April 3rd is my birthday. Whereas I can write about how I spent my day, nay, my whole weekend celebrating another year on this blue speck, that will have to be saved for another entry.
April 3, 2011 my friend Paul Bingham died and returned to the Summerlands, where I know he is giving every single god one of his infamous bear hugs in welcome.
I was in shock when I heard. It was just a few weeks ago word traveled he was ill; stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Apparently he had it for years and showed no symptoms until the beginning of March. The community is in a whirl.
Paul and I were not close, but he touched my life regardless. The first time I met him was at my very first festival, SummerStar. I was camping with my Circle and we were pretty exclusive, almost too exclusive, so we decided to branch out and meet others in the local PNW pagan community. This was our attempt to see who and what was out there.
I decided to go for a stroll and happened upon this lumberjack of a man with a Santa disposition. Never you mind he was of broad shoulders and towering over 6’4″, but the smile behind his beard and the twinkle in his eyes immediately disarmed you. My awkwardness was blindly apparent to Paul, so he gently introduced himself, welcomed me to SummerStar and then proceeded to introduce me to others. He carefully and respectfully guided this eyass on her first outing outside the nest.
My second festival was Fall EQ and whereas I felt a bit braver meeting new people, his face was the first recognizable one I saw and he was always happy to see me. He’d ask how I was getting along, if I needed help, was I having fun, and, hey, did I meet so-and-so yet because they’re really cool / knowledgeable / good people.
Paul was my Pagan Community Ambassador and I will always be grateful that he was my first impression of just how awesome the community could be.
Over a year ago, Hedwig and I were strolling through Portland trying to make our way to the Button Emporium before it closed. She was on a mission to find just the right selection of buttons for a new knitted bag she was going to felt. As we headed up the street, my eyes fell upon a very large, very tall bear gently making his way towards us. I did not have to see his face for I knew instantly it was Paul. I glommed onto him with a happy bear hug (throwing Hedwig for a loop as she thought I was hugging a stranger) and we caught each other up. I was unemployed. Had been for what felt like eons. Paul suggested I attend Ignite Portland and he promised he would help me make networking connections. Later that week I did and Paul was a man of his word as he shuffled me from one person to another as I handed out my calling card.
None of the networking panned out, but I was impressed and ever thankful to Paul for trying to help. Plus, I was gobsmacked by how many people he knew. Which just makes his untimely passing that much more shocking. Not only was he connected to the Pagan Community but to so many others as well. We weren’t the only ones who lost the love of a Great Bear yesterday, the whole of the city did.
Sweet Bear, who nurtured and guided, last night I lit a candle for you on my window sill. Happy Re-Birth Day, Paul. Blow out the candle and make a wish. And may that wish give you the new life you want to try on next.
I love and miss you.