Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Deer Guy

So, yesterday afternoon being sunny and warm, Tirithien and I went to our favorite park for a little bit of wandering. At one point, we heard the crunching of leaves behind us, and moved aside to let the person pass. The park is very popular with joggers and power walkers, so this is something we're used to.

A gentleman who looked like the prototype of the aging hippy--tattered denim, long gray hair tied back in a ponytail, arrowhead necklace, and a definite sense that his personality had been "chemically enhanced" at some point-- passed us by, saying, "Excuse me, can I get by you? I walk faster." You know, as if we hadn't moved aside to let him do just that.

Anyway, he went by and we kept walking. The guy had gotten about 50 yards in front of us when he crouched down and started closely examining something on the ground. When we caught up, he excitedly pointed out the deer tracks he'd found.

Now, I'm admittedly not a wildlife expert, but if these were deer tracks, they'd be the first deer ever with pawpads and claws. (Perhaps we should notify the Ohio DNR about the possibility of a deer-badger hybrid running around Wildwood Metropark?)

The hippy gentleman started making a long rambling speech about how he knows all about deer and how to sneak up on them and how to walk quietly in the woods-- even through leaves! -- and that's why we hadn't heard him coming up behind us. Even though, you know, we had heard him just fine. But he's been trained to walk quietly in the woods, because he's part Indian.

Well, I'm about 1/64th Cherokee, give or take a few blood drops, though I look purely Scots-Irish except for having higher cheekbones than my Celtic ancestors did. And this guy looked even whiter than I do.

So I asked him what tribe. "Blackfoot," he said cheerfully.

Ah yes, there are just so many forests in the Great Plains to practice walking quietly in.

For that matter, I'm pretty sure there aren't any deer living in the Great Plains either.

Walking away sounded like a very good idea. So we tried it.

The guy came along for a few steps before he pulled ahead again, crunching the leaves as loudly as ever. He turned around to tell us that deer will attack if you scare them. A buddy of his learned that the hard way, it seems. I know he was just waiting for us to ask for the story, but we didn't oblige.

And away the guy went, loud, fast, and obnoxious, on his way to sneak up on some deer. Around a curve and gone, mercifully!

When we reached the curve, we didn't see any sign of the guy.

We did, however, see three lovely deer grazing in a thicket. Apparently our friend had stalked right past them. Three brown deer, a mama and two yearling does. They considered us calmly for a moment, looking at us out of those big moist eyes. Apparently they approved of us, because they went right back to eating.

Unfortunate that the deer guy was so busy showing off his woodland skills that he had to miss such a thing. :-p

Monday, October 23, 2006

My visit to a cult!

Well, okay, it probably wasn't really a cult, since they didn't ask for all my money. But it was creepy.

I've been visiting a few different churches around town, seeing if there's a place I would fit nicely. Yesterday I decided I would visit Unity of Toledo. (Which has nothing whatsoever to do with the Unitarian Universalist church, whose members have never once creeped me out.) On Unity's national website (unity.org) the philosophies sounded interesting. Quite a bit about how God is within all, and Jesus was the only one in which this was fully realized. Definitely intriguing. So I went.

I realized my first mistake as soon as I got there. You see, in my experience I have noticed that the churches with the more liberal philosophies are the ones which generally don't care what people wear to church, so long as they get there. Thus, I figured that I'd do all right with jeans and a nice sweater. Wrong! The people walking in were dressed to the nines. Suits and all. Oy. But I figured I may as well go on in, since one of my criteria for a welcoming church is that they not care what people are wearing. If they reacted badly to me, I'd know I was in the wrong place. And to their credit, I wasn't made to feel at all awkward, clothing-wise.

However, awkwardness was soon upon me in the form of the greeter, who swooped upon me with a gigantic hug as if I was a long lost friend or a child returning from war. Eeeek! Now don't get me wrong, hugs can be lovely things. But really, I prefer to only be hugged by people I've known for longer than two seconds.

After clucking over me for a moment or two the greeter sent me into the sanctuary, telling me she'd come sit with me when the service started. Oh, lovely.

While waiting, I observed what was going on. The sanctuary had auditorium seating rather than pews, which my back certainly appreciated. But there was no choir. This automatically meant they were off my list as a possible permanent church home, since there are cold winter mornings when the ONLY way I can convince myself to crawl out of bed and go to church is by reminding myself that I get to sing, but I certainly figured I could stay and see what the service was like.

With no choir, the congregation was led in hymns by a dorky guy in a cheap suit with a lovely strong tenor voice. The man could sing, no doubt about that. The problem was his musical theatrics. You know how if someone in a pageant sings as her talent, she will "emote" to a ridiculous degree? It looked like that's what this man was trying to do. I couldn't actually watch him; I was afraid I might laugh, and I didn't want to do that to the poor guy (and his singing voice really was wonderful).

And the sermon. Oh dear. Aside from the fact that it seemed like the pastor was making it up as she went along, it seemed absurdly shallow. It was very self-centered, very focused on internal reflection and feel-good self-love. Any mentions of God? None, unless you count the part about how if a reflection or meditation makes you feel good, that's how you know it came from the God-part of you. The sermon culminated in the signing of a pledge which had been distributed in the bulletins. The pledge was on a green card and consisted of a promise to always do one's best, no matter what. It was worded in a more flowery way than that, but that was the gist. The cards would then be gathered and used to create a big banner to hang in the sanctuary. Needless to say, I did NOT turn mine in.

During the Exchange of Greetings (known to Episcopalians and Catholics as the Sign of the Peace), as I was being passed from person to person, being hugged over and over by women with pasted-on, too wide smiles, I accidentally said to a few of them, "Peace be with you," or "God's Peace." It's the way Episcopalians do it, anyway. This drew some absurdly shocked and dirty looks from these well-dressed women.

The closing hymn increased my discomfort even more. Apparently they sing the same closing hymn every week, but not peacefully from their seats. No, they form a hand-holding circle around the outside of the room and sing from there. And of course, no hand-holding circle of song would be complete without the ubiquitous back and forth sway, now, would it? During this ordeal, I caught the eye of a teenage girl across the room from me. She was also in jeans and had clearly been dragged there by her mother. We communicated wordlessly: "HELP! How did we get into this?"

Thankfully, that was the last bit of the service, though the greeter who had sat with me tried to insist that I join them for fellowship. I blurted out that I had to get home and babysit. (It was the first excuse my panic-stricken mind came up with, okay???) She also kept insisting that I sign the guestbook so they could send me info, in spite of my polite repetition of the fact that I really didn't think this church was what I was looking for. She kept on, so finally I signed a fake name and address. And then, blessedly, I was gone, as fast as the Red Star could carry me down Central Avenue!

Aside from the creepiness of the too-wide smiles and the pushy hugs, I was also greatly irritated by the inward focus of the church. There was not a single outreach ministry I could identify in the literature they handed me. The sermon insisted that they were following the Way of Jesus to find God within the self. Coming as I do from an Episcopal parish with a huge focus on social justice and helping the poor, this was an unpleasant shock and cognitive dissonance. Admittedly I'm no true Bible scholar and only an amateur theologian, but I'm pretty sure Jesus was big on helping others. Which had me sitting there during the sermon wanting to yell, "You've missed the whole damn point!"

Apparently Unity is fulfilling a need for these people, but not for me. I think next Sunday I need to creep back to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church which I visited a few weeks ago and sit down quietly in the back with the Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal. My faith comes in odd colors at times, and I'm sure I'm more Deist/Panentheist than Theist, and by many or even most strict definitions I'm not Christian at all. But as I've learned from visiting other churches, I am most definitely Episcopalian! (I'm not sure that combination is entirely possible, but I'm trying it anyway.)

So, Unity of Toledo is not the place for me. And if you prefer not to be hugged by strangers, it's probably not for you either.

And if you live on Berry Street in Toledo, if there is such a place, and you happen to get mail from Unity addressed to someone you don't know, I apologize.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Working World Woes

I came to Toledo thinking I could easily start working.


What with my broken arm making things difficult and the fact that I have to compete for jobs with a slew of laid-off factory workers, so far all I've been able to get are temp jobs.

Which are all well and good, but I'd really like to have some dependable income.

Besides, with being in a string of temp jobs, I get kind of confused when I'm answering the phone in a sleepy stretch of midafternoon: "Good afternoon, um, uh... where am I again?"

At this job, though, there is actually nothing for me to do between phone calls. They just can't leave the phone and the front desk unmanned while someone's out on medical leave. So hey, I get to study at work and not get in trouble.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What Woodland Ninjas See

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-- J R R Tolkien

Even more pictures to be seen here.

This is about 10 minutes away from home. Envy me, city dwellers!