The Future of Hydrogen Vehicles

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about the idea of hydrogen power. I’ve heard from a lot of people who think about hydrogen bombs and the Hindenburg when they think about hydrogen fuels. They think that if we use hydrogen as a power source we’re flirting with disaster. I’d like to clear up a few of these misconceptions.
First off, hydrogen bombs and hydrogen fuel are entirely different animals. A hydrogen bomb is a fusion bomb. Hydrogen itself, however, is not radioactive. If it were, drinking a glass of water would kill you. The hydrogen in an atomic weapon has undergone a lot of transformation that just wouldn’t happen in a hydrogen vehicle.
As for the Hindenburg, recent studies have shown that the explosion of that airship had more to do with the ‘dope’ used to paint the outer skin than with the hydrogen within. This doping compound used to paint the Hindenburg actually contained many of the components found in rocket fuel, and was the source of the original fire that subsequently ignited the hydrogen. This is not to say that hydrogen isn’t combustible. Any fuel that can be used to produce energy is combustible, or it wouldn’t produce energy in the first place. The gasoline and the diesel fuel most vehicles burn today are combustible as well. The difference is that we are familiar with the hazards associated with gasoline and diesel engines, so they don’t seem quite so scary. While there are inherent risks in handling any combustible material, I believe that hydrogen is far safer overall than the fuels we use today.
To start with, hydrogen is a much cleaner fuel than petroleum-based fossil fuels. When hydrogen burns, the by-product is water. That’s all. No greenhouse gases, no heavy metals, no pollutants. In addition, hydrogen is lighter than air. In any accident in which a hydrogen fuel tank is pierced, the combustible hydrogen floats up into the atmosphere and away from the vehicle. With petroleum fuels, in case of a leak the fuel falls to the pavement below the vehicle where it can be easily ignited.
Finally, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe. There is not likely to ever be a shortage of hydrogen, as when it burns it creates water as a by-product, and this water can be used to obtain more hydrogen. Our planet is two-thirds water, and hydrogen is one of the components of water. At the present time splitting hydrogen from water isn’t the most efficient method of obtaining it, but as technology progresses that could change.
Hydrogen is a clean, abundant source of fuel, but there are drawbacks to a hydrogen economy as well. One drawback is the storage medium. Hydrogen is a gas, not a liquid like gasoline. In order to store enough hydrogen to give a car a 300-mile range, it would have to be stored in a tank at about 1500 psi of pressure. Another drawback is that the cheapest way to extract hydrogen at the present time is to get it from natural gas. Natural gas is not a renewable resource, so in that instance we’re just trading one problem for another. There are promising solutions on the horizon, however. One method that has potential is to use bacteria to extract hydrogen from methane. Another is to store hydrogen in a chemical compound so that it is a solid rather than a gas.
Any old farmer could tell you that you should never put all your eggs in one basket. That’s where we are right now in our dependence on fossil fuels. Hydrogen probably won’t be the only ‘egg’ in our future basket of fuels, but it could be one of many if we can work out a few of the technical challenges. Time will tell.

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Bird Message

It was a warm spring day. I was at the lake with the woman I would later divorce. We were having a picnic by the lake. She’d brought along her collection of talismans and other New Age junk and was busily trying to read portents in a deck of Tarot cards.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the lovely artwork on some of the better Tarot decks. I can also appreciate the insights you can glean from your own subconscious by exploring various interpretations of the Tarot. Unfortunately, she had the habit of consulting the deck for every little aspect of her life to the point that it was almost an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Why be so preoccupied with the future? In doing so, you miss the “now.”

It’s fine to see portents from time to time, but she couldn’t seem to see anything else.

As we sat there, she dealing out her Tarot and obsessing over it, and I playing my ever-present guitar, a cardinal appeared on a tree branch just above our heads.

Seeing an opportunity for another omen, she looked up at the bird and said, “Hi, do you have a message for me?”

The bird, in response, cocked her head sideways and dumped a prodigious load right onto her head.

I laughed, looked at her and said, “There’s your message.”

Spirituality is only good when it isn’t taken too seriously.

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Black Cougar

One summer morning at dawn I found myself walking up Sand Mountain on a dusty logging road, when I saw the black cougar sitting in a tree above me…it smiled down at me and said, “Hello, I’ve been waiting for you.”
I had come to be upon this trail by a strange series of events.
I spent my teenage years in the mountains of North Alabama.  During that time I had given up on Christianity and had been studying various other spiritual paths. I had discovered Carlos Castaneda, Rolling Thunder, Black Elk, and a host of other Native American spiritual authors. I wasn’t quite sure where all of this was leading, nor how much of it was real and how much of it was fake. I only knew that parts of it resonated with my soul.
Shortly after my graduation from high school, my family moved to Pensacola, Florida. The tender age of 18 isn’t the best age to move, especially when your friends and your world revolve around where you went to high school.  I’d left my first love behind in those mountains. I also left a band I’d been playing with for a few years.
I had dreams at that time of becoming a musician. Shortly after moving to Pensacola I answered an ad in Rolling Stone magazine for a guitarist for a band in Iowa. So I packed up my duffle bag and guitar and hitchhiked all the way to Ottumwa.
When I got there, the “band” consisted of one other guy who didn’t even have his own musical instruments, living in a one-bedroom house without electricity. So there I was, stranded without a hope of getting a paying gig. I stuck it out for about a week, then decided to hitchhike home.
One of the rides I got just happened to be going through Guntersville, Alabama.  This is the town where I went to high school. Taking this to be some sort of sign of cosmic significance, I hopped in. He let me out of the car shortly before dawn in downtown Guntersville.
The girl I was in love with at the time lived in Arab, Alabama, about fifteen miles away. I started walking, because I wanted to see her at least one more time. Hitchhiking wasn’t a very effective method of transportation in rural Alabama in the late 70s. I walked the entire way.
She wasn’t home when I got there, so I wandered off across the street to sleep in the woods nearby. The insects were so bad that I never managed to fall asleep, so I got up and started walking again, this time intending to call upon the bass player for my old band.
After 30 or 40 more miles of walking, without sleep, I arrived at his home.  It was now dark, and had been for some time.  I’m not sure exactly what time it was, but he wasn’t home either. So I started walking again, this time with no particular direction in mind. By now I was walking on momentum.
As I walked I mused over what possible meaning these events could have.  Why did it just happen that I got a ride to my old home town, only to be frustrated at every turn? Was there a lesson to be had here, or was it just a series of random events?
Why had fate taken me away from this place just as our band was starting to get a following? Why did I have to leave the girl I’d spent the past year of my life with? I pondered these questions as I walked on through the night.
I had given up on trying to hitch a ride.  It was pointless anyway, since I had no particular direction in mind. So I turned to an old abandoned logging road. If nothing else, maybe I’d find an opportune place to lay down for a while and take a nap.  I’d been without sleep for two days now.
As the sun began to rise, I noticed a black shape taking form in a tall oak up ahead.  As I got closer, the fuzzy outlines resolved themselves into what appeared to be a black cougar, sitting in the tree. At that point I was too exhausted to run away, so I watched it with fascination.
The cougar became aware of my presence. That’s when it smiled and greeted me.  A part of me was thinking that I’d finally lost my mind, but another part told me to listen to what it had to say.
His melodious voice was audible, yet at the same time not audible. If I concentrated I could hear it as a voice, but it seemed to be more in my head than in my ears.
I asked the black cougar why he’d come, and what the lesson was.  He told me that I’d been drawn back to this place for a reason. When I’d tried to visit people from my past, they hadn’t been home.  This was to remind me that the past is the past.  It is gone forever.  I should never attempt to second-guess what has gone behind. I should live in the “now” of existence.
The black cougar then told me his name, and informed me that he was my guardian spirit. He would always be there to watch over me and to help me when I needed him the most. We talked of many more things, but those things would be too deeply personal to share here. Suffice it to say that he gave me many things I needed to hear. He then told me to wander down the trail a few more yards.
I walked down the path the cougar had described.  At the end of the trail I found an old hunter’s cabin. Inside was a cot.  I lay down and took a much-needed rest. When I woke I found a wild plum tree just outside the door and had breakfast.
The appearance of the black cougar served as a comforting presence to me in a time of trouble. I had always related to felines, so I suppose it is fitting that my guardian spirit should be one. I’ve never seen the cougar again, but whenever a significant event is about to occur in my life, a black cat shows up and takes up residence with me. Every time this happens I always name him Sebastian. As I write this, Sebastian VI is sleeping peacefully nearby. He, like all of his predecessors, is a stray who simply showed up one day.
I suppose you could put all of this down to a hallucination by a famished young man, sleep deprived and exhausted and feeling lost in space and time. Perhaps so. I only know that the appearance of the black cougar filled me with a sense of purpose and direction at a time when I had none. Whether it was an illusion or a real entity is therefore meaningless.  Either way, my guardian served his purpose.

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Battling Wolves

An old Cherokee wise man was walking through the woods one day with his grandson. As he walked he took the opportunity to impart a little wisdom.

“Grandson,” he said, “Within each person who lives there are two wolves constantly at battle.”

“One wolf is evil. It is selfish and vain, taking advantage of the weak and devouring those who stand in his way.”

“The other wolf is good. It is loving, nurturing and caring and looks after those who are weaker or less fortunate than he is.”

The grandson thought about these battling wolves for a moment before asking, “Grandfather, which wolf will win this battle?”

To which the Grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

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Framework for a Druid Ritual

Many ancient Celtic sites are on a hill or an elevated place. Access to these places is often arranged so that the sacred space slowly comes into view as a person walks up the trail. Many modern Druid rituals begin with a processional to the circle. As the group walks to the sacred space, chants or songs are often sung. The march to the circle reminds the seeker that he or she is leaving the world behind and entering into a timeless place. The time spent walking during the processional should be used to leave the cares of the world behind and to bring oneself mentally into ritual space.

Most circles have some sort of gate where attendees enter. This ‘gate’ can be as simple as two stones on the ground, or as elaborate as you wish. The facilitator of the ritual stands at the outside of the gate, purifying each attendee before they enter the circle. This can be done by smudging, or by sprinkling blessed water on the attendee, or by brushing them lightly with an herb or plant sacred to the occasion, or by simply waving a Bell Branch over them. Once they have been purified, they are free to enter the circle, usually in a clockwise (deosil – pronounced ‘jostle’) direction.

Here the facilitator briefly states the purpose of the ritual, the significance of the holiday, and its spiritual meaning. A blessing may be asked of the God or Goddess associated with the High Day.

Grounding and Centering
After the Invocation, a brief meditative music piece may be played so that attendees may ground and center themselves, or a brief meditation guided by the facilitator can achieve the same result.
Grounding is a process by which we cease to rely solely on our own energy, and instead draw energy from the Earth herself. To ground, picture yourself as a tree. Roots of energy shoot out from your feet, reaching into the Earth and drawing energy. Also visualize branches of energy from the top of your head, like tree branches, reaching up to draw energy from the sky.
Centering involves becoming present in the moment. Ritual space is a timeless space. Think for a moment about the things that cause you worry and stress. How many of those things have to do with past events? How many of those things have to do with events that have not yet happened, or may not ever happen? Centering is the process of setting aside thoughts and worries about the past and future. When you center yourself, you let go of time and step into a timeless place where all things are possible. It is the process of drawing your attention to nothing but the ritual at hand. Bring all of your attention to the present moment. When you have done so, you are centered.

Calling the Quarters
Some Druidic traditions call the Quarters, and some do not. If you choose to do so, turn and face each direction, starting with the East, and call upon the Spirits or Guardians associated with each direction. The facilitator should stand to the North while calling the Quarters. Use the associations below, if desired, when calling the Quarters. Proceed from the East in a clockwise direction until all the Quarters have been called:

Quarter Element Color Power
East Air Yellow Creativity
South Fire Red Transformation
West Water Blue Introspection
North Earth Green Prosperity

The Blessing of Peace
While calling the Quarters, most Druid traditions include a wish for peace. This is usually stated while facing each direction, after calling that particular Quarter. A simple statement, such as, ‘May there be peace in the East,’ should suffice. Be sure to include a peace for all four cardinal directions. Some traditions include a blessing of peace for the Center by simply saying, ‘May there be peace in the Center.’

Setting the Center
In many traditions, the Sacred Center consists of the triad of Well, Fire, and Tree. These can be symbolized by a cup or bowl of water for the Well, a candle for the Fire (or an open bonfire if the location and occasion warrant), and a staff for the Tree of Life. The Well and the Fire represent introspection and transformation, while the Tree of Life represents balance, uniting Chaos and Order in Middle Earth. The Tree’s roots go deep into the Earth, drinking the waters of Chaos, while its branches reach into Heaven, soaking up the rays of the Sun’s life-giving Order.

Opening the Gate
Once the Sacred Center has been established, the Gate to the Otherworld should be opened by calling upon the Gatekeeper. By opening the Gates to the Otherworld, we allow the wisdom of the Ancestors into the circle.

Offerings (Sometimes called ‘Sacrifices’)
At this portion of the ritual, a gift of some sort is given to the Gods/Goddesses of the occasion. This can be a food item tossed into the Sacred Fire, or a libation poured onto the ground or into a bowl. The idea behind ‘sacrifice’ instead of ‘offering’ is that you are giving something that means a great deal to you. This is seen in the spirit of only giving your best to the Gods and Goddesses. In ancient times, finely-crafted cauldrons, weapons and such were tossed into rivers as an offering to the Goddess Danu. The offering should include an acknowledgement of the God or Goddess for whom the offering is intended, where appropriate.

Blessings and Concerns
At this point, each attendee at the circle is given an opportunity to express gratitude for any blessings they may have received since the last circle, or to express a concern or problem that they would like help with. This can also be a time for a seasonal expression. For example, at Samhain, members might offer a remembrance of a lost loved one, or at Beltane they may like to share how they have been blessed by a beloved partner. You may find it helpful to experiment with variations on this theme, appropriate to the particular holiday being celebrated. One of the reasons for offering blessings and concerns is that it builds a stronger Grove by allowing each member the support of all.

Reading the Omens
This is an optional portion of a Druid ritual. If there is a question or a concern requiring divination, omens are read by the Celebrant. The method used is up to the Grove’s personal preferences. Many use rune sticks or Ogham. Some use dice, or some just interpret signs given by Nature herself. I was at a ritual once where a raven landed in the middle of the circle during the Omens. This was especially significant, since the rite being celebrated at that time was in honor of the Goddess, the Morrigan. The animal most closely associated with the Morrigan is the raven.
For more detailed suggestions on how to read the Runes, see the chapter on divination in the Earth Path section.

Seasonal Rite
At this portion of the ritual, something specific to the High Day being celebrated is inserted. For example, you may choose to insert an Ancestor Vigil here for Samhain, or a Hanging of the Bells for Beltane, or a lighting of the Yule log for Winter Solstice.

During this portion of the rite, an offering of thanks to the Gods, Goddesses, Elementals, etc. is offered. You may also choose to thank any participants who contributed to the ritual by offering time and/or talents. At our Mabon celebrations, we usually go around the circle and have everyone name at least one thing they are thankful for.

Closing the Gates/Dismissing the Quarters
At this point, call upon the Gatekeeper to seal the way to the Otherworld. If you have called the Quarters, dismiss them as well. You may also choose to sing or chant a closing musical offering at this time.

Closing the Rite
At this point, you may sing a final song and make any final announcements. We usually end with a Recessional in which we leave the circle through the Gate while singing or chanting. When leaving the circle, go counter-clockwise, or ‘widdershins,’ around the circle before exiting at the Gate. When the Recessional has reached a predetermined destination, you may wish to offer a prayer or statement of dismissal.

Guide to Using this Format
The above outline is just a suggested format. It is provided for those with little or no experience in crafting rituals. It is by no means a definitive Druid ritual. As with all things, take what you find useful, and leave the rest.

A Note about Solitary Practice
According to some estimates, as many as 70% – 80% of Druids do not belong to any Grove or group. If this estimate is true, then the chances are pretty good that if you are reading this website, you are a solitary Druid. Although the outline above is written from the perspective of group ritual practice, it can be easily adapted for solitary practice. If you have access to an outdoor space that would be appropriate, you may perform your own rituals there. Some Druids have an indoor altar that they use for such purposes. The only rule is to use that which helps you draw closer to the Divine.

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Living in the Woods

A few years back I had my own Walden experience.

My ex-wife and I had bought some land out in the woods to build a house on. When we separated, she got our house and I got the land. It was a fairly remote location, full of old-growth hardwoods with a creek at the back of the property, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians.

Needless to say I was upset at the separation and impending divorce. I was also in dire financial straits. Since I was now in effect homeless, I had to set about finding a place to live as soon as possible.

I had just finished reading Walden for the umpteenth time, so an idea occurred to me. I was out walking on the three acre patch of woods that belonged to me. The creek was an ample fresh water source, and there were wild berries and nuts. There was a place to plant a garden and a beautiful patch of land in a clearing in the woods. I decided that I needed some time to sort things out, and I knew I wouldn’t get the chance by plunging back into the rat race.

So I emptied out my humble savings account and built a little 8 foot by 12 foot cob cabin with a small deck out front. I also built a shower stall. My shower consisted of a five-gallon plastic bag with a nozzle on the end, called a camper’s shower. I filled this up every evening and laid it out to catch the morning sun. Then I’d hang it in the shower stall every morning. Sometimes I’d just skip the shower and bathe in the creek. My bed was a hammock fastened to the walls of the cabin. I had a lantern, a collection of books, a sketchpad or two, and a deck chair. I braved the Unabomber jokes from my friends who dropped by on occasion and settled in to prepare myself for whatever lesson life was about to teach me.

By that Spring I had a nice variety of vegetables in the garden. These kept me fed, along with a few staples I bought from the grocer in town. I had fresh water from the creek. When I cooked I had a hibachi fueled with hickory deadfall. It wasn’t a banquet, but it’s probably the healthiest diet I’d ever eaten. After a while I didn’t miss the meat that much.

I found that after a month or two of living this Thoreau existence, my perceptions altered. Here I was, living in an unheated, un-air-conditioned shack out in the woods, yet it was one of the most enjoyable times in my life. The wildlife at first was shy of me, but after they saw that I meant them no harm they accepted me and I accepted them. That Spring I came home from one of my walks in the woods to discover that a mother sparrow had built a nest on the shelf inside my shack. As I got ready for bed she poked her head out and glanced at me. When she saw that I was no threat, she settled back in and lived there until her hatchlings grew up and left the nest. I’d greet her every morning and she’d answer back with a song.

I woke in the mornings on the weekends to sell my arts and crafts at a local craft market. I had a battery-powered alarm clock to wake me, but it soon became unnecessary. A woodpecker took up residence in a tree near my cabin and every morning his breakfast foraging woke me up. In the evenings I’d sit on the deck and play my guitar by torchlight while my supper cooked on the hibachi. A skunk soon became a regular visitor. At first I worried about getting sprayed, but apparently he just came to listen to the music. He’d sit a few feet away, listening while I played, then he’d go off upon his nightly rounds. He shared my evening leftovers with a family of possums who visited on occasion as well.

As I gradually became accepted into the woodland community, at first I was amazed at how the animals showed no fear of me once I showed them I was not a threat. Then I came to understand that for some reason humankind has set itself apart from nature by creating a barrier between “us” and “them” that doesn’t actually exist. By accepting nature as a part of us, we open the door for nature to accept us as a part of it. By treating nature as a respected family member instead of as an adversary to be conquered, we partake in the great circle of life that is.

Eventually the heat of the day and the chill of the night on those first days of Spring no longer bothered me. As I became accustomed to the changes in temperature I found that I didn’t notice them at all. My body’s cycles and rhythms became attuned to the world around me.

After a month or two of living apart from the rat race, my thinking changed. I saw the world as one complete living system. I was part of it and it was part of me. To talk of myself as separate from nature seemed to be a delusion in the highest degree.

I remember one night in particular. The full moon was rising over the distant mountains while I sat and played my guitar. The animals gathered around for the nightly concert. As I played, an owl landed in a tree directly above me. It looked me in the eye and communicated to me a feeling of peace and oneness that words cannot describe. I glanced into the bushes a few yards away and caught a glimpse of a mountain cougar looking back at me! Although I should have been frightened, I suppose, there was no sense of fear at all. The cougar was my brother, as was the owl and all the other animals gathered around me. It was a feeling more spiritual than any I’d ever had in any church.

Perhaps I’m trying to describe the indescribable. As they say, the Way that can be spoken of is not the Way. I know that such a spiritual experience is beyond the ability of words to express. But I do know that in hiding from the world in our cocoons of concrete and steel, we’ve forsaken the better part of ourselves. There is a part of nature that would speak to us, but its voice falls on deaf ears. We need to remember how to listen. The great hunger for spiritual things that can be found nowadays throughout the world could be satisfied if we returned to our source. It’s not as difficult as it seems, and the sacrifices aren’t as hard as they would appear. If this world of trinkets and baubles we’ve built for ourselves is blocking out the melody of nature, and nature’s voice is the key to true happiness, what have we lost if we cast off this lie of material possessions?

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Love of Nature

Druidry recognizes that everything is alive. Not only that, but all living things are interconnected, and depend on each other. Unlike some other spiritual and religious paths, Druidry does not see human beings as privileged above all other creatures. We don’t consider other creatures ‘inferior’ to ourselves. Each has a right to life.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all Druids are vegan, or even vegetarian. But Druids who eat meat or use animal products respect the sacrifice that each animal has made. Druidry recognizes the cycles of life and death, and understands that death is a natural part of the life cycle. We do, however, work to minimize suffering for all of existence, as much as possible.
Another aspect of the love of nature is that nature is our teacher. While other religions and spiritual paths may have ‘holy books’ to draw their teachings from, Druidry’s ‘holy book’ is nature herself. Nature is our teacher, nature is our nurture, and nature is our healer.
A large body of evidence has demonstrated that humans need nature in order to survive. Nature has incredible healing powers. This is because urbanization is a very recent invention on the evolutionary scale of time. We evolved for millions of years in nature before we learned to urbanize ourselves, and for this reason we still need nature in our lives.
Druidry recognizes this power that nature has to heal and regenerate. The tools and techniques of Druidry work together to tap into this powerful source of healing.
The first step on the path of Druidry is to realize that what we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves. So if we continue to damage the natural environment, what does that say about how we feel about ourselves?

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