Sticking With It

November 10, 2023

We’ve had the least desirable type of weather in my neck of the woods today: rain, freezing rain, snow, and more rain. It brings with it chill-to-the-bones cold that is miserable and dangerous.

Photo: Andreas Eichler

Fortunately, I’ve been snug at home all day, with no plans to venture out. I’ve been watching a Raven sitting at the top of a bare tree at the top of a hill. Every time I’ve looked out the window, over several hours, she’s remained glued to that branch. I’m impressed with how active Ravens are during cold damp weather, when no other birds would venture out. I still see Ravens flying the road on my way to work, when the temp is barely keeping the rain from changing to snow.

I certainly can’t stay outside very long in this weather. A cold rain is much worse than snow for inducing hypothermia. In my last book, Divining with Animal Guides, I didn’t discuss the adaptation of Ravens for harsh weather, but they are the survivors of the bird world. No wonder they’re so long-lived: why endure the hard times unless you’re waiting for halcyon days to return again? And winter is hard for these birds; juveniles often do not survive their first winter.

I’ve been like the Raven, enduring seasons of cold and deprivation, waiting for the return. Today I listened to a webinar on marketing and publicity, which had a few gems inside the cold realities. It’s easy to focus on the harshness of the particular climate in which I’m promoting my work rather than the strengths. I will be exploring how to make the innovative, idiosyncratic, and controversial aspects of my writing and my character a selling point rather than a drawback.

The Raven had a reason for perching on such an exposed inclement branch, which could not have been comfortable, even for her. Likewise, there is an intelligent reason why I find myself here, at this juncture, at this point in my life. I just need to figure out what it is.

A Glorious Fall

October 20, 2023

Here are some pictures from late September, when I finished the “Adirondack 46” on Redfield.

At the parking lot
Lake Colden dam
Swinging bridge over Opalescent River
Uphill scramble
Made it!
View from uptop

I’ve been hard at work on another book! Details coming….

An Encouraging Sign

September 22, 2023
There’s a type of madness that I’ve never seen described in print, that I have discussed with other hikers. It happens when you travel on foot, alone, over miles of dense forest that shows little change in vegetation or other variation in terrain. A claustrophobic feeling overtakes you, and you’re overcome by a desperation to be somewhere else. They say that it’s a grooved routine that makes the years fly by as you get older, but this monotony makes time slow waaay down. Five minutes feels like five hours. You begin to feel like you’ll never get out of these woods.

I was in such a situation several days ago on the way to a place called Lester Flow. Second growth forest. Good level path, but no trail signs or even markers. No ponds, no hills, no streams, no meadows, no views, no curves, no people. Almost no sound; it’s the end of summer and the birds are molting. I didn’t succumb to the insanity, but after about twenty minutes I recognized the signs. I have this idea that if I understand what’s happening, I can maintain equilibrium.

I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. I took note of the species of trees, the downed branches, the fungi, the subtle rock patterns on the path. I tuned into the remote murmur of a plane far overhead, and the buzzing of dragonflies, and the Black-Capped Chickadees that never completely calm down. Once I heard a Pileated Woodpecker. In this way, I remained conscious of going somewhere, as opposed to merely getting tired. It helped that I’m a fairly fast hiker these days; I arrived at the Flow in less than an hour. I was rewarded with a pretty peaceful scene and a sense of privacy rather than isolation.

The way back was easy, because I memorized the landmarks, such as they were.

I asked myself later, if perhaps this madness that I have no word for – call it forest craze – has been occurring in my life, on a different level. I’ve been discouraged by lack of discernible change in various areas of my life, and while I can’t honestly say I’ve been in a bad place, I have often felt like there’s no opening in the trees.

I doubt I’m the only one who encounters this in their life. It’s not the same as spinning on a hamster wheel: I know I’ve covered some distance, and my sense of direction is good. Perhaps by tuning into subtle changes, a sense of movement can be restored. This is where consciously noticing signs, rather than waiting for them to ambush you, is important.

Lester Flow

Highly Recommended

September 14, 2023

With the current wave of women’s speech suppressed by gender activists, it is essential to see this in context of patriarchal silencing of women. This problem is about 5,000 years old.

This talk goes live Friday September 15 at 3pm Eastern Time.

Today on Sargent Pond

September 1, 2023

It’s been a great summer. I’ve been outside as much as possible. Winter coziness indoors will begin soon enough. I hiked today to Upper Sargent Pond, which I had to myself. For a variety of reasons, it’s not a popular place, though it is lovely.

I’ve been translating classic Greek invocations lately. These are based on originals and my understanding of the deity. Here is an Orphic hymn to Hermes.

O Hermes, artful messenger: boisterous one laden with divine prophesy. You whisk into our cognizance dodging, feinting, finessing, contemporizing while bestowing counsel in your cryptic way. Wily advisor, with sharply honed insight pierce our misfortunes and smooth the way for prosperity and peace.

It takes a solar system to raise a narcissist

August 18, 2023

A character in a novel I’m writing is a classic narcissist, and I wondered what his astrological sign would be. Which sign of the zodiac is the most likely to be narcissistic? I gave the subject a lot of thought, and I couldn’t decide.

So I went online. Detecting (and shaming) narcissism is all the rage at the moment, and any fashionable zine-type site has tackled the subject, as have a smaller number of learned astrologers.

What I discovered on the internet confused me even more. There was no consensus, and very few patterns. Aries came up frequently (They’re so self-centered!). Taurus might be thrown in (They think they deserve better!). Gemini was not excluded (They’re so shallow!). Cancer usually gets a pass, but not always (They can be overprotective of family – huh?). Leo gets a lot of press (They’re always the center of attention!). See a pattern? Because I don’t.

Part of the problem is lack of a coherent definition. So many people today “just know” what “everybody knows” and don’t bother to do basic research or define their terms. Which is rather narcissistic, in my book.

So what are we talking about when we say “narcissist”? To me, as a psychotherapist, a narcissist is a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. So let’s use that definition.

The hallmark of a true narcissist is insecurity, at a core personal level. They don’t believe they’re good enough, but they think they should be better than other people. “An egomaniac with an inferiority complex,” was how we used to describe it to recovering alcoholics, and they “got it” immediately. A narcissist hides their insecurity from others, and from themselves, in a variety of pathological ways. They might brag about themselves constantly and expect others to go along. They can demand favors and special treatment and become obstreperous when rebuffed. They have poor insight and attribute ill-will from others to jealousy rather than their own behaviors. They are themselves quite envious of other people and fantasize about power, wealth, fame, etc. They don’t work to achieve (or deserve) their grandiose ideals, however, and believe they should be given these things because they are special. They will trample over and exploit others to obtain the public acclaim and status they crave. They are, deep down, complete frauds, and, deep down, they know it.

A narcissist will be a sociable person, because they need constant affirmation, and their worst company is themselves. A nerd working alone at the office late into the evening to get that raise is not a narcissist, nor is the hermit homesteading in the woods, although both could have a high opinion of themselves. A high self-concept with commensurate evidence is not narcissism. Narcissists are often very successful, however, in terms of status or wealth, because they are excellent self-promoters. The book they wrote may be crap, but they know how to market it, because they market themselves every minute of every day. Their tools are flattery, appeal to trendiness, self-praise, and identification of key players in the fame game. They rely on the work and attention of others, but try to take all the credit. They feel empty inside.

Since narcissism is a fairly common personality trait, and arguably becoming more common, it is surprising that an astrological sign cannot be identified with it, even as a “low manifestation” of planetary influences. However common it is becoming, narcissism seems to be a composite of the worst characteristics of the planets that rule the signs. What sign is most likely to be a narcissist? Any of them. It takes a solar system to raise a narcissist. So a narcissist might be an Aries with a self-centered streak who has a poorly aspected Sagittarius moon generating grandiosity, along with an Aquarius influence seeding a disinclination for self-reflection. Or that narcissist might be a Leo with a need for continual applause coupled with a Capricorn low self-esteem and a Pisces tendency to live in fantasy. Or even a Gemini with a dislike of sustained effort together with a Cancer hypersensitivity and a Scorpio sense of victimhood. And contrary to popular belief, your Aries may simply be a person with a secure sense of identity, your Virgo someone who honestly appraises their abilities, or your Taurus someone who works to achieve the finer things in life.

My narcissistic character is going to be a Leo, because he has an interest in cosplay and that sign is often drawn to the theatre. Yes, a lot of people call Leo the narcissist because he gets a lot of attention, but if that bothers you, maybe you are simply jel.

Lughnasadh on Black Pond

August 4, 2023

I took this picture on August 2nd on a still day with the trail to myself. I cherish these days when weather and privacy allows me to perform ritual outdoors. Decades ago, someone told me that this holiday is about taking stock of what you need to finish and what’s holding you back. The first grain reaped does not a harvest make. I prayed for support in the writing (and completion) of my current novel. It will be the fourth that I’ve considered worthy of publishing under my name. I actually had an offer from a publisher a few weeks ago, but I turned it down. Didn’t feel right. I took it as a sign that more developments are coming, that things are ripening. Pray for me, friends.

Sinead O’Connor 1966-2013: Woman of Integrity

July 28, 2023
Sinead O’Connor. Photo: Grussworte

Like the rest of the world, I am digesting the news of the death of Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, although unlike many of her fans, I know her mainly for one thing: tearing up the picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live.

And everybody knows about that. I remember coming to work the next day and hearing the young Catholic women rage and rage about it. I hadn’t watched SNL the night before – I heard it for the first time from the ragers – but I remember thinking, “Get a grip. It’s just this woman’s opinion and she has a right to it.”

But they wouldn’t get a grip. It spawned a pearl clutch in the shallow US news media, who, bobbleheads that they are, slavered over this public relations savvy pope like he had granted them absolution from thinking. Up to this time, Sinead had a meteoric rise in her career as a singer-songwriter, and I never heard her name again except in connection with the pope incident.

But I have thought about Sinead every day for the past dozen years or so. She was the first person I remember being cancelled for her view. Singular. For one opinion, though of course she had many others. Even the Smothers Brothers survived controversy after controversy. And the cancellation was swift, complete, and irrevocable – even after she had been shown to be right.

And she was so right. She was so so right. The horrific extent of sexual abuse by priests and the extent of coverups by the higher clergy, including the pope, eventually did become widely known, although it took years of work by dedicated survivors to make the crimes visible. That work had already started when Sinead gave her infamous performance, but certain segments of the population – including the wealthy elites who guard the gates of fame – were not willing to contemplate uncomfortable truths.

So the reason I have been thinking about Sinead has to do with the current cancel culture around gender identity, though the gender critical movement has too many martyrs to iterate in a short blog post. There are lessons from the church sexual abuse scandals that can be applied here. The first is that the more correct, and the more urgent, the criticism of a powerful authority, the more unforgiving will be the backlash. The second is that reckoning takes a very long time. The third is that the US media and entertainment industry is more fucked up than the Catholic Church.

There has never been any doubt in my mind that the gender industry will one day be universally acknowledged as the sex abuse scandal that it is. From the musty halls of Berkeley’s sociopathic sociology department  to the antiseptic surgical units of Mayo Clinic, it will be aired and flushed. The question is when. Truth is a bitch, and many people hate her. The truth – other people’s reception of the truth – came too late for Sinead. If other women of integrity are waiting for a mea culpa from the craven cheerleaders of elitest decadence, we’ll have to wait for our own funeral.