The Roads Ahead

A few weeks ago I posted a survey asking folks what kinds of products or services they might like for me to offer here on the blog. Many of you responded, and I am very grateful to all of you who took the time to do so.

And it appears, ladies and gentlemen, — based on your urging, and my own meditations — that I’m going on a journey. Two journeys, in fact, simultaneously, in two directions. Good thing I’m a Gemini.

Inner Landscapes in Meditation

The survey results were pretty clear: almost 60% are interested in a book about how to meditate — especially reaching your inner landscape, and working with guides there. I’ve been doing this kind of thing for most of my life in one form or another, slowly improving and getting more benefits, and now I make it a daily practice. I’m not the world’s expert — if there could be a world’s expert in such a thing — and I’m sure it’s not for everyone. But it’s a vivid and engaging path, perfect for people who, like me, enjoy storytelling, bright colors, and the chance to look your guides and gods in the eye.

I’m still thinking about the best way to structure and present this book. I have already given some basic instructions in a few places (such as in this old post) and provided a simple downloadable guided meditation to get you started, and given tons of examples and philosophical ramblings on the topic, but there’s a lot more to be said. Right now I am leaning towards something rather autobiographical: a chronological memoir of how I learned the techniques, how they helped me, how they shaped me, and how I use them today in my druid practice.

This will not be a simple book to write. It’s going to be intensely personal, and that will be uncomfortable; but if you’re going to tell the story of how the gods have helped you, that’s the territory you have to walk. Gods don’t help you with things that don’t matter, that don’t strike you deep (and sometimes, strike you down). So yes, it’s going to be about divorce, and death, and about losing jobs and houses and friendships, and making terrible choices. It’s going to be about not getting answers, no matter how many times you ask, until you realize you’re asking the wrong question. But it’s also going to be about breakthroughs, and new dawns, and new horizons, and how to hear Spirit calling you toward them.

Inner Landscapes in Fiction

The other direction I’ll be going is toward fiction. This isn’t because of the survey results (only 21% of respondents were interested in reading a novel by me) but because it’s where my personal path is headed.

As you might expect, the fiction I write is heavily influenced by my druidry; but unlike a lot of druids, I don’t tend to write stories about ancient pagans, or misty Celtic forests, or Stonehenge. Honestly, I think so many great stories have been written about these things — I don’t really have new or exciting things to say about them. (That didn’t stop me from trying. The first full-length novel I wrote — The Last Pilgrim, a very uneven and amateurish fantasy I put together as a sophomore in college — was about a druidic / wizardly sort of fellow desperately trying to save the kingdom from having its entire gently farmed geography ‘redrawn’ into a hellish realm of mists and demons.)

But I do write about landscape, nature, and spirit, and their effects on human souls and society. In middle school, inspired by Tolkien, I switched from comics (my earliest medium) to text, and started creating huge full-color maps, and pages and pages of histories and languages. Most of these worlds never made it into stories, but some of them were stripped and whittled into short pieces. One of course was the basis of The Last Pilgrim. Others were put together to form the foundation under my second novel, The Last Starry Night, which I finished in 2005. It was science fiction this time, geared towards the juvenile market, and featured three complete alien cultures, each with their own languages, worlds, and so on. Today when I look at it I see deep flaws, but back then I knew it was perfect. I shopped it around to a few publishers, and got some very encouraging rejections. My sales efforts were derailed by another job change, moving to a new state, being too shy to approach agents, and new interests such as, well, druidry and blogging.

But about five years ago I had an idea for a different kind of book — an alternate history. Again, the focus was on landscape, and its influence on society, spirit, and the soul. What would have happened if America had been geographically reversed east-to-west, with the Rocky Mountains facing Europe? Would the diseases (and guns, and roads, and trains) of the Europeans have spread more slowly, giving the First Nations a chance to regroup and adapt? What would the modern nation of, say, the Haudenosaunee look like today, if it had been allowed more space and time to develop undisturbed? Perhaps North America would look a little less like Australia, and a little more like India or China…

The more I played around with the idea, the more it intrigued me. Out came the pencils and paper and history books. I drew and scribbled out maps, outlined historical trends, and sketched economies of emerging empires and nations across the continent. Then I picked certain historical characters (like Leif Erikson, Virginia Dare, and Bright Path) and types of characters (like railwaymen, Seneca chieftains, slaveowners, New England farmers, spies, moguls, soldiers, and beatniks) and wove them together into a series of interconnected short stories.

It’s called Mere America, and it has gotten… long. I’ve written close to 40,000 words (not counting all the supporting histories, genealogies, outlines, etc.), and I’m maybe one-fifth finished. I’ve decided to break it up a bit. You can buy Part One, First Nations, today as an ebook on amazon for 99 cents.

It’s not a book about druidry — at least, not obviously so. But it’s a book about the intermix of land, culture, and spirit that created the America we’re familiar with (for good or ill). In the United States, when we talk about our history, we’re still profoundly influenced by the idea of “Manifest Destiny” — that, somehow, God decided that here the European people were going to make a new birth of freedom, and carve out their will on an unsuspecting virginal continent. Once God decided that, America’s fate was set. It didn’t really matter what the details of American geography were; the United States was going to march across it and take what it wanted. It was just the stage for US greatness, and the details of its mountains and rivers and indigenous peoples were almost incidental.

Well, that’s a load of hooey, and it’s part of the same false mind / body separation that plagues so much European thought. American government and society are profoundly interconnected with the shape of the land itself, and I hope to show that in this novel. Of course, I could have written a series of essays on it, and maybe I will one day. But then no one else would see what I see in my head — the Viking knarr arriving in British Columbia — the little English ship of the Lost Colony sailing into San Francisco Bay, surrounded by redwoods — Washington crossing the Oregon River — Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea arriving at the Mississippi, and being led up the steps of the Mound of the Sun for their audience with the Emperor…

So fiction it is.

In the next few months, I’ll be writing my usual essays about random druidic things, but I’ll also be keeping you updated on my progress on these larger background journeys as I move forward. If you have any questions or suggestions or other feedback, please consider yourself warmly invited to leave comments below or use the contact form. As always, thank you for reading, and joining me on my odd wanderings.

“I think that wherever your journey takes you, there are new gods waiting there, with divine patience – and laughter.”  -Susan M. Watkins, psychic, author of Conversations with Seth

Oddments

First Nations

So… what are you waiting for? Buy my ebook! It’s only 99 cents! “Mere America is an alternate history of a mirror-reversed America, in which the California redwoods march down the east coast, and the Pacific breakers pound Manhattan Island. From the original Viking incursion in British Columbia to the technocrats of the 20th-century Haudenosaunee, from the victory of the Confederacy (built on slavery and gold) to President Martin Luther King of the Free States of America, “Mere America” follows the grand sweep of history through the lives of key characters such as Leif Erikson, Virginia Dare, Robert E. Lee, Bright Path (Jim Thorpe), and Ronald Reagan. Part One, “First Nations”, concerns the first clashes between Europeans and the ‘Namgis, the Cherokee, the Muwekma, and the Mohawk.”


  • Tending Both Wells. I am not a Quaker, but Peter speaks for me here, especially my personal balance of Pagan and Zen.
  • Ocean, Sea, Deep. Words for people like me, who desperately want to be at the beach.
  • Geography is simply a visible form of theology. – Jon Levenson
  • A man in the desert can hold absence in his cupped hands, knowing it is something that feeds him more than water. – Michael Ondaatje
  • How does language influence thought? From the great new online “Popular Linguistics” magazine.
  • One of the scourges of our age is that all our deities are house-broken and eminently companionable. – Belden C. Lane. (I’m in the middle of reading his excellent The Solace of Fierce Landscapes.)
  • The examined life is no picnic. -Robert Fulghum
  • No End of Oil: my latest post on Pagan+Politics. We’ll never run out of oil. But that’s not the problem.
  • When we give a thing a name we imagine we have got hold of it. We should not flatter ourselves that we can name God. – Gregory of Nyssa. My thoughts on this: Hearing the Song of the World.
  • A man’s never out of work if he’s worth a damn. It’s just sometimes he doesn’t get paid. – Anonymous

Comments

  1. Seems like an interesting idea for a novel.

  2. Jeff Lilly says:

    Thanks, BlackBirdie! Yes, it’s been fascinating and exciting to write. I wonder if I could ask you the small favor of buying and reading the book (just 99 cents!), enjoying it immensely, telling all your friends and readers about it, and leaving a glowing review on Amazon? I’d be most grateful. 😉

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