I just spent the last couple of days in Greenville North Carolina. Never heard of Greenville? I can’t say it was really on my radar until I was invited down there to speak by The Sojourner bookstore. Once I settled in late Thursday night and got through my first workshop on Saturday afternoon (three hours!) I was completely in love with the place and the people who were there.
While driving to the store I couldn’t help but stop and stare at every home with a “for sale” sign in the front yard. I kept thinking to myself “Ari and I could totally live here,” and it didn’t take a whole lot of imagination to picture a really large office for me, a dance room for my wife, and a dedicated ritual space all in the same domicile for a fraction of what we are paying in Northern Carolina. When Heron Michelle (the owner of the Sojo) started talking about walking around in her backyard barefoot at Yule and the days of school her kids missed in February due to snow my brain was “all hot damn! four seasons!” (And all without Winter being an evil slog like it was in the Midwest.) Throw in some Carolina barbecue and some real southern friend chicken and I was all in for a return to ACC Country. Hell there was an even Irish sports bar with cider on tap just three blocks from the Sojo, what more could I possible need?
But it wasn’t all just the place, the food, and the low cost of living, a lot of it was about the people I met while teaching. They were all really nice people and from all corners of Pagandom. There were people both intense and the joyful, British Trad Witches and OTO folks, eclectic Wiccans and lovers of Conjure, and women and men from age 21 to 67. Weirdly all of those people actually paid to listen to me talk, and talk I did, for up to three hours at a pop. No bookstore in Northern California has ever even asked me to teach a workshop, let alone fly me over 2000 miles to do so.
Have I mentioned the grass in Greenville yet? Oh my gods was it ever so green! All I could do in my brain was compare just how brown my front yard is versus the absolute lushness of North Carolina’s eastern Tidewater area. Green grass here is not normal in August; it has to be forced into existence. Forced with in-ground sprinkler systems and gallons of water, all while most of the state is in the grip of a crippling drought. All I could think about was my brown front yard and the sniping I take from a disgruntled few in an eclectic circle I help organize. Everything about Greenville NC in the middle of August 2014 felt absolutely perfect, more perfect than Sunnyvale California, at least for a while.
One of the great things about going to festivals and other Pagan events is that I get to drop into all sorts of Pagan communities for just a little while. Spend three days somewhere and about all you’ll notice is how perfect everything is. Every Pagan group I meet is just so warm and inviting and I feel so bloody wanted it’s unbelievable. You paid money to listen to me and you brought me a bottle of wine on top of that!?! You even bought me a witchy sounding bottle of wine!?! Hell yes!
From Cornwall New York to Toronto Canada to Ann Arbor Michigan every place I visit ends up feeling so much more Witchy than home sometimes. I always encounter these wonderful people whose communities never seem to be about petty politics or contests about who is Witchier than thou. Even when I’m warned about a particular person that individual always turns out to be lovely, full of love for the Craft and a desire to make their own community better. I can’t help but wonder why a town of less than 100,000 people feels like it has a more vibrant Pagan community than my metropolitan area of over one million people?
I remember sometimes feeling this way during my early Pagan years. I used to look around my little Pagan world in Lansing Michigan and wonder why we couldn’t be more like Jackson down the road (they had a group named Helix!) or have our own giant Church of All Worlds Community like they seemed to have in not so far off Toledo Ohio. I remember going to the ConVocation festival in Detroit and then day dreaming about living in Detroit . . . . . at least until I got a really good look at the front yard.
That’s the thing about the grass, it is often greener on the other side, but that doesn’t mean it will always be like that. For as inviting as Greenville North Carolina looked over the weekend by Monday the illusion has pretty much been shattered. Don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful time (one of the best Morrison Rituals ever!), and met some people I think will be friends for life, but once people started to feel like I was a part of the tribe it became so much easier to share things with me. Turns out that the little tempests in a teapot I deal with here in the Pagan Community are a part of what goes on in Greenville too. It was so easy to get caught up in just how green the grass was in August that I forgot it’d be dead in late January, just as my grass is turning green again.
That’s really it too. No one community is better than another community. Some are bigger, some are smaller, some revolve around bookstores, and some revolve around a yearly festival or a monthly pub-moot. All of our communities are really what we make of them, and all of them are likely to eventually have problems, issues, and clashes of personality. When I’m out on the road I generally only get to see the “good stuff” and when I’m home I have to deal with “all of the stuff,” good and bad, with the bad and the annoying sometimes winning the war, or at least winning enough to take up an unfair amount of my time. I loved Greenville, but I also fell back in love with Sunnyvale the moment I walked into our ritual space hand in hand with my wife and found a home for my latest Pan statue.
The grass might be greener on the other side, but it rarely is for very long . . . . .
Do you like Raise the Horns? Even if you don’t how about humoring a harmless blond-haired guy? Like RtH on Facebook, and also like Patheos Pagan for more great articles most of them far better than this one. Are you a Pagan living in the UK? Jason will be in London and Edinburgh this September and October, send him a message if you’d like to get a cup of tea or a pint of cider.