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Over the last three years, our son has gone from an urban homeschooler to fulfilling his dream as a Soldier. It's been a wild ride, and there is so much more awaiting him. As a mom, I keep tabs on what's going on in the world, what he may be going through, what he may endure and how it may affect the rest of us civilians. And as a Pagan, I also like to learn from others who are or have served to understand their perspectives, victories and struggles. From what I learn, I share with others and have been faithfully doing so every week.

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What I learned from PSG

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another posting! This month, I wanted to take some time to share with you all just a smidge of what I experienced at this year's Pagan Spirit Gathering. Honestly, I would need about twenty generalized categories to even come close to tapping on all the fun I had and knowledge gained, so it's a good thing I'm pretty narrowed down here.

One of the nice things about PSG, in comparison to other Pagan festivals I've attended, is the community love and support for our Warriors. At PSG, there are many areas dedicated for people to commune together, combining that reverence and mirth notion depending on the need. One of the areas, just past the entrance gate, is the Warriors Center. Each morning, active duty and retired military personnel gathered to meet with one another, with last Thursday morning being a special gathering: The Warrior Blessing Ritual.

I'm going to be completely honest here - I've been Pagan for nearly two decades, and I've never had that "peak moment" during rituals, in groups or alone, so many gleefully share. I joke it's because I'm like M&Ms with the hard candy shell but with the sweet center. I've never even been moved before during a ritual, at least not fully. Sure, there's been parts of rituals I've thoroughly enjoyed, and there have been many, many times where my spellcasting worked - sometimes a little too well. (Kind of like the time I really wanted to have a summer off, and I broke my ankle at work just before Memorial Day and collected workman's comp until the cast came off just past Labor Day. Fun times! Oh yes that was! Uh huh.). But this ritual, all I can say is WOW! There wasn't a dry eye in the house, and when I say I was moved, I'm talking that scene in Old Yeller.

I posted quite a few pictures this morning over at Pagan Newswire Collective, which you can see that article by clicking here. But what I would like to share here is the one on one time I got with many of the Warriors themselves - their stories and back stories.

One of the folks who led the ritual had served for 29 years, much longer than even required in order to retire with full benefits. Out of curiosity, I had asked him not so much why he served so long, but how he was able to do what he did while also honoring his beliefs. The simple answer I got was he separated the two to the best of his ability. Many of us separate our jobs from our home lives, as very few of us work where we live and vice versa. For me as a civilian, keeping a military career separate from my daily living seems like a daunting task to say the least. However, I can see how it might make things easier to compartmentalize, especially when the vocal majority in charge have been bad about being tolerant of anything other than evangelical Christianity during his service and even today.

Which has me thinking too about how difficult it must have been for gays and lesbians before the repeal of DADT - having to keep their core selves secret. It also has me thinking what a release it must be now that DOMA has been repealed, granting gay couples the same benefits hetero couples have enjoyed for so long. While I'm no stranger to seeing gay couples out in the open, having close family of the orientation, PSG taught me to further see past the outside and see the inside - seeing just two hearts beating as one, freely walking hand in hand without any judgment whatsoever, making breakfast, scolding their children, washing the dishes together.

The dishes part especially: One of the things I enjoy doing while I'm at a festival is taking some time at night to walk around with my lantern and see things for what they really are. It's something I can't do in the city, walking alone without looking over my shoulder, and I relish every moment. While getting lost in Rainbow Camp, I happened to catch a couple in their pop-up trailer washing the dishes together, talking about the day's events and what they were planning on doing the next day. I didn't mean to lurk, so I kept going, but hey - their shades were open - so I took an extra second to notice. That could have easily been Ron and I, flicking soapy water at each other, chatting, laughing, and getting a thankless job done, but they were two men - a gay couple. It had me wishing more people could have had this candid view.

Which that has me thinking, too: A couple years back, I had predicted the repeal of DOMA would take effect in March of 2014, so yeah, that's one pool I'm happy to have lost. To me, that indicates once the new policies take effect, gay couples will simply be couples, living in the same housing, raising their children together, marrying in the same chapels and traveling to the same posts and bases. That to me sounds like the definition of a truly cohesive unit.

Perhaps I wasn't 100% wrong on the pool date though; perhaps March, 2014 will just be the finalization of DOMA, that all loving couples can marry in any state they choose. That's almost a year from now, which is time enough to get the pols together and make all marriages, gay or straight, to become known as simply marriages. I know some folks are happy about marriages going back to stateside choice, but the way I see it, who you fall in love with isn't of our choosing. As long as both parties are of consenting age, and hey, I kind of like the idea of states that bar kin to marry each other, then I fail to see the problem.

Ron and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary Thursday, a day off from the repeal. We timed our wedding date to be one week after the solstice and one week before the 4th of July so we could "keep the party going" for a solid two weeks every year. Also, our wedding bands are actually tattoos, because we wanted to express our lifelong commitments to each other, though I will admit I was apprehensive at first about them being "everlasting job-stoppers". (The underlying, inside jokes of the wedding rings and the date was so we'd never forget the dates, and we couldn't take the rings off while we were out with our friends at the bar.) That too has me wondering about the secretive commitments gay couples have kept and whether or not they were planning on also "keeping the party going" with a grand fireworks finale of their own.

So with all that said, how will you be celebrating the 4th this year (if you're American, of course)? Sure, it's the holiday in which we celebrate the birth of our country, but I think this year, I might think of it as something a little bit more.

Many blessings to you and yours.

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Lori Dake is native Chicagoan, a wife and mother to one and works in real estate leasing apartments. Things she enjoys are heavy metal, being a foodie (mostly vegetarian), camping, writing and painting.

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