Now with more angst!
I had my last Pagan Tea Time date on Sunday evening: Rhyd Wildermuth, blogger and punk, came to dinner at my house. We were supposed to gather for afternoon tea, but as he was catching a ride from Seattle to Portland, it worked out that he got dinner at my house instead.
There were pleasantries, getting-to-know-you questions, and interruptions galore from my kids. My husband had just finished doing the taxes, and suffice it to say that he was not his usual sociable self. I felt anxious, as dinner was an off the cuff, clean out the larder meal: hamhock soup with mashed potatoes. It was odd to have some one I’ve never seen before come to my house for dinner. And yet, I felt like I was offering a meal to a wandering monk (which he is in a way); a respite for the pilgrim. I believe very much in hospitality. Sharing my home meant a lot to me.
I needn’t have been so self-conscious; the conversation was great! We meandered a great deal. I don’t think we actually finished a single topic we started! He and I could talk for ages – as I could with all of my colleagues here at Patheos.
I wish I could say that we solved all the riddles. We were barely able to list the riddles! There is so much more I want to know about this gentleman: I want to pick his brain about Occupy, his experiences with his gods, his practice, and how punk and capitalism plays into the wider Pagan movement. He is as thoughtful in person as he is online.
So Sunday night I went to bed happy. I woke in the night high on new friendships, not just from meeting Rhyd, but also from the weekend before at PCon. While I’d respected and enjoyed the online conversations and blog posts from my colleagues here at Patheos, meeting them in person was better than I expected. Not only do I have incredible ‘co-workers,’ people who are every bit as interesting in person as they are online, but I feel like I made friends. I would circle with any of them, and we don’t even share the same gods or traditions. I would gladly share my table with them. I could see my colleagues celebrating a solstice in my backyard or helping dedicate an outdoor shrine. I get a lot of moral support and incredible encouragement for my writing and spiritual practices from my colleagues – and I am deeply grateful for it. But I could see building actual community with these people.
And then I rolled over and felt gutted, sad to the point of near tears (I’m not a crier, so me almost crying is about as good as the real thing). Where are the Pagans in Olympia? I don’t know. How can I build these sorts of relationships in the town I actually live in? My teachers are 70 miles to the north. Most of my closest friends live in other towns or states. My trusted Feri/Faery are spread out all over the country. My ‘co-workers’ are all virtual. While this often suits my hermit self and fits nicely with a stay-at-home parent lifestyle, I cannot live on virtual friendships alone.
I woke up and attempted to use my google-fu. Seems like most Pagan groups in my area haven’t been active for years. The only one I can find is a women’s tarot circle that meets weekly. The organizer in me knows there’s a void to fill and that I’m perfectly capable of doing it. But with a new baby on the way, it’s unlikely that I will have the space to do it for the next few years.
Thankfully Feri has taught me well how to hold conflicting ideas or feelings simultaneously. I am currently doing so: I hold the joy of new friends and the growth of my personal community alongside the realization of my own loneliness and isolation from the wider community. Olympia is full of ‘Pagan values’ but I cannot figure out where the practicing Pagans (of any stripe) are. Maybe I’ll just have to check out that Satanist/”dark arts” reading group at one of the local bookshops after all…