in fact, that one of the Imperial faculty suggested today that we do these particular meeting two or three times a year. So... go me!

Tomorrow morning, I have to finish writing a talk (or perhaps two) for the T2K UK analysis meeting. Then I have plenty of other things to do before the weekend hits.

I realise that I am indeed becoming much less interesting a person to know when all I do is work. However, that might not be the worst possible thing for some time. During our Oestara ritual on Sunday, we did some tarot work. One of the cards I drew, advising me on how to get where I need to be, was the Eight of Pentacles. The image features a man working hard by himself. In the distance, we can see a city. I think that there is a good lesson there -- I can easily fill my life with hobbies, people, and activities. There is always more that I want to do. However, I need to bear in mind that sometime in the next couple of years, I need to stop being a post-doc and move on to a faculty position. The work I am doing now -- both the physics analysis as well as the supervision of students, organisation of meetings, et cetera -- is very important if I am to make that next step.

[*] The other convener.

Nearly everybody on my f-list is familiar with Eddie Izzard's 1998 sketch "Cake or Death", from Dressed to Kill. Indeed, I even referenced it in footnote [2] of my previous entry.

However, I -- the Nefarious Nomad -- have my own "Cake or Death" routine... and it came before Eddie Izzard's! Travel back in time with me, if you will, on the Samhain evening... and all shall be revealed..............






This past weekend, [ profile] cheshcat took me to Touchstone Farm again. The Church of the Sacred Earth was holding their Samhain gathering there. This year, [ profile] cheshcat and her covenmates, the rest of StepChild Coven, were running the gathering. This was not the first time that I have been to Touchstone. In fact, we were they just last week for their Halloween party. [ profile] cheshcat and I surprised everyone by renting a bride-and-groom costume! We have only been together for a couple of months... and people were wondering if maybe we were hinting at something. Heh.

Although I have been to Touchstone before, this was the first CoSE event that I have attended. I brought my best friend, [ profile] ashnistrike, along for company. Especially for when [ profile] cheshcat was off running the show.

Friday night started with a sweatlodge. This was the first time that I have ever done a sweatlodge. It was quite the experience. Especially when coupled with a couple of dips in the nearly-freezing water of the pond in between the different parts of the sweat. Most of the gathering was pretty cool. I saw some people that I already knew; I also met a whole lot of new faces -- people like [ profile] rbdarkly and TinMan 2.0 and LaForza. The site is, of course, quite beautiful. I love the connection that I feel to the land there!

One of the best parts of the evening came on Saturday night, during the main ritual. It was designed to be a journey through the underworld. Only trouble was, the journey was made alone. So we had a good thirty or forty people there... each of whom had to make the circuit one at a time. This took hours. We all started off waiting in the main gathering space. One by one, the Summoner -- who was "drawn down" into [ profile] cheshcat -- would choose somebody and silently select them to begin their journey. The rest of us sat and chatted, awaiting our turns. This was fun at first, but it slowly got to be boring. Actually, I had tacitly assumed that Death/Chesh would choose me first. After all, I am her new sweetie -- we have only been together for about two and a half months! I was wrong, though. Each time she came in, she choose somebody else. In time, most people had been chosen for their journey... but I, and a handful of others, were still waiting.

There was to be cake after the ritual. By now, it was close to the end. Not many people remained to make the journey. So somebody started to lay out the cake and cut it up. Several people who had made the journey took a piece of cake. I realised that there might not be any left by the time I was done with the ritual. Thus, I did the most logical thing -- I took a piece of cake for myself and began eating.

No sooner had I taken my first bite of cake, when Death comes up to me and silently tapped me on the shoulder, signifying that it was my turn to make the trip to the underworld. My reaction? Hold on there! I'm eating my cake! I stayed where I was and continued eating; Death, after tapping me, turned and walked away. She did not look back but, rather, assumed that I was following her. A little while later, she turned around to look at me, but found no one. Non-plussed, Death returned to me, walking briskly. She grabbed me by the front of my shirt and dragged me -- cake and all -- into the labyrinth of the underworld. [ profile] ashnistrike, who knows me quite well, later remarked that, in a magickal context, this interaction made perfect sense. I am indeed the sort of person who, when Death comes for me, will have to decline because I am too busy with my cake (and other things).

By Sunday evening, I was feeling pretty wiped out from all the fun (and a lack of sleep). When the gathering was over, we headed back to [ profile] cheshcat's room at the Bug Zappah and had some quality alone time. Her cute little kittens, Foxy and Kenna, came to join us in the bed and keep us company. They are just six months old and quite adorable!

All in all, an excellent weekend! Although I remain a "devout" Atheist, I do find a certain resonance with these Pagan rituals, and I like the people very much, too. I look forward to more events and gatherings, as well as becoming a part of this community.





You see? I really did have the choice of cake or death... and I did indeed choose cake! With some things, you just don't kid around!
At Mom's place in NYC now, touching a computer for the first time since leaving Skullcrusher Mountain last Thursday. Don't have oodles of time[*] -- I am only online via a "borrowed" wireless connection[**] while she is out running errands -- but I wanted to post a report back on how the Super Sekrit October Pagan gathering went this year.

Short Version: Freakin' incredible!!!

Middle Version: P**T*** is usually a very Good ThingTM, but some years are better than others. There have been years, for instance, marred with drama. In 2001, the war in Afghanistan began while I was at P**T***, which put me in a very bad headspace. This was my twelfth P**T*** and, until now, 2003 was the absolute best year -- a year in which everything went right. I started grading my P**T***s that year, giving 2003 an A. This year was at least as good, maybe better, earning another A grade for P**T*** 2008.

Longer Version: I don't have time to write in full detail about the weekend, but here are selected highlights...

The weekend weather was phenomenal! Without a doubt, the best that I have ever seen at this gathering. Perfectly clear skies from Friday through Sunday, and temperatures in the mid-70s during the day! Gorgeous! Certainly a far cry from the flooding we had in 2005, when GH brought a canoe to paddle around in the fire circle! Only last year even comes close, and this was even better! Also, the trees in the area are in their full Autumn colour now... and, for some reason, those colours are more vibrant than usual this year! I don't know why that is, but I certainly appreciated their stunning beauty!

  • Arrived at the site with [ profile] cheshcat at about 5pm. Once again, there was the strange temporal magick where, upon driving onsite, the entire year in-between vanishes into a very, very small time. It felt like I had last been there just a day or two before.

  • Gave the usual barrage of welcoming hugs to people as they arrived.

  • Embarrassed myself in front of [ profile] pomoloco's mother. I had not seen this incredible woman in nearly a year. Thus, when I saw her arriving, I bounced up to her with great enthusiasm. Some woman I did not recognize was near the car with her. [ profile] pomoloco asked me: "Do you mind if I sleep on top of you and [ profile] cheshcat?" What she meant, of course, was the bunk bed above ours. I knew this, but responded with: "Sweetie, you can sleep on top of me any time you like!" At which point she said: "Oh, by the way, have you met my mom?" Er... oops! I apologized immediately but, apparently, the only person even slightly phased by all this was me. Her mom knows about our relationship and has heard far more shocking things -- not about us! -- from other people without blinking an eye.

  • Found PS, one of the organizers for this year's gathering. He handed me a program and opened to Sunday evening -- one workshop in particular: "Physics -- It's What I Do". I had not volunteered to present another installment in the popular Physics For Pagans series this year... so apparently I had been drafted into doing it, instead. I laughed pretty heartily at seeing my name on the program after all!

  • The opening of Aphrodite's Temple was particularly memorable this year. Just before said opening, I had been cuddling with the lovely [ profile] perspicacious and getting to know her a bit better. Thus, when the opening began at 10:30pm, we went to it together. We stayed on in the Temple afterwards, enjoying some quality not-so-alone time. Finally left the Temple shortly before 3am. It was quite a splendid way to spend the evening!

  • Was recruited by TinMan 2.0 to play a small role in the Archetypal Shakespeare Company's production of The Magic Flute. It was a small role, essential given that the performance was that very night and the rest of the company had been rehersing for months. Nonetheless, I was pleased to have been asked and excited about trodding the boards again for the first time in many years!

  • Participated in a Wild Hunt. This is my third one. I always end up as a hunted creature, although now it is by choice. During my first Wild Hunt, at Samhain 1995, I had automatically assumed I would be a hunter, despite the random selection of roles between hunter, hunted, and hearth-keeper. It just fit who I was. I was genuinely surprised to be selected as one of the hunted... and the ritual turned out to be intensely profound for me. At the time I was caught, I experienced what could be best described as a "near death encounter." To say that it shook me up a lot would be an understatement. In any case, the Wild Hunt has taken on quite a bit of meaning for me since, despite the fact that it is essentially just ritualized "hide and seek." The next time I participated in one such Hunt was Beltane 1997. I still have the horn that I won from that one. This time, I also won and eluded capture from the hunters by leaving a clever false trail and wading across a river in bare feet. I did such a good job of hiding that, by the time I returned, there were actually people worried about me because no one could find me!

  • Enjoyed a nature walk with GH and a group that he was leading. Indeed, their turn-around point was very near where I was hiding during the hunt, so I simply joined them for the second half of their walk. People were surprised to see me appear out of nowhere at the point where they were deepest in the woods. When asked where I came from, I just mentioned that I had been experimenting with my transporter back in the bunk houses.

  • HIGH POINT OF THE DAY: Was asked by the 2009 P**T*** organizer if I had ever been approached to run the gathering. When I said that I had not, he asked if I would be interested in doing so in 2011. Um.......... YES! I had to discuss it with [ profile] cheshcat before agreeing, but we decided that we were definitely up for accepting!

  • Performed The Magick Flute with TinMan 2.0 and [ profile] pomoloco (who was one of the stars) and others. This rock opera version was a lot of fun and very well received!

  • Main ritual! Good stuff! Very musically oriented, including a P**T*** version of "My Favourite Things"

  • Dancing and drumming by the bonfire! Fun, with the added treat of watching some very talented poi spinners!

  • Attendend a fun workshop on tying knots in Aphrodite's Temple. It was recommended to bring a partner to tie knots with, so I brought the aforementioned delightful [ profile] perspicacious. We remained after the workshop was done to admire our handiwork.

  • Canoeing and swimming! There is a pond and a small waterfall on the site. Weather permitting, I always try to take out a canoe for at least a little while. After all, I am a water elemental! At lunch, just before I was ready to grab a canoe, ES and some of her friends grabbed me and said: "We are going to take out a canoe. You have to come with us." Good timing! We were joined on the lake by [ profile] perspicacious and some of her group (SB, JW, and JF). We paddled across the lake, then hiked to an area behind the waterfall. SB had never been there before and suggested we go for a swim. She asked how cold I thought the water would be. I said, "Very." I had no intention of swimming in it. She looked at the long drop off the rock we were on and asked how one would get down. I showed her a place where one could climb down the rocks. She asked if I would go in if she did. I said, "Maybe." Guess who ended up first in the water? Yes, it was me. And, yes, it was cold. Upon jumping in, I began treading water furiously to generate heat. It didn't work. When we got in, we clutched each other tightly to share body heat. It didn't work. I got out after, with SB and ES following behind me. I was in the cold water for less than five minutes... but it felt very good and invigorating to have had this little swim!

  • Back at the central part of the site, I was informed that the P**T*** board had turned down the idea of [ profile] cheshcat and I running the gathering in 2011. [ profile] cheshcat looked hurt and rejected. As it turns out, they decided that we should run the show in 2010. Also, [ profile] cheshcat already knew this and was faking her reaction to take the piss out of me. Brat! I am very excited about this... but it means that we have only one year now to plan the 2009 Main Ritual! Eeeep! I am very excited to be selected to organize a P**T***; this community has been a part of my life for a very long time -- over twelve years. The site is my spiritual home and the gathering is a pilgrimmage for us. It feels very good to be acknowledged as capable by the community and it feels wonderful to be able to give something back after all these years!

  • Gave the latest "Physics For Pagans" talk. It was a bit impromtu, having not known it was on the program. However, I think it went reasonably well. About twenty people attended and there were some good questions. I have already been asked by a 2009 organizer if she can put me on the program for next year. What can I say? I agreed. At least I know that I get a break in 2010! I promised Chesh that if she puts me on the program then, I'm putting her down for an all-day writing workshop intensive!

  • More fire! More drumming! More dancing! More poi!

  • Dance party in the main hall! With lots of cheesy 80s music! I was spending time outside with [ profile] perspicacious when I heard Footloose playing inside. I told her that I had to go because I could not resist the lure of cheesy 80s music. What a great surprise to learn that she was right there with me!

  • Post-dance party: Received an astounding massage from [ profile] perspicacious in the massage space. It was just what I had needed; my back and neck were so tense! Afterward, we retired to enjoy the last night of the gathering.

  • Attended only my second business meeting ever in all the years I have been attending P**T***. Usually, I avoid them. I guess that, for the next few years, I will really need to attend. Chesh and I were formally confirmed by the community as the 2010 organizers. Very cool!

  • Learned that the Wiggly Bridge on the site has apparently been added to a list of national historic bridges or some such. Peachy keen!

  • Lots and lots of long goodbyes and farewell hugs.

  • Lunch at a Japanese restaurant with a dozen P**T***ns who did not need to rush right off! It was good to spend extra time with people, especially those who I may not see for another year. After the meal ended, they gave us little bowls of pineapple for dessert. This made me think of a certain person and smile...

And that, gentle readers, was my weekend! Hooray! I feel grounded and centered and well connected with this community, which has been a part of my life for so many years now. Only fifty-one more weeks left until P**T*** 2009!

[*] Which means that I will not be checking personal e-mail or my LJ friends page.

[**] Mom has no internet connection of her own. This is the woman who, until three years ago, still owned (and used) a rotary phone.

anarchist_nomad: (The cape as red as blood)
( Oct. 9th, 2008 07:49 am)
Last night, I went out to dinner with AB, one of the graduate students from the CRESST group at Oxford. At the end of the meal, we received fortune cookies. My fortune read: "You are about to depart for a land of sunshine."

This was very good news for me, as I leave in six hours for the States, and shall be spending the weekend in the woods at P**T***! The gathering is always fun... but eleven years of experience have taught me that it is usually more enjoyable when one can hike in the woods, rather than when one can paddle a canoe in the firepit[*]! It looks like those fortune tellers may be right on the mark, too! The weather report for the site calls for sun and clear skies all weekend; highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s. I don't think that I could ask for better P**T*** weather! Very much looking forward to seeing many of you there tomorrow, my dear friends!!!

Goodness -- this will be my twelfth year in a row at P**T***. My, how the time flies!

I will be back in Oxford late on Monday the 20th. Until then, however, I will be largely out of electronic contact. Whilst at P**T***, I will effectively be in a different world and, thus, virtually impossible to reach. After the gathering ends, I will be travelling and largely away from a computer. For anyone who might need or want to know, here is my tentative schedule )

Okay, six hours to go. Time to pack and do all those other last minute things that need doing at the last minute[**]...

[*] This did happen one year when the rain was particularly heavy!

[**] Apropos to absolutely nothing, I want to note that I have recently seen two plays. On September 24th, [ profile] cheshcat went to see The Woman In Black. And this past Saturday, October 4th, we saw a production of one of my absolute favourite comedies, Noises Off at the Oxford Playhouse. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of this entry. However, I do like to keep track of the theatre I see and have been rubbish about updating this journal for the past couple of weeks. So I figured if I did not mention these plays now, before I fly away, it was never going to happen. Hence this somewhat incongruous footnote...

It looks like it has been about two weeks since I updated this journal with much content about what I have been doing[*]. I suppose that I should write an entry soon to rectify that. This is not that entry.

This entry is just a collection of random uncorrelated bits that have been percolating in my head today. Skim through and see which ones catch your interest, gentle readers...

  • Had the best commute ever today. Which is to say that I gave myself permission to work from home. Everyone else in the T2K group at Imperial College was going to be away today, anyway, so I figured that I could be as productive alone in a room in Oxford as I could be alone in a room in London. I was right. Am still working from home, despite the fact that it is a Friday night. Productivity is a Good Thing(TM).

  • The weather has been stunning for the past few days! It almost makes me wonder if I am still in England! This sort of cool, crisp, clear Autumn weather is absolutely lovely!

  • My bus pass for the Oxford Tube also permits me to ride on any of the local buses in Oxfordshire. Thus, I have achieved some sort of Nirvana for local transportation in Oxford. I can now get myself anywhere in the city -- when I choose and free of charge -- by either (a) bicycle, (b) car[**], (c) bus, and (d) on foot. Indeed, I could even borrow (e) Cheshcat's scooter, if I really wanted to! This is a great improvement from two years ago; between July 2006 and May 2007, my only free option was to walk everywhere!

  • "Andy" is the most common name amongst the people that I know in Oxford. I know four Oxonian Andys.

  • Watching the Katie Couric interviews of Sarah Palin has convinced me that there may indeed be Vice-Presidential material there. Katie Couric may have the makings of a competent veep...

  • Alas! Tis with great regret that I must contradict my previous post about going to the Poly MeetUp on Tuesday. It looks like I will be taking remedial ice skating instead. More accurately, I will be missing the last lesson of the term for my ice skating course, as I will be in New York on October 13th. It turns out that this coming Tuesday is the only time that I can make up the lesson. So no Poly MeetUp for me this month. Hope to see many of you lovely people at the next one, on November 4th! Meanwhile, have extra fun on my behalf while I'm gone, okay?

  • Six days from now, I will be on an aeroplane to New York! One week from right now, I will be back at my spiritual home, at the start of my twelfth consecutive P**T*** gathering!!!

  • Over the past two weeks, the relationship velocity has started to slow down somewhat, after being at unprecedentedly high levels for about eight weeks. I believe that I may even be approaching a stable new relationship configuration[***]. Most of the developments have been positive, though there is one case that has me feeling a little sad. In effect, I think that I need to fall out of love -- something that I have never done before -- with somebody who is very dear to me, in order that the relationship can survive[****]. How to even begin doing that is a mystery to me! Thankfully, I have all the time that I need to figure it out.

  • Twenty-six!!!
Okay, back to work for a little while longer, then off to spend some quality alone time with [ profile] cheshcat...

[*] Besides riding the Oxford Tube, that is!

[**] Okay, to be fair, there is a petrol cost for driving. But this city is so small that the expense is negligible.

[***] Famous last words, I know.

[****] On the plus side, it looks like this particular relationship will survive.

anarchist_nomad: (The cape as red as blood)
( Sep. 22nd, 2008 04:44 pm)
In just under an hour, we will be at the Autumnal Equinox[*]. We are moving into what will be my third Autumn living in England, so by now I know a bit of what to expect. As a season, I do like Autumn, with its crisp cool air and the changing leaves. The weather has been surprisingly nice of late; when I walk down the street the Autumn smells remind me of years gone by, of starting school again after a long Summer vacation.

Autumn also brings with it the Super Sekrit Pagan Festival[**] in upstate New York -- the one that I have attended without fail for nearly twelve years now. The site of that gathering, just a couple of weeks away now, is also the physical location of my spiritual home. It is a stunningly beautiful wooded site with a gorgeous lake and a waterfall. Since the gathering is held in October, the trees are usually brilliant in their colours during the festival.

Autumn also brings with it the coming of the Dark. We stand now at the Equinox -- the time when the day and night are nearly equal[***]. Here in Oxford, there are three more days where the Light exceeds the Dark. However, the light is moving away at a rate of nearly four minutes per day. Starting on Thursday -- Sep 25th -- the Dark period begins. At first, of course, it will barely be noticeable. Only after we change the clocks at the end of October will it truly be Dark in earnest. Still, having been raised in New York City -- over eleven degrees of latitude to the South -- the extra intensity of the Dark here is quite pronounced. So, amongst other things, the Equinox is also the time to start preparing for the Dark, enjoying the light here as much as I can whilst I still can.

This has been a year of many changes, and I do not expect that to stop this Autumn. Next week, I begin my new position working on a new experiment. There are wonderful new relationships in my life that are each growing and evolving into something unique and special. And there is a adorable new kitten in our home, who is bouncing about energetically -- occasionally stopping to attack my leg -- as I type this.

Also, for those of you in the South, I wish you all a very Happy Spring!

[*] Actually, I have cheated slightly by setting the timestamp of this entry to the time of the actual equinox.

[**] The festival is a private gathering and, as such, should not be mentioned in a public forum such as LiveJournal. It really is not so secret as I make it out to be -- that is just for fun -- and I am both able and happy to discuss it in direct personal communication.

[***] It is a common misconception that the time from sunrise to sunset (called "day") is precisely equal to the time from sunset to sunrise (called "night") on the Equinoxes. In actual fact, the day is always longer than the night on an Equinox. One hundred points to the first person that can correctly tell me why. Fifty points to anyone who can incorrectly tell me why in a way that makes me laugh.

Our department here at Oxford has just received word from one of the control rooms at CERN. Beam has now successfully travelled all the way around the LHC[*]. If you are reading this, I presume that you will not be surprised to learn that the world has not been destroyed[**,***].

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I hereby announce two invitations! Alas, geographical concerns mean that they will probably only be of interest to that fraction of my f-list who is based in the UK.

Invitation the First: One week from today, [ profile] cheshcat will finally have the long awaited surgery on her knee. This is absolutely vital to the recovery of her full mobility... and we have every reason to believe that she will quickly regain flexibility once the procedure is performed. In the immediate aftermath of the operation, however, she will need some time to convalesce. Thus, we are planning to spend the whole of next weekend at Skullcrusher Mountain, in Oxford[****], rather than trekking about to somewhere else. Company will be more than welcome -- on both Sat Sep 20 and Sun Sep 21 -- if anyone wants to drop in on us for games, conversation, movies, or whatever. There are also Super Sekrit plans to whip up a batch of homemade ice cream! Come and join the fun!!!

This is not a formal party, so there are no official start or end times. Just let me know if you plan to swing by at any point in that weekend to grace us with the pleasure of your company. Crash space is available for anyone coming in from outside Oxford.

Invitation the Second: This invite is of even less broad interest -- it will probably only appeal to those on my f-list who are based in the UK and identify as some flavour of Pagan.

In about a month and a half, it will be Samhain. Late on the evening of this sabbat (which falls on a Friday this year), [ profile] cheshcat and I will be running our traditional Samhain rituals: The preparation of a feast for the ancestors, followed by a small circle in which we toast to the beloved dead. We have been performing this ritual for well over a decade now, in a variety of different settings -- with our coven, with our poly family, by ourselves, et cetera. This year, we would like to invite our local[*****] Pagan friends to join us.

Please be cautioned: The ancestor toast is not a particularly happy fluffy ritual -- it tends to be quite personal, heavy, and cathartic. It also tends to be very powerful and moving. Out of all the rituals that we repeat annually -- Beltane, Lammas, Yule, etc. -- I find this ritual to be the most intense.

If you are interested in attending, please let me know via a comment (or any other means that you prefer). I have screened comments to this entry for those who do not wish to publicly come out of the broom closet. Given the nature of the ritual, participation will be limited to a number that [ profile] cheshcat and I have not yet determined. Once again, for those travelling from outside of Oxford, crash space will be available.

Well, it appears that the world is still here... which means that I had best get back to work! Assuming that we all don't disappear in a puff of logic, I look forward to seeing many of you soon!

[*] Indeed, I have even seen pictures of the first events from the ATLAS detector! Exciting!

[**] This means that you can stop hitting the walls now. Really. You know who you are...

[***] Now if only the same people who made such a fuss about the LHC would take the very real threat of environmental devastation seriously.

[****] Which will be the first full weekend spent in Oxford since late May. Not that anyone but me cares about these things, but...

[*****] For whatever definition of "local" suits you.

anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Aug. 8th, 2008 01:25 am)
Just because I think it is worth mentioning: Today is August 8th, 2008. Which means the date is now 8/8/8 (or 08/08/08, if you prefer). Put month, year, day in any order you like. Doesn't matter for today! (Yes, I'm a numbers geek, I know!)

Today is also five years since I defended my doctoral dissertation -- A Search for Supernova Relic Neutrinos at the Super-Kamiokande Detector -- and was thusly transformed from ordinary Nomad into the Doctor Nomad that y'all know and love today!

Finally, having nothing whatsoever to do with today, I was reminiscing on the Stateside trip that just ended and made an observation that I wanted to share. Amongst the many highlights of the trip were: I mud-wrestled -- for the first time -- with [ profile] tawneypup and with [ profile] ralmathon, I went skydiving, I fire-walked -- again for the first time, and I went to a water park. Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Pretty cool, huh?
Just finished the five hundred mile drive from Starwood back to the Event Horizon. Ye gads, am I tired! In the past half week (that's about eighty-four hours), I have slept a total of about twelve hours. Maybe thirteen. I don't know what it is about Brushwood that makes it possible for me to stay awake until 7:30am... and then wake up naturally at 11am feeling fully rested. And do this for consecutive days! I'd like to find out how it works so I can bottle some of it -- imagine how much more I could get done if I could sleep only four hours or less every night!

As for the gathering itself: Once again, Starwood was absolutely incredible! Admittedly, there was a not-entirely-unexpected snafu on the very first evening. Aside from that, the week was utterly fantastic. Interestingly enough, this year was different in several ways from my previous five Starwoods... but it was no less spectacular for that. Indeed, in some ways these changes made it even more spectacular than before!

Given my self-imposed "What Happens At Starwood" rule, I am not going to go into any details about the festival here, within the public domain. Suffice to say that I met wonderful people and got to do amazing things -- some of them with the aforementioned wonderful people. And, oh yes, there was an accident with a time machine.[*]

[*] No, seriously. There was an accident with a time machine.

anarchist_nomad: (The cape as red as blood)
( Jul. 20th, 2008 10:35 pm)
Weekend in Chicago has been nice, if a bit mellow.

Arrived at the Event Horizon early yesterday afternoon. Big event for the day was a birthday party for [ profile] gyades. It was deliberately a smallish affair -- only nine of us in total -- mainly physicists such as [ profile] madandrew, [ profile] nyssa73, and [ profile] ike2100. A bit of gardening took place, including the slaying of an evil tree-like weed. I fired up the grill and bar-b-qued way too much food for everyone! And, as darkness fell, [ profile] gyades conjured up a fire in our firepit. I do believe that a good time was had by all! As the night went on, slowly people started leaving. When it was just [ profile] gyades and I left, we set out by the fire for awhile and just had one of those nice long personal chats that winds from one direction to another.

Today has been a little of this and a little of that. [ profile] gyades and I got breakfast at Butterfields, my favourite place to get a morning meal around here. I sent my graduate and undergraduate transcripts off to NASA, thus completing my application for the astronaut candidate position. [ profile] gyades and I played Go... wherein he sent me packing with a thirty point win! (Final score: 9 - 26 = -17 points for me, 26 - 13 = 13 points for him) I brought home some Mexican food for dinner, eating my first Mexican meal for this year. That's one thing I do miss when I am in Oxford; you just cannot get good Mexican food![*] And I jumped on the bandwagon this evening and watched Dr. Horrible in the last hours that it is still available.

Now the first Chicago visit for this holiday is coming to a close. Shortly after posting this, I will be off to bed and, come the morning, I make the five hundred mile drive East to Brushwood to attend the Starwood festival. So, starting in about ten hours, I will be completely out of touch for one week -- back late Sunday night (CDT). If I suddenly seem out of contact, know you know why. With no cell phone and no internet, there really will be no way to get in touch with me... short of coming on down to the gathering yourself![**] In effect, I am vanishing from this world for a week and going to visit another... and I cannot adequately tell you how much I am, as always, looking forward to it! Fire, drums, ritual, music, dancing, and more lovely people than you can shake a stick at[***] -- here I come!!

Have a good week, gentle readers, and see you on the other side...

[*] Having lived in Arizona for a couple of years, I must confess that what I ate tonight is not truly "good Mexican food". Nothing beats the Mexican food that you get when you live somewhere that used to be Mexico -- unless you are in Mexico itself! Still, what I had tonight was far better than anything I've had in England.

[**] Or, in the event of a true emergency, I suppose one could call the site organisers and have them comb the grounds trying to locate me amongst the thousands of attendees.

[***] And, let me tell you, I can shake a stick with the best of them!

anarchist_nomad: (England sightseeing -- Mind the monument)
( Jun. 21st, 2008 09:06 pm)
Good morning!

Yes, nevermind the time stamp -- I just got up a short while ago, having spent all of the shortest night awake at Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice with my dear [ profile] ms_katonic and the lovely [ profile] lydiasings.

This was my second year of spending the Summer solstice at Stonehenge. Just as I wrote last year, it was intense and fantastic! Druidic rituals at sunset and sunrise, fire, giant horns, drum circles, dancing upon ancient fallen Stones. All within a Stone circle that is five or six thousand years old... and in the company of about twenty-eight thousand close friends! Lets just say that the energy levels were pretty darn high!

Same as last year, sunset was at 9:26pm and sunrise was at 4:58am. Funny how that works, huh? With the long twilights, lasting at least an hour and a half, there were less than four hours of true darkness. Unlike last year -- which was clear until just before dawn -- there was complete cloud cover throughout the night and a light rain the entire time. Thus, instead of watching the sun come up from the Eastern edge of the Stone circle, we went to the heelstone at dawn to be in front for the Druids' ritual.

Due to the rain and the clouds, I got fewer nifty pictures than the ones that I took last year. However, here are a couple worth sharing:

Sunset at Stonehenge -- believe it or not, this is before most of the crowd had arrived!

Getting a bit intimate with one of the sarsen Stones...

As far as I know, no pictures of me ended up on the news this year -- my ego will just have to cope somehow!

Overall, Solstice at Stonehenge is an incredible experience and I expect that I will do it yet again next year. I know that last year, several people expressed interest in joining this year... but were not able to come for various logistical reasons. If you are one of them, mark your calendars now and come with me in 2009!
...the fifth sixth of November!

Even late for the Guy Fawkes Day post? Shame on me! Somehow, I have managed to kick the LJ addiction fall out of the LJ habit. Probably due to spending so little time near a computer during last month's holiday in the States. I had best get back into the swing of things, lest I deprive the waiting world knowledge of my adventures and exploits![*]

May as well start with the weekend. On Saturday, [ profile] cheshcat and I drove to Croydon to attend the Witchfest International festival. It was... fun. Not mind-blowing, life-altering, or otherwise overwhelming. There were a couple of thousand people there, by my estimation. During the day, we spent some time browsing the shops, and we went to talks on "Unsolved Mysteries", "The Vampire Mythos in Europe", and "Dragons."

The talk on Dragons, given by an actual academic, was -- by far -- the best of these. It combined biology, literature, sociology, and history to produce a very interesting presentation. I learned a lot; for instance, we have only one recorded instance of a dragon who guards treasure before the twentieth century -- in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf. For over a thousand years, there is no record of any dragons sleeping on treasure... until J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis -- both scholars of Anglo-Saxon literature and both Oxonians -- brought the idea back. Pretty cool!

When the talks began to wind down, we opted to skip the closing ritual and get dinner at a local noodle bar. After dinner, we queued up for good seats to the evening's concerts. The first act was The Dolmen -- which also involved much impromptu dancing -- followed by the Mediaeval Baebes. Good stuff! When the concert ended, we hit the disco for a bit, then left after midnight to make the drive home.

On Sunday, [ profile] cheshcat and I celebrated Guy Fawkes Day. Last year, we celebrated the weekend in London with D&J. While that was great fun, this year we wanted to try something closer to home. Unfortunately, the big bonfire and fireworks display in Oxford was on Saturday night -- in conflict with Witchfest. So we drove a short distance on Sunday evening to get to the Standlake Arena.

Before the fireworks began, there were car races at the arena. I don't think I've ever watched auto racing before, actually. I think I found it somewhat interesting because these were fairly ordinary looking cars -- though certainly with souped-up engines -- racing about. What really surprised me, however, was the last two "races", which were bangers. I had never heard of -- much less seen -- banger racing before. What an odd "sport"! Picture a cross between bumper cars (or a demolition derby) and a race.

After the banger cars had been demolished, it was time for the fireworks to begin. They did a good show with the pyrotechnics... and, by arriving early, we had procured a very good spot from which to watch. When the bright sparkly lights had stopped, they proceeded to ignite the three story stack of wood -- complete with multiple Guy Fawkes effigies -- to create a seven story bonfire. Ah, fire! How I do love a nice tall bonfire!

We watched and enjoyed the burning until most people had left and the bonfire had grown much, much smaller. Then Peter brought us back to Skullcrusher Mountain, where we ordered Indian food and ate it while watching some season five Babylon 5.

And that is how I spent the 402nd Guy Fawkes Day.

[*] Sarcasm, people! My ego really is not that big!

...stays at Starwood.

Or, at the very least, does not become fodder for the public domain. Suffice to say that I had an awesome-tastic week and an incredible festival experience!

Now I have just returned to the Event Horizon, following an eight hour (five hundred mile) drive. In under six hours, I leave again. Time to go pack...
Today, I broke my personal record for the most money ever spent on theatre tickets in a single day. Five hundred and forty-four quid. At the current exchange rate of $2.0166 per pound, that comes out to just shy of eleven hundred dollars ($1097.03). Quite the pretty penny -- especially when one considers that we are still recovering from the period of being a single income household. However, I am delighted to say that we now have some of the best seats in the Courtyard Theatre[*] to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Shakespeare's eight War of the Roses plays next February! I will be picking up said tickets tomorrow night when we return to Stratford-on-Avon to see RSC do MacBeth.

Meanwhile, what has everyone's favourite Friendly Neighborhood Nomad been up to? )

[*] For four of the eight plays, we will have the same seats -- in the very center of the circle -- that we sat in for King Lear last month, and for three of the remaining four plays, we will only be shifted over by one or two seats.

[**] I am showing restraint and not making a snide political comment. See how self-restrained I am. Really!

[***] For centuries, the Oxford Castle was used as a prison. The prison closed in 1996, which is good, and was re-created as a luxury hotel. I'm told that three cells consitute a suite: two for the bedroom and one for the bathroom. Talk about the ultimate in gentrification! The Oxford Castle really torques me off!

[****] Still refraining from snide comments! Amazing!

[*****] Fifty-one hours from now!

I've long held that the reward for doing good work is more work. This explains why it is 6am and I am still at the University, sitting in the lab and taking data with the cryostat. I have been here since midnight and expect to be here for about another four hours. Not to sound like Dante Hicks, but originally I hadn't even planned to be here today. I get thirty vacation days per year -- and have used a negative number so far in 2007 once one factors in the weekends and holidays that I have worked. Thus, it seemed perfectly reasonable to use a vacation day today to recover after yesterday's all-nighter at Stonehenge. However, with the cryostat successfully cooled, there are measurements that need to be made... some of which require no one else to be using the lab, to minimize vibration. So here I am, making those measurements. With any luck, I'll be done by 10am and can get some sleep. Whee!

As for Stonehenge... well, it was intense and fantastic! Beyond words, really, but I'll try. We arrived just before sunset, as the Druids were starting a ritual within the Stone circle. Then the drumming and dancing began. I've danced at a drum circle before, of course... but never while standing on top of an ancient sarsen stone! I made a short video (45 seconds, 11 MB) early in the evening, just after sunset, that can be seen here.

As the night went on, folks continued to arrive, and it is estimated that there were 20,000 people who came to the Stones for the Solstice. I have now touched every Stone that is in contact with the ground at Stonehenge and [ profile] cheshcat has shared an individual blessing with each of them, just as she did last year with the Stones at Avebury. Amazingly enough, the sarsen Stones feel spongy! When you press on them with your palm, you can feel them give way gently underneath! Although many of the people were just there to party and get drunk, high, & shroomed out of their minds, we did talk to a lot of very nice and interesting people -- including some folks from Colorado who had flown over specifically for this event -- and got contact info from a couple of people who live in London.

It was a clear night, with great views of the stars, Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon. Check out this picture I took of the Moon:

Sunset was at 9:26pm and sunrise was at 4:58am, but there were long twilights, lasting at least an hour and a half. So there were less than four hours of true darkness between the twilights, lasting from about 11:15pm until about 2:45am. When the sky began to lighten again, we found a spot near the Eastern edge of the circle to watch from. Sitting against one of the sarsens, I learned that they like my hair. Every time I leaned forward, moving away from the Stone, my hair would stick to it and get held behind!

The clouds had moved in, and we received a light sprinkle, by the time the sun rose. However, thanks to a break in the clouds, Sol did make a cameo appearance which was cheered and appreciated by all. The Druids formed a torchlight procession around the circle as the sun came up. Not long after sunrise, there was a news photograph taken for CNN in which I can be seen in the background, standing between two sarsens slightly to the left of centre. The picture was brought to my attention by [ profile] resourceress and the URL for it is:

It is slightly odd to see a news photograph of me without law enforcement monitoring or pursuing me. I have been in a number of news publications before -- both in print and online (e.g., the New York Times, Yahoo! News, and several Georgia papers) -- but never without law enforcement sharing the "spotlight". Speaking of law enforcement and Stonehenge... it is quite nice that English Heritage spends the time and money to organize this free event each year since 1999. However, from 1972 to 1984, there used to be a three week festival at Stonehenge, beginning at the start of June and lasting until the Solstice. In 1985, Thatcher and Company decided to put an end to it all, which led to the atrocious police action known as the Battle of the Beanfield. Doesn't matter where you go -- I hate cops!

Anyway, it was an amazing night... and we'll probably do it again next year. Anybody want to come along? Just let us know...
And, on a much lighter note, I now have my plane tickets reserved to get to the sooper-sekrit P**T*** 2007 gathering. Which takes place October 05 - 08, 2007. What can I say? I am a man ahead of my time.

While on the subject of flying, it looks like I have only two more flights left for this year: Rome to London (Dec 10) and London to Chicago (Dec 17). This is irksome, because it brings my total for the year to twenty-nine commercial flights... and it will be the first time in years that I have not flown at least thirty times in one calendar year. Feh. My OCD is disgruntled at the anti-aesthetics in this situation. There is a temptation to take a short one-way flight somewhere to remedy the situation, but I will not actually do that. There is also a temptation to Arthur Anderson the situation by counting the plane ride I took to go skydiving in March. But I will not actually do that, either. I will just find a big rock to hide beneath while I grumble...
anarchist_nomad: (Guess who?)
( Nov. 1st, 2006 02:31 pm)
The Wild Hunt is over.
The Veil has closed.
Samhain has passed.
Welcome, Winter.

Last night, [ profile] cheshcat and I performed our traditional ancestor ritual.[1]

Many days of darkness now lie ahead, but this period of Darkness is over.
I know this. I can feel it.[2]

Emotionally, I am... raw and numb, at the same time.
It is a state that feels similar to what I imagine is at birth.
Or, in this case, rebirth.

I am..... back. Nomad has returned.
I am not whole; I am not perfect. But, to be fair, I never have been.
There are still scars from the various cuts endured during the past week... but the gaping wounds have been closed; the bleeding has been staunched.

I now stand with my feet once more planted on the deck of the Ship of Sanity.
No more do I hang -- as I have for days -- half overboard, clinging to the railing, desperately trying not to fall into the cold and choppy waters below as I struggle to pull myself up.
And no more do I flounder in those cold waters -- as I did last Saturday -- gasping for breath as the waves crash over my heads, gulping down water as I grasp outward hoping to find a floatation device.

There will be other trials of Darkness in the future, just as there have been in that past.
I know this and, when the time comes, I will face them.
But this period of Darkness has ended, and I head into the cool dark of Winter with my face turned toward the future, toward the Light.

Welcome back.
Welcome home.
Welcome, Winter.

[1] I have been performing this particular Samhain ritual with [ profile] cheshcat and others since 1994. My goodness, how the years fly by!
[2] Since I am a scientist, it is fair to ask how I can make a statement like this. In fact, just yesterday I was asked by [ profile] sweetsourcat how I could be both an atheist and a Pagan... which amounts to basically the same question. For the short answer, I will quote the Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself, who said: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." For the long answer... well, come talk to me sometime.

I am writing this entry from [ profile] pomoloco's apartment in Manhattan -- not quite as cool as a decommissioned underground nuclear bunker, I know -- as I finish transitioning from P**T*** back to the outside world.

To a certain extent, what happens at P**T*** stays at P**T***. So I will not delve into great depth about what happened during the weekend. I will say that it was an active and fantastic gathering. I took poi lessons and drum lessons, made a broom, and delivered a well-attended talk on my dark matter research. I sat in the sauna, purging my system of its toxins. I went canoeing on the pond -- and "rescued" a fellow canoer who had capsized -- hiking in the woods, and sat on rocks watching a waterfall. There was ritual and fire and drumming... as well good conversation and good community. And then there was Aphrodite's Temple, of course.

The weekend went a long way towards restoring the mental/physical/spiritual balance that I wrote about a few weeks ago. I did take part in mental-mode activities, such as discussing my research, political discussions, and accumulating old British coins from a friend who is a professional numismatist. However, the majority of my time was spent engaging on the spiritual and physical planes. This restoration of balance was very much needed and I feel more whole and rejuvenated as a result. I intend to continue the process during the remainder of my trip to the States. Not all parts of the weekend were solidly joyful, as the gathering provided a safe magickal space to delve inwards and work with the chronically difficult parts of my psyche. But that, too, was a good thing and contributes -- rather than detracts from -- the restoration.

This was my tenth year attending the P**T*** gathering. I have been to a variety of other Pagan gatherings -- such as Starwood, Free Spirit, and Wild Magic -- but P**T*** is, by far, my favourite. It is also the only one that I have never missed since the first time that I attended. The combination of the land and the people -- many of whom I have known for twelve years now -- makes the event exceptionally special. Each time I return to A****** (the site at which P**T*** is held), the year in-between events melts away and I enter a truly magickal place. I know that, for [ profile] cassiopia, Diana's Grove is the physical center of her spirituality. Last September, at the Wild Magic festival, I met many people for whom Lothlorien -- the site of Wild Magic -- is the physical center of their spiritual worlds. For me, A****** serves the same purpose and I cherish my time there each year.


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