A world and a day ago, I wrote about change.
After a year of more-or-less monthly contributions to Nature’s Path on the Patheos Pagan Channel, I made the decision to eschew the platform graciously provided to me by CUUPS Continental and strike out on my own with a brand-new blog on a brand-new Pagan blogging platform. In doing so, I knew that I would be giving up the huge potential visibility that Patheos Pagan provides my writing. But I also knew that I would be doing it for the right reasons: to stand in solidarity with my friends and colleagues leaving Patheos in the wake of its’ acquisition by Beliefnet, as well as to get in on the ground floor of a promising new platform with the potential to someday have a great impact within the online Neo-Pagan community.
As above, so below… and as online, so in real life. My digital move is coinciding with an equally challenging physical move. After a decade spent living in New York’s Susquehanna Valley, my wife and I packed our things and relocated to Western New England. In doing so, my small family knew we would be giving up on the only comforts we had ever known together, including the only apartment we had ever lived in and close proximity to most of the friends that we had made as a couple. As with my online move, I also knew that I would be doing this for the right reasons: to abandon a comfortable environment that had become toxic to both my career and emotional state, to open my wife and I up to limitless career potential in an area with more jobs, as well as to live closer to both of our families and the only place on this side of the Atlantic that my little line of McBrides has ever called home.
Both moves have proved to be surprisingly challenging.
In my mind’s eye, I had envisioned my family’s relocation with excitement. For the first time, my wife and I would be able to look together for a new community and apartment in which to reside (I began renting our previous home long before my wife and I would be introduced in a Binghamton coffee shop). We could take time and clean, paint, and decorate our new home without having to worry about jumping over our accumulated furniture. We would be moving closer to the folks that make up the core of The Morrigan’s Call community, and a very active ADF Grove. And most importantly, my wife would be able to use her newly printed Social Work degree to establish the foundations of her career in New England.
Reality rarely works out the way we plan it, hence the old adage about man planning and God laughing. Before we could buy our first U-Haul box, my father-in-law died unexpectedly near his New York City home. Holding my wife’s hand and silently praying, I watched him pass as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sparred side-by-side on the overhead television. Now trying to deal with the loss of her father, my wife still had one month to finish graduate school and get her degree, while at the same time helping me plan a January move 200 miles away. Then came the trips to find an apartment and the fear that we wouldn’t find one adequate for our needs and budget, the multiple U-Haul rentals, and the 400-mile round trip slogs through the American Northeast. Next was the joy of purchasing and packing Yuletide gifts while simultaneously packing a decade’s worth of possessions into cardboard boxes that never seemed to hold up as well as advertised. This lead to the insanity of moving an apartment between Christmas and New Year’s, followed by the shock of living far from any close friends. And the promised spiritual community didn’t work out quite as planned either, as I found that almost all of my Morrigan’s Call and ADF contacts live at least 90 minutes away from our new home.
That’s not to say that I feel any of this has been a mistake; it’s just that it has been unexpectedly hard. And I suppose that in itself is a lesson for all of us. Spiritual journeys, much like physical journeys, are exciting when planned on a whiteboard or dreamed about in a Book of Shadows. But when the rubber hits the road, they’re damned hard work. They hurt, they burn, they make you cry and scream and curse the Gods whom you worship. They can cause you to question your sanity, or your perception of the core concepts that underly your life. But in they end, they’re worth it. Anything worth having is worth paying a price for. Just ask Odin. A life spent in carefree fields and sunshiny skies can still be peppered with pain and hard lessons that help to forge you into your better self. Just ask Áine. Any journey on even the most innocuous paths of life can lead you through loss and grief, drawing countless tears from your eyes. Just ask Freyja.
And so I keep on struggling, and look toward that better day that I know is just over the horizon. I take each lonely moment without nearby friends as a necessary down payment on the bounty to come. And as my wife and I grow closer through our shared struggle, I see with more assurance the promise of that bounty. Through lonely afternoons that become shared time for conversation and cuddles. Through long commutes that unveil the beauty of the New England countryside. Through long trips to visit absent friends that make the time that much more special. These are the trials and tribulations of turning the page, and they’re almost always worth it.
And so, welcome to Black Keep and Meadowsweet, my new home on PaganBloggers.com! My name is Dan McBride, and I’m a practicing ADF Druid, nascent Vanacelt Heathen, and an all-around Devotional Polythiest. At least once a month, I’ll be writing on topics ranging from spiritual matters, seasonal reflections, as well as all the stuff I happen to be doing as part of my work on the ADF Dedicant Path. I honor a number of Gaelic and Vanic Gods, but the big two are Áine and Freyja. There may be (okay, probably are) others: Loki, The Morrígan, Freyr, and Brighid are all top contenders.
The title of Black Keep and Meadowsweet is intended to honor my ancestors and our patroness, Áine. A quarter of my ancestry comes from Munster stock: the Crottys and the Desmond branch of the FitzGerald family. “Black Keep” is a reference to The Black Castle, a ruined FitzGerald stronghold on the shores of Lough Gur, in County Limerick. This lake also happens to be Áine’s favorite locale for swimming and sunbathing (just don’t take Her comb), and is the mythological home (and probable final resting place) of Gerald FitzGerald. “Meadowsweet” is Áine’s favorite flower.