Monday, April 28, 2008

Wow, what a Beltane! (very long)

This weekend was the big Beltane gathering out here. Wow. 350 people all camping together in a Forest. It wasn't till I got to talking with some of the others that I realized that this is not only my first Beltane here, but also the first time I've ever been to a large-scale pagan gathering like this. I never made it to Pan-Pagan in Indiana!
So, here’s how most of my weekend went….
I'd been feeling a bit icky all week, mainly allergies, I think. The usual scratchy throat and a bit of fever from being tired. But I wasn't gonna miss this event! I got all my stuff packed, loaded, and cooked in plenty of time to head out Friday to the campsite. It's only about half an hour away, but of course it feels like longer if you don't know quite where you're going! I found the area of the Cibola National Forest that we were going to be in, and the minute I hit the borders of the "Beltane Village", I could feel the energy shift. I found a spot to set up my tent, got registered and signed up for my volunteer shifts. It's been forever since I've used a dome tent, and this one was new to me, so that was an interesting exercise in itself. I hadn't had time to put it up in the backyard to test it, either. Luckily, everything worked fine, and the tent is big enough to stand up in. Of course, I'm still missing some of my usual camping amenities, but I had enough stuff to be comfortable for a weekend.
Off to explore the site, then, and it's a nice area. There's a sea of concrete with lots of concrete picnic tables, and people liked to gather there, but the main center of activity was the big clearing that served as the ritual area. The merchants area was close to where I'd camped, and there were clusters of campers all through the area we had. It was a bit odd not being able to have fires other than campstoves or propane, but under the circumstances it was wise. Despite all the snow over the winter, it has been a very dry spring, and there's a major wildfire going on about 20 miles south of where we were. Nobody's taking any chances!
Fortunately, propane was okay, so that's what we had for our Balefire. We dug a fire pit, laid in a rectangular burner (pipes w/holes) and covered it with rocks and lava rocks. I helped dig the hole and the trench for the hose that ran to the propane tank. When we lit it, it worked really well.
Friday evening was the Opening Ritual. It was neat to be in such a huge circle. After ritual, we got out the drums and instruments and such and gathered around the firepit for a Bardic Circle. I was still feeling icky, and already losing my voice, but I managed to get one song out before I lost it completely. I sang one of my originals, "Drummer Boy", and it was very well received, even without having my full voice. It was so cold that I couldn't get my fingers to work on my guitar, so I just sang it unaccompanied. For my second turn, I just played a tune on my tinwhistle.
After bardic, we got out the drums and the dancers showed up. How some of these gals were able to run around topless in that weather, I'll never know. Even if I'd been feeling 100 percent, I'd have been cold! Anyway, I eventually ended up joining the dancers in order to get closer to the fire and get warm. We passed around all sorts of drink, and I shared out the last remaining good meads from Indiana. It was my way of partying with all my friends in both places. It must have worked well, because I was certainly feeling no pain after a while. Then again, it might have been the brownies, too. Chocolate, mead, drumming, cute guys...oh, yeah, it's Beltane!!
My favorite lad had been there earlier in the day, but couldn't stay the weekend, darn the luck. At least I got to see him at all, because he said he'd just shown up on a lark! Thank you, Universe, for putting the idea in his head! We hung out a bit, and he had his guitar with him, so some of us ended up singing along while he played. That was awesome. Anyway, he'd left even before the opening ritual, so I was missing him, but having fun anyway.
One of the other drummers and I were getting along pretty well, even before he found out that I had bourbon to share. We'd hung out a bit at Ostara, too, talking music and such. Anyway, the circle was winding down, and when we stood up, we realized that we probably should have quit drinking a bit earlier than we had. He was in worse shape than I, so of course I had to make sure he got home safely. ;-) Okay, so I didn't know where his tent was...and he seemed to be quite disoriented...but after a slight detour, we found it and I left him safely tucked in. I headed back to my own tent after stopping back at the circle to make sure the fire was properly turned off.
One word for that night...COLD!!! I crawled into my bed fully dressed, covered my head and tried to get warm. I eventually fell asleep, then woke to find out that Mother Nature was going to add her own lovely twist to the weekend. Dammit, that wasn't supposed to start till Tuesday!! Grrrr.... Out of the relative warmth of the bed, out to the latrines, change clothes when I got back, back to bed. Feh. Oh, well, it'll keep me out of trouble, I guess. Dammit.
Saturday morning, I think I got up out of self-defense, just so I could go find a sunny spot to warm up in. I was surprised to find that even though I'd slept in my contact lenses, they weren't bugging me at all. A bit of saline in the eyes and good to go. The main ritual was set for noonish, and by then I was feeling thawed out. I had gone to the med tent in hopes of something to help me feel better, and had ended up with a mug of hot Gypsy Cold Care tea. It really helped, and the heat felt good on my raw throat. I still didn't have much voice, but at least I didn't feel as feverish. A bunch of us had already started drumming while the crew was digging the hole for the maypole. Four feet deep this year, so it wouldn't fall over. The pole is quite the piece of work. It's about 25 feet long or so, about 8 inches diameter at the base, tapering up to about 3 inch diameter where the wrought iron crown fits on. It's beautifully carved, with the bottom made to look like a phallus, and words spiraling around the shaft. The guy who brought it down from its storage place (on top of his pickup truck) said he got quite the reaction driving through town on the way....I can only imagine!
The ritual was really cool, a dramatization of a god and goddess searching in the four directions for wisdom from other deities about their purpose (of course, it's love...) and then they brought in the maypole. All the men went to fetch it, and they bore it into the circle with the outgoing May Queen riding atop it. The pole was crowned and set upright amidst great cheers. The winding of the pole was so much like the way we do it at Live Oak, not so much for the size of the group, but the way we still manage to make it look good in spite of the missteps in the dance. Kinda like life, I suppose. I did get up from my drum and weave a bit, and was in on the last wraps. Lots of good energy. Then the new May King and Queen were chosen. Couldn't happen to a nicer couple. (One of these years, maybe it'll be my lad and me....maybe.)
After ritual, the feast! Big potluck, mostly cooked ahead, but not all of it. They had split up the list of what to bring by Sign Elements. I'm a Fire Sign, so dessert....cookies, naturally. I think people were still noshing on leftovers till after dark! I took advantage of being warm and full-tummied, and headed back to my tent for a nice nap.
In the evening, we set up and lit the firepit for the Balefire. Another nice ritual, and then the fire jumping began. I managed to make a decent leap, I think, but I was really hurting by this time, so I went back to drumming and trying to stay warm. I actually had another fellow ask me to jump the fire with him! How about that? Here I am, a cold, painful, bleeding mess, and I've got somebody hitting on me? How the heck did that happen? I mean, this is me! Attention from two cute guys in one weekend??? Well, I hobbled up and we stepped over the fire, since I was really stiff from sitting. I explained my feeling icky, and he was quite understanding about it. I did get a nice backrub, though, and that helped a lot. I was able to stay out and drum a while longer, but by the time the dancing started in earnest after dark, I was just too dead to do anything, even after my nap. So I turned in early, all bundled up and with my hat on.
From what someone said Sunday morning, it got down to about 23 degrees F that night. No wonder I was cold! Thank the gods for hot pancakes and coffee for breakfast! After a couple cups of java, I actually got most of my voice back, too. It was a nice mellow morning, hanging out with folks, getting and giving lots of hugs and kisses.

Closing ritual at noon, then down comes the maypole. That was a lot of work, especially getting the rocks out that had been used to keep the pole steady in its hole. The ribbon ends had been trimmed off by then, and people were gathering them for souvenirs. I got some, and am going to send a piece up to my mountain lad, along with copies of the pics I took of the new King and Queen. The ribbon wrappings are removed from the pole in one piece, and the newly-crowned May Queen gets to keep them forever, holding that energy for the community during the coming year. Pretty neat.
After that, it was time to tear down and pack up. It didn't take me long, as I had already done a fair amount of prep work already. I helped some of the others, and spent a bit more time with my drummer friend from Friday night. Then back to the real world, and a Bubonicon Con-Com meeting. How's that for a mental shift?

So, there's my weekend in relatively short form. Of course, I'm not telling you everything! In spite of feeling like crap for a good portion of it, I did have a good time overall. There are other events coming up, and I'm looking forward to them, now that I'm feeling more a part of the community out here. I've made more friends, and that's always good. It reminds me of how I felt when I first found Live Oak. I'm finding a new home, and while I sure do miss the old home, it's good to be here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My eyes hurt...

I don't know if it's the contact lenses, the dry weather, the wind, allergies or all of the above, but my eyes are bugging me a lot this week. Neither my glasses nor my contacts are the right prescription anymore, and I know that doesn't help. So I'll rest my eyes a bit by wearing my glasses for a couple of days, even though I end up taking them off when I'm working on the computers.
The most frustrating thing is that I'm having trouble focusing. I need the glasses or contacts to see far, but now neither do any good for anything within a couple of feet. I can manage, but it's blurry. The contacts are actually doing better for work, as I can adjust the computer there to be able to read it enough to work, and still see the rest of the room. But I can't read a book or write very well. With the glasses, I have almost the same problem, so do my close up work without them. I dread going to the eye doctor (whenever I can manage to do that) because I really am not mentally ready for bifocals! I also worry about things like glaucoma, since there's a bit of family history of it. I really hope I can get laser surgery someday, even if I still end up with reading glasses
The dry windy weather is really kicking in now. There are wildfire watches all across the state, and at least one big fire that's got people worried. Add in the pollen from who knows what's blooming right now, and it seems like everyone's sneezing these days. I'm drinking extra water, too, just to stay hydrated. Chapped lips are no fun at all!

Looking forward, I'm trying to get my act together for next weekend's Beltane campout. I'm working every day till then so I can get my hours in and still have the weekend off. I just got a tent given to me, and I have to see what condition it's in. Hope it's in good enough shape to get me through the weekend! I'm a bit nervous about going to a new event, but excited, too. I'm hoping a certain friend of mine will be there, but haven't heard anything (no surprise there). I just hope I can stay comfortable and have a good fun time.

Interesting side note: A year ago, at this time, I was on my vacation out here in NM, staying at the mountain home for the first time. Looking over the past year, I am stunned at the whirlwind I've been riding. I know the ride's far from over, too, but hopefully it will be a bit less hectic at some point! Just goes to show that you never can tell what's coming your way!