Recently I left my long time home in Northern California to relocate along the central coast of Oregon. This article is a result of my thoughts about that move and similar acts relate to humankind in general.
Humans have traversed the world since they first discovered that by moving their feet they could find new horizons, experience new sensations, follow new sources of physical and spiritual nourishment, and explore the origins of untold wealth. Humans still move their feet and travel to the ends of the earth—even though their feet are often times aided by the automobile, plane or train. The desire, the need to find new places to live, to see those things that have only been known through stories, appears to be one of the few things that make the human distinct from his animal cousins.
I must admit that I am one of those transient creatures. I am transient but not in the normal sense. I have been lucky enough to have traveled to many parts of the world in my search for material for my books—those trips have truly been transitory in nature. But some of my trips, my migrations, are different. I usually find myself residing in my new territory a decade at a time. I was born and lived the first 13 years of my life near the mighty Mississippi River as it flowed along the Iowa-Illinois borders. As a child my parents would undergo long family trips every summer in their bigger than life cars, cars born of the 1940s and ‘50s, across the country to Florida and California and all parts in between. When we weren’t on trips it seemed we were moving from one home to another—normally in the same town but nonetheless uprooting our existences on what seemed to be annual migrations to newly rented houses or, at times, purchased abodes. I normally didn’t mind these moves but I never made lasting friends because of them. The biggest move, at the age of 13, was from Burlington, Iowa to Southern California. I must say I loved Southern California—the natural beauty of the ocean, the nearby mountains, the exotic history of a newly (to my mind) vanquished territory taken by the Americans from the Mexicans who had taken it from the Spanish who in their turn had taken it from the Indians.
Ancient history, far away lands, strange and unusual customs and beliefs always fascinated me. My first books as a child were those about the Romans and Greeks and their stories and histories told in myth. Seeing the diverse cultures living side by side where I did increased my sense of discovery as well as my curiosity. As I grew older I took all of the college courses I could in ancient cultures, anthropology and archaeology and then actually worked as a field archaeologist where I was able to determine the sex of a skeleton, what a stone tool was made of, how it was made and what it did. But my training was lacking in the understanding of why things were done by certain people, why some cultures had seemingly perplexing and bizarre traditions while others were “like us”. What I found in my independent studies was that “like us” is a relative term and one without much meaning. I was awed however when I made my own discovery that the Judeo-Christian religion had been built atop a much older, wiser and female based theology—one still commonly practiced around the world even though it may be clothed in the trappings of contemporary Christianity.
This “discovery” led me on yet another migration. A migration of the spirit and of the mind to investigate, to understand, and to participate in this ancient theology. While much of my early work is obviously “mainstream Pagan” I have found that my interests and writings have changed over time and today are more along the lines of folklore and mythic study. The reason for this has become clear to me. My work now has become broader and is focused on the universal and global aspects of folklore and how ancient practices have continued into the present time, sometimes in different guises but still substantially unchanged. The underlying meaning behind universal myths and folklore to me is obvious. An ancient primal culture at one time existed with a supreme and universally practiced religion, customs and teachings. This ancient and universal culture was destroyed subsequently by migrating people who brought with them an alien system of beliefs based upon a god separate from his creation rather than a part of it. Today our society is a dual one made up of a complex system of bits and pieces of both the ancient, old religion and the newer, dominating one.
My point here is that not only individuals migrate but also ideas. And ideas, bless them, lead to other migrations.
Over the years I have made migrations with both insubstantial and, to me, substantial meaning. I have changed occupations; I have had four books published with two more in progress. I moved from the Southern California I once loved to Northern California where, over time, I became disillusioned by working in California State government and finding that politics and bad decisions and special interests and greed and an uninformed voting public have tarnished the Golden State so badly that it will not regain its shiny stature for decades to come.
Because of this I have made my most recent migration. I have taken a step in a new direction. I have taken what many would consider a drastic step. I have left my government position with its semi-secure paycheck. I have undertaken a substantial reduction in income and have begun yet another migration. I have escaped the dismal world of government and I now reside along the magical central coast of Oregon where everyone seems like a long lost friend, where the unpredictable, and at times extreme weather adds a bit of excitement to one’s daily chores, where writing can be free to have a life of its own, ideas are freely exchanged and debated on their respective merits and nature is making a gallant last stand in her wild beauty.
I do not know how long I will be here. Right now forever sound good but I may decide to once again pick up and migrate to another state or, yet again, to another state of mind. As I sit and watch the fishing boats put out to sea followed by a flock of gulls, and the seals cavort on the docks, I can think of nowhere better to simply be but here. I hope all of you have found your special place where the enjoyment of being alive is a daily occurrence. If you haven’t it is never too late to seek it out and make it happen.