Her brain was spinning trying to figure out exactly what to say to her friends and knowing that they were going to be surprised as hell by Owen, even more so than she had been. Owen on the other hand seemed ridiculously pleased with himself. Gods, knew what he would say on being introduced.
They made it up the escalator and to the ticket counter to see if they could get on an earlier flight. Owen took control. Which was awkward, because she was not used to it. At all. But if they were going to get on the same flights home together then they had to make the arrangements together. In the process he managed to get a look at her real name without pressing her for it. They managed to get on an earlier flight out, but still ended up with a layover in Philadelphia.
Her friends had finished with their check in and walked over to her with questions all over their faces. They had to wait while the arrangements were finalized and managed to pull themselves away to the waiting area while she and Owen finalized their plans. He grinned at her and said, “Bet they’re wondering who the cute guy is, huh.” She rolled her eyes at him then smiled and said, “I’m sure that you’ll also bowl them over with your charm. Come on, I’ll introduce you”.
She made the introductions and used all her senses to watch everyone’s reaction. She explained that they had met on the plane ride up and had struck up a conversation because of “The Witch of Portobello.” She explained that Owen was from the Allentown area but had moved to New Orleans PostKatrina. Oh if only she had a picture of their faces when she said that. But the mental one she now carried would have to do. Owen was charming. He explained that he was interested in learning more about the tradition and her teacher beamed. When he mentioned that he had changed his flight from Sunday to Monday hoping to ride back with her, her teacher turned to her and said, “You must have made quite an impression.” To which she’d jokingly replied that she’d learned from the best. She let them have their way with him and went off to find the restroom and clear her head.
She had assumed that she’d have a quiet trip back home. Now she’d probably be teaching and learning about her new student. For hours. But then she thought, new student and smiled. It could be worse.
They suggested moving from the ticketing area through security when she returned. They ended up the in small café while they all waited for her fellow streghe’s flight to board. Owen asked about how they all ended up together and she watched as her teacher told her story and then how they had met. It was interesting to hear it from the beginning and from someone else’s point of view. She had never seen her own story explained by her teacher to an outsider. Owen explained about visiting for his mom’s birthday and ended sharing a little of his family history, which was pretty interesting. Before they knew it, it was time for goodbyes. Her teacher whispered to her as they hugged goodbye, “He’s sure a live one. Make sure you give regular updates.” She agreed he was and promised that she would.
After her friends boarded the plane Owen said, “Wow, now I know 3 streghe.”
All she could do was nod her head in agreement. They walked to the gate but still had about 30 minutes before they would board.
Owen said, “Do you mind if I make a few phone calls to the guys I have running my jobs at home?”
She raised her eyebrow and thought, weird that he would ask if it was ok with her but said, “Sure go ahead. Remember I didn’t expect you to be here. I assumed I’d be flying home alone.” He grinned a little sheepishly realizing that he had known that they would fly home together but she had had no idea. Then he returned to being pleased with himself about the success of his plan.
On the flight to Philadelphia they settled on the Friday after Thanksgiving for their first lesson and then Thursday nights for regular lessons unless it was a week with a Full Moon or Treguenda. Owen seemed thrilled that she also wanted to do the rituals with him as part of his teaching. She reminded him that at this point in his training they would be doing the non-initiate rituals from ‘the manual’ as he called it. She assured him the basics were mostly the same in initiate and non-initiate rituals, but the levels and type of experience could be significantly different. Because her home was still under repair Owen suggested that they meet at his home and she agreed that would work just fine. She was glad that they were going to be able to start with a Full Moon ritual and the Winter Solstice Treguenda. She was also glad that they were starting this during the God months when the rituals were worked robed instead of skyclad. It would give her time to work through any issues he might have with skyclad. But her intuition said he probably wouldn’t have any. The way she outlined the plan made him realize that she had definitely done this before. By the time they landed in Philadelphia he felt like he had the equivalent of a college course syllabus and the times and day for classes all lined up. He was way farther along than he thought he’d be at this point and congratulated himself again for making the effort to change his flight home to Monday.
In Philadelphia they confirmed the flight times to New Orleans and then Owen checked in with his crews again. While he did she called home and made sure that her family could still pick her up at the airport and told her husband about her new student. Before they knew it they had boarded the flight to New Orleans.
After the flight attendant finished giving them their drinks, Owen leaned over and said, “I have my truck at the airport. I can give you a ride home.”
“Oh that’s nice of you Owen, but my family is meeting me at the airport. I talked to them while you were on the phone with your crews.”
She thought, he is like a kid with a new toy and I’m the toy. Thank the Gods the fervor of new students usually settles down after a few weeks. Then said, “If we stick to the training schedule and you decide to stay on this path I’ll be spending a good bit of time with you, at least once a week. I think it’s good that you’ll get to meet my family and they get to meet you.”
He thought about that and realized that of course she was right. But was oddly nervous about meeting her family and he wondered why since he was so jazzed about meeting what she called her ‘streghe family’. What he said was, “So your family knows all about your teaching pagan classes?”
“Well, yes, my husband does. He knows I’ve done a good bit of online teaching. I think I also mentioned that I taught for almost a year at a pagan bookstore PreKatrina. I’ve also had 2 students come to our house for classes. PreKatrina, I thought my daughter was a little young to really share the details of what I am and teach. But she’s grown up since Katrina, haven’t we all, and she’s also seen me have neighborhood meetings at the house and knows I go to planning meetings so me being out of the house working on something else won’t be a stretch. Plus she’s started asking more direct questions about what I do and likes having what she called philosophical discussions. So I'm confident she’ll understand.”
“So what have you taught her so far in these philosophical conversations?”
“Hmmm… When kids are young it’s impossible for them to understand what to say and what not to say about this kind of thing. So I focused here early education on the scientific aspects, Solstices, Equinoxes. We don’t go to church so she is without those influences. She has been to church a few times with relatives and associated with a few special occasions. She says she doesn’t like it. My husband’s mom & dad actually worked for a church in the area for decades.”
“Oh that must have been interesting.”
“Not really. They weren’t the preachers or anything. I’ve discovered that when I don’t make a big deal about the differences between our paths but instead focus on where we agree that it’s really not an issue. Plus their son was the one who made his own choice first about not being “Christian”. The only real confrontation, and that is probably too big a word, that we’ve ever really had was about not baptizing our daughter. But I stayed calm and explained that I could not believe that little children came into this world filled with sin that needed to be washed away. I asked how anyone can look at a newborn and not think that they are perfect. So I saw no need for baptism and said that my daughter could make her own decisions when she grew up.”
“And that worked!?”
“Well I had to say it more than once. I was told by my in-laws that it wasn’t really washing away sins but a just blessing on the child. So I asked to see the service they would use and then was able to point to the places where it clearly said the ritual was washing away original sins of the fathers. This was enough to hold to our firm no. My mom was the one who said, 'I kind of agree with you about original sin, but what if you are wrong? Shouldn’t you do it just in case?' To which I replied, mom, I can’t believe that if my daughter were to die before she could make a choice on her own that ‘God’ would send her straight to 'hell' and that I was willing to take the chance. I also had to explain to both families that I respected the beliefs of others enough not to make a mockery of these beliefs by participating in a ritual with which neither, my husband James or I agreed. Eventually they gave up. And that battle drew the lines on what the families talk about when it comes to religion. We have almost the equivalent of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy. It isn’t optimal, but it allows the folks who would be uncomfortable with the truth their delusions.”
“Wow. But you still consider yourself ‘in the closet’ about your paganism?”
“Yes, because I don’t advertise. I don’t confront people. I can weave my philosophy into any conversation. Because I know so much Christian theology, I know how to speak their language. So I know how to say what I believe in a way that is non-threatening because it is seems aligned with what they know and the assumptions they will make. You’d be surprised at how often we can use ‘the common thread’ that weaves through so many spiritual paths. And when that wouldn’t work, I use a scientific approach and nobody blinks. When you have a spiritual path and says ‘Nature is the great teacher’, it’s easy to make science-based arguments and analogies to the natural world.”
He sat back and thought about that for a little. She let him and then wondered...
"Owen do you mind if I ask you when your birthday is?" And he looked at her quizzically. "I like to have an astrological chart on my students. I find it helps me understand what kind of teaching style will work best for them, what fuels their leaning drive."
"I mostly use your sun sign.."
She nodded, thinking hands on face to face, just as she suspected, "and your Moon Sign...
"hmm... I don't know."
"and your rising sign."
"Still don't know."
She pulled out a very small note book about 3 inches by 2 inches and asked him to right down his date of birth, time if he knew it and place of birth. He did and asked, "What do those 3 things tell you?"
"You sun sign is who you are at your core, it's your basic personality, your more conscious personality. You Moon Sign indicates how your mind works or more precisely what turns you on or pleases you about learning, what drives your need to know, what makes you happy subconsciously. Your Rising Sign is the face you show the world. It influences your outer personality, the sense that most people get about who you are, your surface features."
They got caught up in wandering conversation and only remembering they were on a plane when the flight attendant worked the rows picking up cups. Before they knew it they were landing.
James and Jamie were waiting for right outside the security gates. She had to remind Owen not to hang back as they walked out. She gave James a kiss and hugged Jamie and then started the introductions:
“Owen, this is my family, James and Jamie."
They said “Hi” and James shook Owen’s hand.
“James, this is Owen. He and I met on the plane going out to Pennsylvania and bumped into each other on the way home too. We’ve had some interesting philosophical discussions on the plane and he thinks he wants to be one of my students.”
James laughed and said “Well Owen, good luck. She can be a taskmaster.”
The men chit chatted as they walked to baggage claim. She hugged Jamie again and asked if anything exciting had happened while she was gone. Nothing had. The bags arrived and they said goodbye. As Nola walked away she said: “See you Friday, Owen.”
And he replied “See you Friday”.
He drove home without the radio on lost in his thoughts. He had been half dreading the trip back home to Pennsylvania. But with Nola and the opportunity to learn something new to distract him, he realized that he had managed to have a wonderful time. His mom had a great time at the party which was of course fabulous. He and his brothers got to spend some quality time hanging out and catching up. His dad, ever the rock, had sounded a lot like Papa Eric when he said that he was glad to see him happy. And being able to hang out at the cabin with Eric was always a treat.
He drove past 2 job sites on the way home and they looked cleaned up. He hated messy job sites. It also looked like the work was progressing nicely. As the gates to the driveway slid open he realized just how keyed up he’d been all day and was grateful that the drive home had let his mind began to wind down. He pulled his suitcase out of the back of the truck and opened the side door. He dumped the suitcase on top of the dryer in the laundry closet at the side kitchen door. Then and poured himself a bit of JD and went upstairs to his bedroom and then out to sit on the balcony.
It was a beautiful night. Slightly breezy, air a bit dry, not quite cool. He propped his feet up on the railing and settled back into the chair. He drank a toast to Papa Eric and thought again just how right he had been about New Orleans. He was pleasantly relaxed and turned in early knowing he had to be up early to get a good look at all the job sites, especially since he had been away for 3 work days.
Nola managed to catch up with her daughter, do a load of laundry, catch up on neighborhood eMails, thankfully it had been a quiet weekend, check in via eMail with her streghe family as they always let each other know that they had each returned home safely. The ‘what’s your new student like’ replies could wait. She also sent an eMail to Owen asking for the address of his house in the Bywater. She had agreed to meet him on Friday and realized when she sent the eMail right around midnight that this was now only 4 days away. While the Bywater was relatively small, it was too big to wander around in hoping the bump into the right house.
As she slid into bed with James he said “All quiet on the Western Front?”
“Remarkably, yes. All’s quiet in the neighborhood and everyone made it home safely.”
“A new student, huh?”
“Yeah, weird meeting him on the plane like that. Do you know that the book I was rereading ‘The Witch of Portobello’, was what made him strike up a conversation? And it was totally strange to bump into him again on the plane coming home. It seems pretty quiet here on the homefront too. Jamie said nothing exciting happened.”
“Nope, not really, it was a pretty quiet weekend.”
“I see you made some progress on the walls downstairs. It looks good baby.”
They lay there quietly, until he said, “Love ya baby, no shit. It’s good to have you home.”
“Love you too. It’s good to be home."