How to Avoid The Plague

(an open letter to Anne Newkirk Niven)

Hi, Anne!

I know we don’t know each other very well.  Actually, uh, we don’t know each other at all, which makes this whole thing kinda awkward.

I guess you run a website and a print journal called Witches&Pagans, which is a pretty cool name.  I’m a gay punk Pagan writer, who likes forests and tea and my boyfriend and writes a few places.  You may have seen my writing somewhere?  I…uh, anyway, hey–about that thing you wrote in the group I was in…


Those mercury retrogrades are sometimes pretty rough, huh?  I drop my cell phone in my tea mug pretty often during a retrograde, but fortunately it’s one of those really old ones that costs 10 dollars to replace. Still–definitely, ye’ gotta watch out for those retrogrades.

So, you totally didn’t mean to tell everyone what you ended up telling everyone.  You definitely meant to tell someone, but I guess you were probably not thinking that I and some other 50 other people would read it.  That’s totally awkward, and I know what that’s like:

One time a lover and I were walking through our gentrifying neighborhood, and it was making us grumpy.  All the old cool places were gone and there were new buildings going up everywhere you looked and a lot of them were really expensive condominiums with yoghurt&juice-bars at the bottom, and you could suddenly buy $4 cupcakes but couldn’t get a one-bedroom apartment for under $1500.  We were getting pushed out, I guess, or felt like we were getting pushed around.

So, anyway, my lover kicked a sidewalk A-board sign that was advertising yet another Condo getting built.  It was on the sidewalk (along with 10 others on that block.)  Imagine our surprise when eight cops show up with guns pointed at us!

That was pretty crazy, and I really don’t like guns pointed at me.  So I said so.  I guess maybe it was silly of me, but I asked them to put down their guns.

They didn’t, of course.  But one of ’em get’s real close to me and says, “you got a problem with cops?”

So–I totally thought I was saying this under my breath.  It might have been a mercury retrograde, or maybe the guy had really good hearing, but when I said “only when they kill native woodcarvers,” my head’s suddenly getting bashed into the hood of the cop car.  Repeatedly.

See, there’d been a deaf homeless mentally-ill First Nations guy, a client of mine when I was a social worker, and the Seattle Police had shot him 5 times in the back because he didn’t put down a two-inch carving knife because he couldn’t hear them.  So, that was still on my mind, and I brought it up, and then I was bashed around a whole lot and thrown in a cell.

So, yeah.  I know what it’s like to say something that you don’t think others will hear, but you just gotta say it anyway.

I totally get it.   And it’s not easy to “unsay” stuff like that.  Granted, I didn’t want to take back what I’d said–maybe you don’t, either.  Maybe you’d really like to “avoid Rhyd Wildermuth like the plague” and that’s that.

That’s cool.  Really.

But why, I wonder?  Is it because I’m against Capitalism?  Or because I worship lots of gods?  Or my hair?


I smell funny, right?  I haven’t used deodorant for almost 15 years now.  I go to this one bar in Seattle and usually take my shirt off and hairy guys shove their faces into my armpits because they like the smell.  Other people?  Not so much.  I also wear a lot of vetiver, and sometimes people don’t like that scent.  I like it, and my boyfriend likes it, so it’s okay.

I definitely don’t smell like a plague, though.  And, anyway, it was supposed to be some online group about the environment.  Fortunately, there’s no scratch-and-sniff internet technology, so you wouldn’t have smelled me anyway.

Maybe it’s not ’cause I smell, though?  Maybe my friends? Or your friends?  I mean, we’ve never had a single human or internet interaction ever, so…is it my writing?

Who knows. Apparently, I’m to be avoided, though.

Sorry to hear that.   I hope you don’t have to run into bushes or jump over fences if you see me walking down the street, or at some conference.  That’d be really awkward, huh?  And silly.  Don’t do that.

I won’t try to convince you that I don’t smell, or that I’m not comparable to the plague. Mostly just that, well, them retrogrades and the internet and mean feelings and words are very tricksy, so be careful with those things!

No hard feelings, though.

Be well, yeah?

–Rhyd Wildermuth

18 thoughts on “How to Avoid The Plague

      1. That would be the one! It seems to be a disease that is on the increase, the inability to maintain atten… oh, look, a squirrel!

  1. Well, The Gay is catching and you know what happens when people get too close to the punk weirdos with their strange hair and forward thinking politics. Totally catching and it really fuck up your day when you get it–you have to think and stuff.

    I have no idea who this woman is, but if she runs a website, you’d think she’d be a bit more discerning about what she said. It’s vaguely like egg on the face, except she stuck her whole head in the chicken’s cloaca.

    1. She is the editor of the print magazines Crone, Witches&Pagans, and SageWoman, which are among the largest circulation print pagan-interest magazines.

      1. Thanks for the link, Faoladh. It confirmed that I read the right article… because I wondered what she found offensive. It was a wonderful journey. Although I’m not sure if it was about gods or gender or something else, I enjoyed it.

    1. Be warned, though: It’s totally not about what most people are complaining about. Especially Gus-Gus — but nothing is EVER about what he’s complaining about which is pretty funny when you consider this is the bourgeois white man whose favourite come-back is “did you even read what I wrote? Clearly you didn’t.”

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