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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Before this Year ends

Bone, Heart, Thought, Deed, and Spirit, I honor those who helped shape my life
I learned a secret of life this year.

Not THE secret of life.

Really I already knew it. I just hadn’t put it in words. My Befores taught it to me.

And it shouldn’t be a secret.

Ready?

Leave the place better than how you found it.

That’s it.

Simple idea. That’s what it is all about. People, places, and things.

Leave the place better than how you found it.

Pagans often use October to honor the Ancestors, those who have gone before. My version also uses
ideas inspired from the late Zenna Henderson. One real challenge every year is finding five people to honor, and then explaining why I chose those people and how they have shaped my life. It’s a discipline that I have come to both dread and relish.

That, and coming up with titles that use the word “before” in relevant and interesting ways.

My Before of Bone is another not in my direct family line. My paternal grandfather is technically my step-paternal grandfather. I’d like to think I get my love of politics from him. He was canny, that one. You see, he lived in Arkansas, a decidedly Democrat state. But he was a closet Republican.

Granpa was a rural mail carrier. In that time and place, rural mail carriers were
the connection. Not everyone had a telephone. Not everyone could get to town to pick up medicine. And sometimes people were really isolated and the mailman was the only who knew if something was wrong.

It was Granpa who taught me that you dress up to go to town. It was Granpa who taught me the wonders that could live in a barn. It was Granpa who took me fishing for catfish with a bamboo pole and no reel.

But his real gift was with people. He honest-to-gods loved them. He loved talking to them. He loved watching them. He loved visiting with them. Most of all, he loved laughing with them.

And he loved to write letters. Long letters, typed on an old beat up Royal typewriter. Granpa must have been one of the few people on Earth who kept wearing out his typewriter.

They say that every boy remembers his first older woman, and I’m no exception. My Before of Heart for this year wasn’t my first, but she was my first
experienced lover. You might even say she was my first experience. I didn’t know her long, it was just before I left for college. That widow taught me that The Lady Always Chooses. She helped me move from a fumbling bumbler to someone who at least tried the romance. She’s been gone a couple of decades now. We never slept together again. But we stayed fond of each other.

This year I choose Zenna Henderson as my Before of Thought. She inspired me to adopt and use the whole idea of Befores. She even named it.

*bows in respect to a True Lady*

Walt Disney is my Before of Deeds this year. He is one of those men who has influenced you without you knowing it. Oh sure, there are the films and the theme parks. But have you thought about shopping malls? Or themed speciality stores? Or (for better or worse), the American obsession with character merchandise?

He made you love it and pay for the privilege.

More importantly, he was the gateway to dreams. Try finding another single man who had a bigger influence on films and television. Good or bad (and there were some clunkers), you knew that Disney was about family entertainment. Even in the kids films, there would be something for the adults.

Very few do that today. Even fewer do it well.

Fred Rogers is my Before of Spirit this year. That quiet, unassuming man helped teach generations of kids. I was a little too old when his show went national, but I still respected him and the lessons he taught. If ever there was an American saint, Fred Rogers would fit the bill.

I only hope my life can honor these Befores.

They made my life better.

It’s only right that I pass that along.

Leave the place a little better than how you found it.

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A narrow slice of life, but now and again pondering American neopaganism, modern adult pagans & the World.

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