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Rev. Joel Schonbrunn
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Hi Folks,

Sorry for the incredible drought out here in Live Journal land.

I had a great day today, nearly ending with a Imbolc Ritual for FoDLA Grove of the Bay, and a nice feast. It started out much more poorly. I walked out to attend an SCA "Work Party" volunteering to help at a nearby park (Ed Levin Park in Milpitas). We use the park frequently for SCA Events, and the rangers are wonderful, so it has been a very rewarding '3rd space" to volunteer at the park, and help them get some assistance on projects that wouldn't otherwise get finished.

Is I was about to drive away, I happened to noticed that my front passenger tire was flat as a pancake, or more like a crepe. It was very sad. And compounded by the fact that I had the spare on my car already, and that previously bum tire that had ripped itself to shreds was becoming a lawn ornament in our side yard. So we were down a very needed tire, and no time to get it worked out.

I went to the work party, leaving Kasey home, and semi-stranded.

While at the work party, I had a great time with the Baron of Darkwood, and a new to me lady, "Antonia". We ended up on post hole digging detail, for some large 4x4 posts. It was a nice day for digging in the wet clay, our first really nice day in several weeks. More on that later.

The surprise highlight at the work party turned out to be us watching a hang glider crash into a barbed wire fence! Antonia is a professional firefighter, and an EMT, so she ran right over, and was accompanied by two of the park rangers, who are also first responders, so the "pilot" had emergency medical care within about 90 seconds of the event, and paramedics in an ambulance in about 10 minutes, which was pretty amazing in the somewhat remote part of the park, quite a distance from the firestations. The pilot was able to walk away, and seemed to be more shook up than injured, which was lucky. "Hangliding" and "accident" and "Barbed wire" all in a sentence rarely ends well...!

As I was frantically preparing the Oak grove out back for the ritual, I noticed something somewhat unusual had taken place...
For those in the SF Bay area, you will recall that we have had some very heavy duty weather recently. This coincided somewhat with one of my grove members taking the journey to the Summerlands.

In one of my public rituals last year, I had all of the participants write up offerings, wishes, and related materials on long strips of green fabric. This was then tied up around the thick base of the Elder Oak tree in my back yard. It was tied up, using good rope, in a fairly secure manner. Due to my years of Woodcraft training, I am pretty good at this sort of thing. I would have expected this to last several years at minimum, since it was quite protected by the canopy of the oak tree itself.

Back to me today, looking at the tree. The tree has a canopy that is roughly 40 foot in diameter, and it is a very dense canopy, underneath. When I went in the canopy area to retrieve our firepit, I was quite surprised to notice that the strips of the offerings had moved from the trunk, to a hanging from a different limb of the tree, but still hanging, much the way we had initially set it up.

If it had ripped in the strong storms, I doubt it would have re-hung itself on a higher nearby branch, but just fallen to the ground.

I am reading into this that is a sign from the Shining Ones, or quite possibly the Nature spirits that we have specifically invited to take up residence in the base of the tree. We regularly make offerings there.

It is of particular note to me, that this could have easily happend the night our grove member died, since it had been one of the bigger storm nights. I see the two as being united elements. The tree is also firmly in the north of our yard, and our grove member was frequently involved in calling elements associated with the North.

Coincidence... You decide...!!

Hi Folks,

Sorry for the long time between posts, but Facebook has definitely become my more active place for posting these days.

Anyway, I wanted to ping the global community, and see if anyone had any ideas here.

I had a somewhat odd set of dreams last night.

It involved a set of 3 black panthers(the animals). They were behaving like very frisky house-cat kittens, running and jumping in a very suburban house environment, but were full size panthers. I think they may have even been larger than normal, more like the size of a full grown tiger, but they were all black...

They were behaving like aggressive/playful cats in the house and garage, so it was a little violent, but they didn't damage anyone or the house. I remember them clinging to the wall (on exposed structural 2x4's), but being careful not to claw anything too badly. They were not my pets, but were definitely acting like they were supposed to be there at that time...

Then, this morning, on my way to work, I noticed an unusually large group, like 10-15 (is that called a rook?) of Ravens this morning, playing in the wind above a bridge. I am not used to seeing them in that area at all, so that was a little weird.

There is some odd transition taking place in my world today, since my wife, Kasey, is at her last day of what has been a great job for her as an extended temp, in the purchasing department of the IT Group at the Stanford Medical Center. She has been working on their transition towards an Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Perhaps this is some message about our future?

In other news that is hopefully un-related. My very trusty subaru forester is very unhappy as of yesterday evening. Something is wrong in the electrical system. My battery which is about 3-months old, is having trouble keeping a charge. Being that it is close to 10 years old, it is very possible the alternator is going... Maybe something else... Definitely not my area of tech!

So, if anyone has any thoughts or possible interpretations about any of this, please let me know...!

Cheers,
Joel

Sorry for the great delay between my postings. Facebook has definitely taken over as the primary place for my updates these days.

Anyway, here goes.

As some of you may know, I have had a lot of Druid activities lately, the last 3 weekends have been extended campouts with various Druid groups, celebrating the festival of Lughnassadh (LOO-nas-suh for those playing at home). Anyway, this was my first weekend at home, and the lovely august weather was calling me to go out on the waters this afternoon. As previous readers may recall, my last major kayak adventure ended up with me getting literally stuck in the mud at low-ish tide. So, in an attempt to make that difficult to repeat, I carefully synchronized my launch to be in the middle of high tide coming in, so I would have many hours of higher waters, by several feet. Little did I know what that would enable...!

I have had fun recently exploring a sunward circumnavigation of Bair Island, and wanted to give it a whirl again today.

Anyway, I was out on the water, and things were going pretty well. I was fighting the wind a bit in the more protected areas, which would typically mean that I will get a stronger wind pushing me home after the halfway point. I made the turn up by the "Redwood Shores" community, and was navigating through the area that had been painfully shallow last time I encoutered it. I was watching the shore of Bair Island carefully, as there are several stream channels that lead across the islands as "sloughs". It the right channel was picked, it could be a big short cut, presuming you were able to find an exit on the other side. I have been through this area in this manner once before from the other side, so I know it is definitely possible. Or so I thought...!

Paddling along the edge of this particular island is a little tricky from a navigation perspective, since the island has very gentle curving edges, so you never really know precisely where you are in the whole journey, until you end up in the stronger waves and current of the main bay. I knew I was close to that part of the journey, but I definitely had at least another mile to go.

I spied an entry into one of the inner channels, with something I had never seen before in person. I believe the common term is a "Tidal Race". What I encountered was sort of similar to a lock for ships, where two areas of water have a slight level drop between the two, and water was rushing in to the lower area, but it was pretty shallow, so the water was developing some small white water like conditions with fast moving whirlpools, and eddy currents. When you are properly prepared for such things, and typically in a much smaller white water or "play boat" as they tend to be called these days, it could be loads of fun, since it is a channel of very fast moving water, that spills out into a large lake like area, that is otherwise a very protected zone, with a high berm of sandy soil around the whole area. So, you can come into the fast part of the tidal race from the side, and enjoy the fast water for a bit, then let it carry you into the calm center and repeat.

I was of course in what is generally considered a poor boat for such conditions. My kayak is a 17.5 ft long Wilderness Systems Tsunami, which I adore. I still don't have the right spray skirt, so I am slumming it with what is affectionally known as a "miniskirt". I am a big fan of Miniskirts, usually on Ladies, but they work pretty well in my situation as well. However, in a "play boat", which is normally about 6ft long, and sort of like a boogie-board glued onto a kayak cockpit, they would do amazing things with the whirlpools and repeating standing waves in the nearby run-off. Whereas, I mostly just get stuck in the tractor beam, and carried wherever they wanted to take me. I spent a couple of minutes trying to make the best use of it I could but it is honestly a little bit beyond my skill level, and definitely made me re-affirm my interest in getting a full spray skirt, so I could face such things with a bit more confidence.

Anyway, I forgot to mention that as I made the initial move to enter the tidal race, I had been greeted by two travel worn large pelicans, which I enjoy seeing out here. It must be part of my New england upbringing, but I am used to seeing gulls and such from living in Nantucket, but whenever I see a Pelican, it is always a reminder that I am visiting a very active ecosystem, and that I am really intruding on their space. I hope that my visits don't upset them. They seem to at least tolerate my presence most of the time with little grumpyness on their part.

So, I found myself in a very large lake, sort of like the atoll's that you expect in the south seas, from a volcanic area. IE, it is a large body of water, but it was enclosed all the way around by a several feet high wall, of the sandy packed mud/soil, with various salt marsh type plants growing all along it. It was out as far as I could see on the horizon, but I could make out some very familiar landmarks across the other side, and it seemed like I might have just found my version of the Northwest passage. So I took advantage of the fast moving water, and paddled in that direction, not really knowing what to expect. As I explored the middle of the area, and started following the little perimeter sea wall, I came to realize that I may have come through the only normal entrance to the area! I did eventually see another version of the tidal races, and I got quite excited! I moved over closer to this 2nd area, which would have definitely be the exit that I had been seeking. As I got closer, to it, my hopes were dashed, since it looked more "manmade", with a small gate area. My biggest conern was that the water rushing into the part I was in, was coming from at least 1 foot higher than my level of water. It might work for running salmon, but I wasn't feeling up to the challenge! So, I decided to re-cross the tidal "lake", and see if I could make it through the primary tidal race, and return home...

I made it to the tidal races again, and gave it a whirl for a couple of minutes. Sadly, I learned the hardway, that I was no where near strong enough to fight the rushing current, and paddle myself through the fast water. I tried sneaking around the very extreme perimeter of the tide race, thinking I might be able to slingshot myself through it, but that wasn't going to work either. I had to fall back and make a new plan. Luckily, I had my cellphone, so at the very least, I was able to call Kasey, and let her know I was going to be delayed somewhat.

I ultimately arrived at the simple solution of landing the boat, and then portaging it over the narrow sea wall, back into the main channel that leads to the SF Bay. This was a lot easier than it could have been, so I was lucky.

From there, I called again, and let Kasey know I was safe, and on my way. Good thing, as the sun was nearly setting, so I had to boogie to get home soon.

I knew that the wind and current would generally be heading my way, so the paddling was going to be easy, I wasn't too worried.

As some of you know, when I am kayaking, I use that time as a special spiritual time to really open up wide in a druid manner, and try to soak in everything I can see of what it is going on around me. In this specific journey, I really think it was the closest to encountering the Sidhe, as I am likely to get at this point.

That about covers things for now. Home safe and sound, with a good story to share for the future...

Just in case you didn't think I was odd enough. Here is what I remember of a dream I had last night.

I was in a really huge movie theater complex, but it was like I was a super VIP, like at a Premiere.

The weather was really bad outside, raining and blowing winds, like call out the national guard bad, but the screening was apparently going on without any concern.

The film was apparently a new heavily re-edited version of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The major new element was a new race had been dropped into the story line. It was a cross between an Octopus, and a Manta Ray. Think of it being more Manta Ray, but with some tentacle type arms.

There were two sets of these creatures. One had been robotically augmented, so that 40% of their bodies had been robotic, the other were all "natural". There was a civil war of sorts between the two groups, and the Empire had gotten involved. I am not sure where I had seen evidence of it, but it was clear that there was a substantial new "collectible toy" market based around these new manta ray creatures. Perhaps there were signs in the movie theater, or on TV ahead of the release.

There were hours of interactions and combat with these odd creatures, and they did a lot of hostage taking from both sides. They also had a translucent kangaroo like pouch in the front which was quite stretchy, and would be the preferred place to stash the hostages. I recall something about the two groups being different colors, something like orange and lime green, and that you could see the hostages from within the translucent pouches of the other group.

So, yeah. It was a pretty weird dream. I woke up in the morning with our larger cat, Kili hugging my feet/shins, which is quite unusual for her. I am guessing that had some effect on my dream with the tentacle part.

There you have it.

Hi Folks,

Long time since my last post, but as most of you know, I have shifted to facebook for most of my social networking.  With any luck, this will appear there as well, hopefully cut to a reasonable length...

I wanted to give a little bit of a trip report/summary of my recent adventures in Oregon.

Kasey and I went up to attend the "West/An-Tir War", which is an annual SCA event, so this was part of our medieval recreation group.  This is one of the larger events on the West Coast, but the first time either of us had attended it.  We are trying to get a sense which is better between the May Potrero War, near the Mexican border, and this one, in the Redwood forests of Coastal Oregon.  I have to admit that I think I like this one better, even though there are lots of things that are great at Potrero.  The super big initial bonus here, is that you are allowed to unload in a reasonable manner, using your car, and not like at Potrero, where you have to schlep everything from parking lots, often quite a substantial distance.

The people running the event (the Autocrats, in our SCA Lingo) definitely had some issues with expectation management not living up to what they had suggested would be available.  It made us grumble a bit, but again, it was generally ok.  I wasn't with the intial group that arrived first on Thursday, and had I been there, I think we could have navigated some of the "land allocation" issues a bit more successfully.  Oh well, to a certain degree I was really hoping to use this event as a training scenario, so that the people I was camping with could see where things were going well on their own, and where they really did enjoy the contributions of several members who weren't able to join us this time.  Kasey and I are considered the "old timers with significant knowledge" of the SCA, which is hysterical, as I keep trying to tell them, but I suppose it is all a bit relative. 

It was nice to see a big group of the Kingdom of the West working together, and we were able to strengthen the bonds of friendship with several well placed people within the Society, which feels good.  One of our camp, Brandon, is just getting his feet wet with regards to the War style combat within the SCA, and was extremely eager to make a good impression with the Earl Marshal, the King, and the Prince of the Mists.  I think he did, but time will tell more on that front.

It was fascinating to see the group dynamic develop, as Kasey and I are seen as very calm/balancing members of the group, which seemed to be the case this weekend.  I am amazed to see that basically everyone in the group "got it", with regards to group responsibilities like kitchen cleanup, and how significantly one person in particular didn't.  He was a nice guy, but I was just amazed at how thick he was in this regard.  The good news is that he is just one person out of a much bigger group, so his impact gets smaller as our group continues to grow.  He has a lot of things that are about to be a big change in his life, so hopefully the hard lessons of life will help him through these types of issues sooner than later...

This was my first time going north of "Cloverdale" in California, let alone touching Oregon, so I was excited to see the new landscapes, and get a feel for what Northern California is really all about.

I would love to go kayaking up in the Humboldt Bay area, and just about all of the Coastline that I saw in Oregon.  I will defintely try to make that happen sooner than later!

As someone who has done a lot of Theater Lighting Design (in the past), I was pretty amazed by the sun hitting the low hanging clouds and fog in the forests.  Just a beautiful thing to see.  I got a little nervous that I wouldn't see the sun again at times, since we basically ended up camped in a combination of coastal fog and low clouds, fun but a little bit more moist than I would have preferred.  We at least know much better at what to expect next time around.

Other highlights, we ended up going to the big Kingdom of the West party on Saturday night, and this was probably the first party, where we actually felt welcomed, and like we knew some of the people.  It was very nice!

On Sunday driving back down, Kasey and I stopped in at the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, CA, and got to sample some of their brews that seem to never make it to the stores, which is always fun.

That about covers it for now.  I will post a couple of pictures on my Facebook, probably this evening.
-Joel

Hi Folks,

Sorry for the extreme drought here in LJ land. Facebook has been where I have been doing much more of my online-posting these days.

So, I encountered a little bit of one of life's challenges today. As some of you may know, we share our house, with a very kind and gentle person named Greg. Greg has been in a rough patch like many people, and got laid off in December. The very good news is that Greg has been way ahead of the curve with environmentalism, and just generally lives an extremely low impact life. He has no debt, doesn't own a car, and just lives very simply, with the companionship of two cats, Six, and his son Morgan.

Well, that is until tonight. Morgan apparently suffered a fatal heart attack, and died very suddenly, while he was lying on a favorite perch/table in his room. We discovered something was wrong when he fell off the table about 2 feet to the floor, and we extremely unresponsive and otherwise a limp rag doll.

We took him to the all-night vets, but they were pretty sure he was DOA.

So, we will have a burial for him tomorrow.

Morgan was a very great cat, and was dearly loved by Greg. He led a good life, and will definitely be missed. I wish there was a better way to explain this sudden loss to his father, Six, who is still sniffing around the room trying to find his friend and son.

So that about covers it for now. There is no good way to share this sort of news.

Thanks for listening...
-Joel

Hi Folks,

Ok, I give in.

I am watching the coverage on HBO of the concerts in Washington, and thinking, "Hey, they are doing a pretty amazingly great job"...

Things kept going pretty well. I question some of the choices, and U2's performance didn't quite pass on the level of energy I had hoped, but overall everyone was there for the right reasons.

It makes me feel like there is enough of a punctuation mark on this even to really make a difference in a good way.

But somewhate out of my possible expectations, comes Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, singing, "This land is your land". Again, I was slightly bummed to see that the crowd didn't just go banannas at the signing of it, but it seemed to be pretty well received.

Bruce said something along the lines of "This is the best song about America", or something close to that, and I agree with him. It was really great to see how meaningful the experience was for the elder Pete Seeger, and how excited he was to be able to sing his song in an "official" capacity.

A little side note, to which I need a little more details for my own personal history:

A long time ago, in the mid 1970's, (making me a wee little guy) my family and I were attending a stage performance that I don't fully remember.
It might have been something as silly as part of the "Hall of Presidents" exhibit at Disneyworld, or something smaller, but I remember very distinctly that I was in a large auditorium, seated near the last row, sort of in the middle.

We were near the end of the show, and I am not quite sure what inspired me, but for some reason, I felt compelled to start singing "This land is your land", and quite accidentally, the crowd decided it was an audience participation element of the show, and started right in with me!

It took the performers a bit by surprise, but I recall that they rolled with it nicely.

So, whenever I hear that song, I am reminded of the power it can have within a crowd.

I didn't get a chance to see the whole concert, so I didn't see if Arlo Gurthrie got a chance to perform as well, but hopefully he is going to be part of the celebration in one way or another.

Woodie Guthrie, and Arlo Guthrie's music has had a really big impact on me in my 20's, so I hope they get some recognition in the whole celebration frenzy.

Anyway, I hope everyone is able to take time and reflect on the times, and put some extra energy in local or national government activities. This can be many many different things. I personally suggest doing some volunteer time at a local or national park, but that is just one of thousands of possible options!

Cheers,
Joel

Hi Folks,

From my casual polling of people over the recent holidays, it is very clear that the financial crisis is affecting basically all levels of our society. Kasey and I have somehow mostly been able to avoid the immediate consequences of the shrinking economy, and all of the cascading fall outs. However, I got a call today from my father, with unexpected news. He had been laid off, very unexpectedly from his position with ING. I know that ING has definitely been feeling its fair share of the pain, but I am more upset about the actual way his termination was handled.

There is no good way to fire people (that I am aware of), but I am pretty sure that what he experienced is a pretty lame way to do it, especially since he had been in that particular role for over 20 years. To go from that, to you need to be out of the building in 4 hours or less, is pretty lame IMHO. We hear about the lack of loyalty in big corporations these days, and I should pay it more heed, since I work for a place with over 90,000 employees (at least until thursday, if any of the many rumors prove to be true...)

This is tough for me, really as a point of hubris more than anything else, as I had intended to really celebrate my dad's eventual retirement in grand scale, and at this point, I am not sure he is positioned to get another job. Most people are already retired by his age, but he has resisted based on his love and passion for what he does.

I think I just need to keep close tabs on him, and see what comes of it.

He is not very computer savvy, so I get nervous about his ability to survive in other workplaces with more reliance on executives to know their way around basic office tools. I am confident he can pick up what he would need, but it is going to be a steep learning curve at a time when he is less likely to be very excited about such things.

I know lots of people are having much worse time in this current era, so I feel lame for getting upset about this, but my Dad is one of the people who has always been a strong supporter of me in my various ups and downs, and I am wanting to mirror that back to him. He is a genuinely kind person, and has been a great role model for much of my life. I want his "Golden Years" to be a wonderful next chapter for him, not one full of additional stress and anxiety.

Thanks for listening...!
-Joel

Today ended up very well.

It didn't start so hot, but started to improve greatly after lunch. I was able to complete 27 HD 720p videos. The big deal is that I spent most of last week trying to complete even 1 of these, and we didn't get good results, so we kept trying different toolsets.

When I got home, Kasey and I "trimmed our tree", that would be a Yule tree, and in our case it is a fake tree, based on my basic belief that a tree shouldn't die for this celebration...

We have been pretty low key about our Yule decorations in the past couple of years since we moved into Redwood City. This was largely due to the previous townhome we lived in not having a very good location for our tree. The new house, has a great place, so it was pretty easy going for us.

I forget how cute and otherwise whimsical our ornaments are. While growing up, I celebrated yule and to a larger degree "Christmas", but definitely not in the christian sense of the holiday.
My mother in particular was really into it, and made it into our biggest project of the year, getting the house decorated. We lived in a Colonial style house, that lent itself to many areas for decoration, including 2 fireplaces with big mantles.

One of our family traditions was giving ornaments of significance to each other each year. Typically they were something from Hallmark, or a local craftfair, but in some cases they were mementos of trips or travels from family or friends.

The end result is that we have a very eclectic set of ornaments from some unusual places. It is also sort of funny to see how many canoe and kayak related ornaments we have accumulated in recent years. You wouldn't think that there are that many out there, but there are.

We have birchbark canoes, sea kayaks, sea kayaks on woodies, and all manner of things in between.

Now, to try to find or make some druid or pagan yule ornaments.

I do have a more recent great yule memory.

I was with Ristandi and his wife Kerry in Los Angeles, at a party that they were hosting, partially to celebrate Ristandi being made a "master" in the Rune Gild, and mostly for Yule, with the rest of his Blakulla Hall members, and some other friends.

Music is a really big part of their lives, and Yule has some great music. Apparently Kerry had recently finished some seminars about reclaiming pagan music for Yule, so she had a big batch of pagan carols, which we sang as a big group.

You have to trust me. it was tons of fun, but also surprisingly empowering as a pagan. This was interesting for me, since I wouldn't go out of my way to go "a-caroling"...

Let's see what the rest of the week has in store for us...

Wassail,
Joel

Hi Folks,

Kasey and I just held our 1st 1/4 moon ritual in the back yard. I think we have a working option finally! We were able to include the Oak, and our recently "turned" Aelf-Mill into the rite, which makes us, and hopefully our land spirits (or wights as our asatru friends call them) happy.

Happy 1/4 moon to everyone. May you find balance and harmony in the light of a moon that reminds us to that we are full of both light and darkness.

Cheers,
Joel

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