Archive for the ‘reconnecting’ Category

East Coast Gathering 2014   1 comment

Camp Netimus path -- photo courtesy of Carolyn Batz

Camp Netimus path — photo courtesy of Carolyn Batz

[Here are reviews of ECG 12 and ECG 13.]

East Coast Gathering (ECG) ’14 just celebrated its fifth Alban Elfed/ autumn equinox in the wooded hills of NE Pennsylvania. Along with this year’s theme of “Connecting to the Goddess,” 114 people reconnected to each other and the land, the lovely land. New participants and old remarked on the kindness of place, the welcoming spirit of Netimus, a flourishing girls’ camp founded in 1930 that now plays host off-season to other groups, too.

[For another perspective on this year’s Gathering, visit and read John Beckett’s excellent blog “Under the Ancient Oaks.”]

After a wet summer in the Northeast, the camp showed richly green — mosses, lichens, leaves and light all caressing the gaze wherever you looked. And keeping to our tradition of inviting guests from the U.K., we welcomed Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order and returning guests Penny and Arthur Billington, this time accompanied by their daughter Ursula, a mean fiddler with Ushti Baba (Youtube link).

For me what distinguished this year’s Gathering, my fourth, was the pure joy in so many people’s faces. And it just grew over the weekend. Over and around travel fatigue, colds, tricky schedules and stresses and waiting commitments — everything — they didn’t matter: the tribe was together again. To you all (from an interfaith week I participated in): “Thank you for the blessings that you bring. Thank you for the blessings that you are.”

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Dana’s Goddess Shrine in a tent on our ritual field was also a wonderful addition and a focus for many of us.

Goddess Shrine -- photo courtesy of Nadia Chauvet

Goddess Shrine — photo courtesy of Nadia Chauvet

Natural offerings accumulated over the weekend — mosses, lichen-streaked stones, acorns, leaves, a small sun-bleached animal skull — were returned to Netimus, and the other items packed up for next time. A workshop I led, on making a Goddess Book, drew me back to the shrine several times for reflection and inspiration. (Here’s the link I mentioned at Camp to a video on making the “Nine-Fold Star of the Goddess” — seeing the steps in 3D should help make my hand-drawn images on the handout easier to read once you practice a few times. A series of divinations and meditations were to follow which I never got to in the workshop — though over-planning is usually better than under-planning. Material for a subsequent post!)

I continue to meditate on a surprising goddess experience during Penny’s workshop, which I may be able to write about in an upcoming post. One of the potencies of such gatherings of like-minded people is the spiritual crucible that can form and catalyze discoveries in ways not always easily accessible in solitary practice.

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Our fire-keepers outdid themselves this year, building enormous pyres (one with an awen worked in wood) to provide the centerpiece of each evening’s gathering after supper, workshops and initiations had concluded.

Awen bonfire ready -- photo courtesy Nadia Chauvet

Awen bonfire ready — photo courtesy Nadia Chauvet

evening bonfire -- photo courtesy John Beckett

evening bonfire — photo courtesy John Beckett

 

As always it’s people who carry the spirit of Druidry. Here as they tour New York City, just prior to the camp, are Kristoffer, Renu, Ursula, Penny and Arthur.

Renu with our UK guests in NY — photo courtesy Renu Aldritch

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So What About the Non-Religious?   2 comments

You may know some of “them.”  (What’s it say about us that we say “them”?) They’re often wonderful people, they raise families, they “contribute to society,” they’re fun to be around — and they may seem not to have a religious or spiritual bone in their bodies.  And that’s not only something to “tolerate” or “accept.”  It’s just as it should be. “I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead,” says H. D. Thoreau.

Two couples whose company my wife and I delight in and seek out certainly qualify as non-religious: you can see their unease or discomfort if the topic happens to come up in conversation.  An innocent question, or a comment in passing. “What’s that pin you’re wearing?” or “What did you do last month when you were in Minneapolis?” And hearing our answer, a kind of stiffness, a change in expression, a wilting, or wariness.  “Oh no,” you can practically hear them thinking.  “We’re going there again.”

And my wife and I laugh about it afterward.  You get it, right? So often we’ve been the defensive ones, either avoiding the topic altogether, or passing off our beliefs with a quick, casual acknowledgment and then turning the talk in another direction, or (sigh) girding ourselves to explain, justify, account yet again for our non-mainstream practices and events and perspectives.  The lesson for us continues to be this: if the opportunity opens up, find a way to talk about day-to-day benefits rather than beliefs, seek the common ground we all know from living on this planet, demonstrate it as a part of our lives, which they do care about. Then move on.  Build trust, keep the lines of communication open, share your vulnerability and — as needed — shut up.  You know:  basic relationship stuff.

On our recent car trip, which I’ve touched on in the last several posts, we managed to reconnect with colleagues from over 25 years ago, a couple I worked with during my year of teaching in Changsha in the People’s Republic of China in the late 80s.  We’d fallen out of touch: the first of their three children arrived, three of the four of us were back in school, several of us were patching together jobs out of already unconventional work histories, and both of our families moved at least a couple of times to accomplish these things.

IMG_0879We joked about our reunion later, over a dinner of home-made jiaozi.  Making and eating them had become a lovely family tradition for them after China. The four of us and their youngest daughter, now 19, stood around their dining room table, filling and wrapping and talking, brushing the jiaozi wrappers with the cornstarch-water mix to seal them, then watching as the plump crescent dumplings steamed. Earlier we’d met for lunch in a restaurant, in case any of us had become raving loonies in the interim, and a convenient escape was needed.  Eight hours later, we all knew we had nothing to fear.  And the best demonstration, in the moment, of spirituality in all of our lives?  Friendship, hospitality, a shared meal, simple pleasure in each other’s company.  A touch of nostalgia didn’t hurt either.

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Image of jiaozi steaming: me. Actual kitchen, steamers, stove, etc., courtesy of S. T.

Edited: 2 Aug. 2014

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