Where does the solitary gather the energy to maintain his religious fervor? Though there are as many methods as there are solitaries, one sure way is to maintain a steady and daily connection with the natural world.
Living as I now do in a new home seven hundred miles from my pagan friends, I am clutching at the gifts of the world around me on a daily basis. And they soothe and nourish my loneliness and the strangeness of this new world in which I know no one. Last week was blue. First, a giant butterfly freshly emerged from its cocoon, stretched against the trunk of a tree, drying its wings -- indigo with a border of black. Then a pale blue butterfly the size of the nail on my pinky finger and another and another, feeding on the nectar of some medium blue wildflowers. Then, I spotted my first bluebird (a species that did not exist in my former home), and I was breathless. I don't believe that until that moment I have ever truly known the color "blue."
My new world is rich with ravens, and being a child of the Morrighan, I am careful to pay attention when they approach me as they sometimes do, fixing me in their shiny black eyes, heads cocked, chiding me in raucous voices to pay heed. To what? That's the catch. Figure it out. Read the sign. I listen when ravens speak. I chose an apartment that faces a small wood and one early morning while walking the dog, was rewarded with two doe, more curious about my funny little Pug and me than frightened of us. There they stood in the morning mist, not six feet away. One followed us along the wood's edge, her lovely head cocked in interest, chewing her cud, looking slightly amused, as if we were old friends.
Yes, I am lucky to live in such a lovely place, but the natural world is everywhere. There are gifts in the trees that surround the high school where I stand cafeteria duty for an hour each day and outside the windows as I teach American literature and outside the windows of my car as I drive home each afternoon. These things sustain us as Solitaries, and I am eager to know more. I have invested in a pile of field guides to my area, and my studies have become intimately connected to maintaining my piety.
What can I learn today about my world? That is my mantra. I believe there are certain things every Druid should know. What follows is only a partial list, and you may disagree, but I think that knowing these things brings us closer to the sacred. Answering these questions pulls us into the now and the reality of a world that doesn't depend on fast food and videos and fashion - into a world that is far more important. How many can you answer?
1. Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.
2. How many days till the moon is full (plus or minus a couple of days)?
3. Describe the soil around your home.
4. From what direction do winter storms generally come in your region?
5. Where does your garbage go?
6. How long is the growing season where you live?
7. Name 5 resident birds and any migratory birds in your area.
8. What primary geological event/process influenced the land form where you live.
9. From where you are reading this, point north.
10. Were the stars out last night?
Having read the questions, what do you need to learn? There are many spiritual hours to be spent in learning the answers