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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

September 24th, 2006

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10:45 pm - Guilt, responsibility, and remembering that there's some love out there for me
A Grove Organizer asked on Friday about his struggling Protogrove, and how he felt guilt at declining numbers, and was accepting responsibility for (paraphrasing) "letting it get this bad."

I thought about it over the weekend a lot. Mostly because I've been in a similar position recently. I have felt a lot of guilt when people have told me that they didn't want to be part of the Grove, and I've felt that I've let myself, my Grove, and the Kindred down.

The thing is, Groves go through these cycles. That doesn't make it any easier when someone you think of as family decides to leave (or just disappears) and won't tell you why, but it is the case. I have been so, so proud of this Grove, what it has and can do, the size it's grown to and fallen from, and the way it has worked together to do some great things.

I have never felt disappointment at a disaffiliation or non-renewal. I have on occasion not felt good enough, or trusted enough, or a myriad of other "not enoughs" that plague any good Senior Druid who really cares about his members and the Grove. I work hard to avoid pressuring a member into coming back, rejoining, or fretting over the decision, which is probably perceived as indifference, but it's really a strong interal feeling that a person needs to make up their own mind, in their heart, about their spirituality. Few people ask my advice, which I'm willing to give honestly: instead, they tell me (or don't and just disappear) that they're leaving the Grove, or taking a break. They don't want advice, they want support, and that's all I will ever give a member of my Grove.

And yes, even as they tell me this, I still think about them as a member of my Grove. I said it at Summerland during my Dedicant Consecration: A Grove is not a list written down at the ADF Office. A Grove is written upon your heart. That's what a Grove is to me: it is both more and less than what the ADF Office list says it is. Some names on that list are my Grove, and some are not. Some names that never appear or have not in years are part of my Grove. Some names have never been listed as ADF members. That's just the way it is with me: you cannot leave my Grove by striking your name off an electronic list, not can you join by asking someone else to be added.

Over the past year or two, I have realized that Three Cranes is not the answer to everyone's spirituality, no matter how much I want it to be. I have seen that I cannot and never will be able to read minds, so people who don't tell me about problems will never see those problems corrected, and that's okay. I've kicked myself for knowing that the Grove was not right for someone and not telling them that flat-out. I know that I can't control Grove splintering, or friendships that go awry for no good reason. I know I can't stop a breakup or hookup from hurting someone, and I can't pretend they didn't happen. I learned that malicious gossip is never self-contained.

This examination of my own guilt, by the way, is not an effort to make anyone else feel guilty. There is no guilt to be had. As I authored my response to the GO, though, I wanted to put my thoughts down in my journal, where I could find them again quickly and refer to them when those feelings started to creep back in, because I know they will: Groves grow and they shrink. That's the nature of them.

Of course, I still wish I could have some of those back, that we could be what people want and need in a Grove. But more, I wish I could have some of the sleepless nights back, the ones where I wondered what a person wasn't telling me, or how a change in bylaw wording will affect a specific member, or why exclusion occurs and how to heal the rifts that have been torn open.

But I also accept that I'll never get those nights back, and I'll probably not get the members back. And I accept that that's okay.

I admitted to the GO that low ritual turnout scares the hell out of me. Every person who leaves hurts me because I know I will miss them and I worry that they won't miss us (or worse, that we somehow hurt them or stunted their spiritual growth). That's not going to stop, and it's not their fault that I get hurt: it's mine. I care. I love this Grove. And that's not going to stop, either.

But I remember that I was guided to take up the job of Grove Organizer in order to be there *in the event* that someone was *interested* and wanted an outlet for their worship. The gods never said that people would come to my rituals or join my Grove, or that I wouldn't be the only person there some rites. They just told me to do it.

It's taken a long time to get here.

I just hope I can stay here.

*weak grin*
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: lovedloved
Current Music: "A Salty Piece of Land", -JB

(53 comments Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 02:52 am (UTC)
I can kind of see what you're getting at. My own protogrove is struggling, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Our existence has generated a lot of interest in Chambana, but only one other person will show up regularly. Everyone else says they will and doesn't, or they come up with good excuses. I don't know anymore if its me, my area, or the people we attract. I don't know what to do to generate attendance. Heck, I'm still struggling with creating decent rituals.

I do think that it will be worth it. I created Apple Branch because I felt a need for a community, and through it, I've created more ties to this community. We are only on our 3rd ritual, so we're quite young. I just hope we can grow to a fully functioning grove some day.
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC)
You're quite young yet, as you say (typed that before I saw the phrase in your response there), so there's no need to panic: Three Cranes first ritual had two people in attendance. We've been going for four years now, though, and we're up a bit: I think we had 13 or so at the last rite. We've topped out around 35, I think, which was a pretty good number, but that was two years ago.

I will respectfully suggest that it's not you: I've worried about that a lot, too. I mean, hell, it's hard not to blame yourself when attendance is low and your own members are sporadic at best. We have about 5 people who come to all meetings, and 3 more who show up to what they can: hardly what one would expect from our "fully chartered" status. But we get things done.

Attendance can be found in a couple of good ways. Try to get into the "worship" sections of your local paper and the UIUC paper: usually those adverts are free or very low cost.

Lots of email is the best thing to do with ritual, too: send out mailings and post on WitchVox when you have a rite. WitchVox is amazingly popular. There is an obvious difference in attendance when I post it and when I forget to.

Plan your rituals in advance, as far as you can. That helps a lot. Ours are planned a year in advance (with a caveat to check the website to make sure something didn't come up), and that helps other people plan around our rites.

If you need help with rituals, I'm willing to make a trip out for a weekend to run through a couple with you and your PG, if you want. You're not that far away, and I think I'd rather enjoy that.
(Deleted comment)
Date:September 25th, 2006 02:57 am (UTC)
There is a very specific reason why I still list (and will continue to list, for the forseeable future) Three Cranes as my grove. There is a very specific reason why I made an effort to go to Desert Magic and Summerland this past year.

That specific reason is more of a feeling, and it's not something I can easily put into words.

It's a rip in my soul, to some extent, when I can't have it. I have to be away, and I may continue to have to be away for a long time, or even forever (which is a concept I have a hard time understanding). However, I cannot conceptualize a world where Three Cranes people are not the grove of my heart.
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC)
You're not far away when you're in our hearts as well.

Miss ya.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for that. I know that there are members who get at least as much out of this shindig as I do, but it's nice to hear :)

I admit, I like our rituals best. We might not have the stone circles or the tribal atmosphere, but I really, really *like* what we do.

*laughs* Even a reason of "Fuck ya'll, I need bacon at my potlucks" is helpful.

*already writing the Celebratory Nick Rite of Offering in anticipation of a sudden cultural focus change*
(Deleted comment)
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC)
One of the most difficult things I have found is when someone (whether as part of a Grove, as a friend, or what-have-you) who you thought was "family" or a "friend" walks away (usually without any word)-- it becomes difficult not to blame yourself, to be supportive of their decision, all while allowing the room they held/hold within your heart to remain.

I had someone last year who I cared for who, when I was going through a life altering event, stopped interacting with me and started to ignore me. It took the experiencing of this occurring for me to be able to do the first two, the latter I am not so good with (what am I always telling you-- "you're a better man than me!").

Of course, I also struggle with what I see to be a sort of deception in people just picking up and going without even saying anything. With a few exceptions, I see it as rather cowardly. But, I'm working on not thinking that anymore. :D

Being a GO or SD is a constant study in compassion. And often that compassion has us accepting things we may not like or fully understand.

I wish I lived closer, sometimes... but then I remember the beach and Grove politics. :D
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
*nods* I've never been able to see deception in someone not wanting to tell me what's wrong. All I can really do is assume that if it's something I can fix, that they'll tell me. It does me no good to fret and worry about something that they won't tell me about. Because believe me, I could honestly beat myself to a pulp worrying about what people *might* have problems with. It's not worth that.

I'm not so sure I'm a better man than you. I think I'm just a man. Granted, because you're not a man, and I am, I might be a better man than you, but you're sexier.

Wish you lived closer, too :)

but then I remember the beach and Grove politics

Well, tanks don't roll through our Grove when politics start to go crazy, either :)
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:43 am (UTC)
It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes I don't have words for what I want to say.

*hugs instead*
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
*hugs greatfully accepted in leiu of words*

Date:September 25th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)
I think letting people choose there own path is ... very good. I for one still don't know my path, and am wetting my feet at the moment. I wouldn't want anyone to think it was a person, or a ritual, that made me change my mind when I find a path/s.

that being said, I still haven't managed to show up to an open ADF ritual, which I very much want to do. I had hoped you'd have a Mabon one. (I never received a newsletter with the info, so I am not sure you did? (I should've checked the website, but forgot...) )

Also, *hugs* I do not know just what your feeling, but seeing loved ones walk away would be hard for me as well.
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
*nods* Last weekend. Samhain is Oct. 29, 2006. Blacklick Woods Metropark. Details will be on the website, WitchVox, and a few more places, I hope. :)

Thanks for the hugs. They happen, though. I think that this is the first time I've really discussed my feelings on it, though, and it's probably long overdue. I sometimes think people are afraid to tell me they're walking away, or are becoming disinterested. That's hard, too. But I try not to let it get to me, and I'm very much wanting people to do what they want and need to do.

It'd be so much easier to run a cult and pressure people to stay in :) *sighs*
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 12:29 pm (UTC)
Sometimes the "I had to" moments are given to us so that we can shine, and sometimes they're given to us so that we can learn a hard lesson. I have a feeling that, generally, they're given to us so that we can experience both the shining and the lesson. We just tend to see the lesson before we see how we shined.

In the long run, we SD's can blame ourselves. I don't think that the blame game is necessarily something we should be ashamed of, either: it's going to happen to someone who truly loves the Grove they're working in. No matter what, even if you're growing like mad, someone is going to leave that you thought would be there through thick and thin, and you're going to take it hard.

And that, too, is okay.

Raven's Cry went through a hell of a lot, I know. There's a loss of a mentor. You've now got competition with your founder for members, something that would hurt any Grove. You're in a crazy town for this stuff (when Kirk Cameron shows up to a ritual, you know that anything can happen), and you're amazingly visible. There's a lot of stress that I couldn't possibly imagine dealing with.

It's especially hard when we get into the mindset that it's membership numbers that are important. That's how we SD's tend to measure the success of our Groves, because it's an easy barometer of things to come. Thing is, the barometer doesn't predict the weather.

Our real measure of success, of course, is whether our rituals are serving there purpose.

It's just that it's harder for us to say, "Of course we're doing our work! Look at the hash marks on this stick! They're positive!" We're creatures that like solid numbers: no one questions the legitimacy of a Christian church because they can literally count souls saved. We can't do that, but we're still measured against that stick. And it's really, really hard to see that we have a completely different measuring stick to stack up against because we aren't raised like that.

Good luck on following your advice. It's sound, I think. :)
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC)
I find your post at a good time. I've been considering starting my own protogrove.. of course in the process I've been reaching out and trying to find things that worked, and didn't work for people.

And what all constitutes a functioning grove in the minds of the organizers and senior druids. I state that, because I'm absolutely certain that it is different in the minds of normal grove members (and associated visitors).

My viewpoint has started to move to the point that the grove is for the Gods... the community aspect is good. But we are there to provide a relatively stable ground for the continuing devotion to the gods. And whether that means we have a horde of grove members... or a single core group of 2 that continually practice, and are there should others chose to join us, we are providing the same. A safe practice for others to move in and out of the grove as their time and practice dictates.

[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)
Grove members and Grove Organisers really do see "success" differently. The GO has a lot to worry about, starting with whether the rituals are both fulfilling to the congregants (secondary, imho) and effectively bring worship to the Kindred (primary, imho).

Our first ritual, two guys standing around trying to read our (unrehearsed) scripts via candlelight, was a resounding success, we decided. No one showed up, but it was obvious to us that the Gods were worshipped. While neither anivair nor I was particularly keen on supporting the Grove entirely from our own pockets and being the only ones showing up, we resolved that that was a commitment we were willing to make, because damnit, it wasn't our comfort that was important, it was the fact that the gods were being done their due honour.

From there, they also have to worry about a crapload of mundane issues: is Sally getting along with Jane? Is Joe paying his dues? Where can we find a ritual site that is both friendly and cheap, not to mention that will let us have a ritual fire?

And there is *always* pressure to see your success in terms of membership numbers. Everyone wants to have a big Grove, one that has ritual teams who trade off the responsibility of doing ritual and can run rites with their eyes closed because they're devoted enough to get together twice a week for ritual practice. That's what all of us really want.

It's easy to lose sight of the fact that really, it's about worshipping the deities, doing the work, and being in it for the right reasons.
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:35 pm (UTC)
see, seamus_mcnasty and i wonder if it's because we started coming and taking more active roles...

i would have to agree with mazi_sexton that leaving w/o telling someone why is passive aggressive. it doesn't have to be a big drama thing but a quick "this isn't working for me anymore and here's why" is much more mature than just "i quit" or just a no-show. although i try to think that maybe the reason is so folks don't hurt someone else's feelings, rather than something malicious...still, having gone through it with my circle, it hurts a LOT when it's behind-the-back stuff, and it hurts LESS when it's "I'm sorry, I found a new path" stuff. Still hurts both ways, but much less with the honesty.

and yes, we cannot control the interactions between grove members (save those in which we are ourselves involved *AHEM*) but I think we can choose how we handle them when we become aware of them (which is probably a discussion best saved for a less public setting, except to say we all do the best we can).

i think if we continue to advertise and post and get rave reviews from local shopowners (*giggle*) we'll be fine.
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
It could very well be that an increase in activity and the willingness to do things by one or two members can cause a downturn in active support from others within the Grove. This could be for numerous reasons, the first of which comes to mind being that "if someone else is doing the work, I don't have to." It's easier not to step up.

But equally possible is the possibility that a person feels disenfranchised if they don't step up to the same level. They might feel that, because their voice seems to be less forceful now that someone else has stood up, they no longer have a similar say in their own spirituality.

The obvious answer to that is "stand up and say something," but the politics of power are not easy to get through for all people.

Also possible is that someone just doesn't like you and thus doesn't want to be part of a Grove you help run, but I'd say that's a (very) distant third possibility.

And yeah, honesty is a wonderful thing to have. I prize it highly. No one has managed to offend me yet by telling me that our rituals suck :) Of course, no one has told me that, either, so if it were true, no one feels that we're worth the time it takes to say it.

I want to increase our advertising. The invitations, while a nice thought, had a very poor return. I think I posted the message to threecranesannounce, but I can't honestly recall. I will ensure that we post this next annoucement as many places as possible (should be ready soon).
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC)
I was in a bit of a hard spot when I left my Grove because it *was* the result of behaviors of certain people towards me. Certain folks had some increadibly unrealistic expectations of me & when I tried to explain that I wasn't able to do it, I was told I was making excuses. When I tried to explain that people weren't being realistic, I was told I was being "unprofessional". The energy I had to give the grove was being entirely consumed by having to defend myself againt stupid petty accusations of "what I really meant" every time I spoke. I wsn't angry when I left, just tired & sad.

All of this originated with one specific person with some serious control issues, to the point that the other people who were sucked into her view have since appologized. I want to be active with the Grove again but I don't see how it can work.

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