Desert Magic Festival Synopsis:
On Thursday, I spent the morning sitting in the airport, typing my lecture on Gaulish Religion. I finished it up before boarding the plane.
As I flew over most of America, I sat in a window seat for the first time since I was too young to remember. I always got airsick, and always hated flying, but as I flew over the cities and watched the world roll by, I found that I was enjoying myself. I also realized that my knowledge of irrigation techniques can keep me from asking stupid questions, if I try hard enough.
I arrived in Phoenix a half hour early, and so I wandered around the terminal for a while, wondering where qorinda might be. I had been hoping that, despite my early arrival, she might still be waiting for me on the other side of the security gates, but to no avail. So, I picked up my baggage, and went back to the security gate to wait for her to show up.
I think I fell asleep waiting, fedora pulled low over my eyes, because when I looked up next, I saw her and another woman standing facing the security gate with a sign. The see-thru shirt helped give it away, too.
I walked up behind them (dragging my terribly heavy luggage), and asked if the sign was for me. They smiled, replied that it was, and I was introduced to qorinda and Michelle.
We went out to where Michelle was parked, and I was taken out to lunch at Bahama Breeze. The cheeseburger was pretty good, and the waitress was very cute (from Indiana, actually) with a nifty tattoo inside her ear.
Michelle dropped us off at qorinda's car, and we drove off into the mid-afternoon sun. We talked for a while, and discussed how a certain mountain about midway between Phoenix and Tucson looked very much like a sleeping dragon. We talked about the price of land, how it is, and what her plans were for her Grove. I assured her that any and all issues her Grove was having, I have them, too.
We arrived in Tucson, and drove through the gates to the Summerlands, which is where the festival was held. We were greeted at the gate, and qorinda started spreading rumors right then. We pulled in, and I went in to see who else had arrived.
It was hugs all around as we stepped into the guest house. Most of the presenters had already arrived, and I was thus greeted quite warmly by people I knew from festivals past. Kirk put me up in the stables (my first thought was something like, "Does that make me a stud?" but I failed to find enough wit to verbalize it), and I finally got to meet Steve, Kirk's partner. I have to say, he reminded me immediately of a bear.
I went to the opening rite that night, and I had to struggle to concentrate on the rite instead of the circle. It was then that I realized that, as powerful as the circle was for ritual, it had one main drawback: an inability of people to focus on the rite because they're staring at the pretty rocks around them.
Of course, I still want one.
That night was fairly early. We settled down, and most of us fell asleep rather quickly. On my way to bed, though, I encountered Polarity, who (with two others) was trying to set up her campsite. I helped her out, changing the mantles in her lantern and nearly impaling myself on a cactus in the process.
The next morning, I remember waking up and saying to myself, "Damn, that's one day down. I don't want to go home!"
I rolled out of bed, and got my robe and belt together. I also grabbed my towel, (as I try to be one together frood), and headed for the circle for a sunrise ritual.
I made it through the rite with no issues, enjoying the sun as it came down onto my body. The ritual did start a bit late, so it was more of a "Sun already rose, but we're pretending it didn't" rite, but if I'm good at anything, it's suspension of disbelief.
I walked back to the guest house, soaking up sun, and continued around. I'd heard that there was an outdoor shower somewhere close, so I was scouting for that. I found it, and managed to wash up pretty well.
I went back to my little room in the stables, and settled on my Hawaiian shirt and shorts for the morning, complete with fedora and sunglasses. I ate breakfast in this, but soon realized that I was going to burn something awful if I kept this up through the day.
I went to the first workshop, given by Francesca on Slavic Divination. I was there for most of it, but I couldn't keep my head in the workshop, so I got up for some fresh air. When the next workshop started (Ian and Liafal's on Celtic Sorcery), I knew I wasn't going to make it through. So, despite very much wanting to see this workshop, I headed straight back to bed.
I got up in time for lunch, and enjoyed the food served. After that, John Michael Greer gave a fascinating workshop on "Magic and Metamagic", which (simply put) reinforced several of my ideas about Chaos Magic. It's always amazing to hear JMG speak. Also during this workshop, a really, really hot red-head came into the room, and I did my very best not to stare. She had remarkably good legs, though, and an all-around good body. I later found out her name was Nam, and that she was getting married to a firefighter. Depressed at this last fact, I still struggled not to stare.
Following that, Meredith presented on Ritual Voice. Because I had experienced so much trouble in the Dedicant Program with the breathing and meditation, I very much wanted to see this. I was not disappointed. I learned some new techniques for intonation, and how to better train my voice. At the end of the whole thing, we did a 'toning circle', which I admit I was a bit disappointed in, because I simply couldn't seem to get anything out of it.
Skip next presented on "Ogham Tree Magic", which I was hoping was something I hadn't seen before, but unfortunately I had. But I stuck it out anyway so that I could learn more about Ogham.
Dinner followed this, and again the food was excellent. Sonoran Sunrise Grove, ADF, does not disappoint.
Later that night, we had a panel discussion. Several Mother Grove members and a few other "higher ups" sat on it, and they discussed payment for magic, payment for initiation, and a few ethical things before delving into the general direction of ADF. It was very interesting to listen to.
Afterwards, someone asked me why I wasn't on the panel. I said, "Because I wasn't asked," but I was struck by the thought that someone actually considered me important enough that being left off a panel seemed (to them) like I was being slighted in some way. It's that kind of thing that never ceases to amaze me about where I am in ADF and life.
That night, there was a bardic circle. I mostly just sat and watched (and nursed my water bottle) while people drank and sang and enjoyed. At one point, though, I stood up, and sang (i.e. tried and failed to sing) "Buttermilk Grove". Dunno how I did, but it was fun to sing. I expect I did rather poorly, but most people are too polite to admit that :)
That night, I spent some time talking to several MG members. Some of the discussion turned a corner, though, and I got stuck sitting in the middle of a conversation that it's possible I shouldn't have been a part of. I kept my mouth shut, though, and just told myself that I wouldn't repeat what I was hearing, and listened with an attentive ear to the good gossip.
At one point I was asked my opinion, though, and I gave it. It was a strange experience, though I'm not sure why.
Later, Gannd came around, assigning parts for the Unity Rite and Kirk's Consecration as a Dedicant Priest. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I suddenly got a very bad feeling. One might be very accurate to say something like, "My Eris-sense is tingling!" Yes, I felt that if I did something for the rite, Eris would try to get a part of it. I explained that, while I really, really wanted to help (Kirk is such a cool guy and good friend), I just couldn't do it and feel right about it.
After this, someone (I forget who at the moment), asked me into the hot tub, so I stripped down and got in. I was amused to find that a glass of wine had gone around a few too many times, and a few people were drunk. Eight drunk and naked Pagans is never a good thing, so I suppose it's fortunate that I was stone-cold sober and Polarity was wearing a bathing suit. (She'd had a bit much, and her lack of modesty prompted her to call herself "The Lifeguard" and to be very free with her words. It was somewhat amusing. She was mighty loud, though, as were the rest of us, and she wouldn't leave gothicdruid alone, but I admit to being thankful to gothicdruid for acting as a human shield.)
By the end of the night (and a couple pieces of broken glass later, everyone was ready to go to bed. Polarity had managed to lose her car keys, so we spent some time looking for them. Eventually, I walked her back to bed (she dropped several items of clothing on the way), and she said a few things she seems to half-remember. I was vaguely amused.
The next morning, I skipped the dawn ritual, hoping for more time to relax. I eventually did get up though, and grabbed some breakfast.
John Michael Greer presented first thing that morning on "The Sphere of Protection". He taught a very energetic workshop, and I enjoyed the entire thing, especially since he tailored a whole section of it just to me, discussing Discordian variations on the theories and practices. He also demonstrated the Turkey Curse to full effect. I had a blast at this workshop.
During this workshop, JMG's wife, Sara, mentioned Sucellus in an invocation. As Kirk had mentioned this particular deity earlier, I realized that I should expand my own presentation to include a few more deities. To this end, I skipped Fiona Bright's workshop on "Sonora Desert's Healing Herbs" in order to flesh out my presentation.
Fiona took her group out on a walk, and this ended up making her workshop run over by about 15 minutes. This cut into some of my time, so I had to cut some things from my workshop (Continental Celtic Deities) to save some time. Despite this, we had some good arguments and some fun questions.
At lunch, I went through the Clergy Council Study Program with 7 members of the Clergy Council, asking questions, discussing exit standards, and generally trying to make this thing the best it can be. Really, the training program is pretty good; I like it a lot. We did cut into Francesca's time a bit (she was presenting on "Slavs and their Magic), and I sat out with gothicdruid and Ian and Liafal. gothicdruid mentioned that I kept sinking lower and lower in my chair. Wouldn't surprise me: the CC meeting took a lot out of me.
There was a break after this, and I realized again that I was feeling over tired. I sat for a few minutes, and then ended up going back to bed, completely missing gothicdruid's presentation ("Working a Sacred Landscape") and Ian's "The Sidhe Allies" workshop. I woke up just in time for dinner, and was almost late to the Unity Rite and Dedicant Priest consecration.
On the way to the circle for the Ritual, I saw Nam's fiancée, realized he could beat me up, and decided to forgo any attempts to try to flirt. Much.
The whole thing went off mostly without a hitch (the only hitch being that we never received the Unity Cauldron from CLG). Kirk was Consecrated, and he had a huge line to hug him.
When I finally got up to the front of the line to hug him, I picked him up and spun him around. We smiled, laughed, and then I kissed him and let the rest of the line move in on him.
That night, most people went to bed early, but I stayed up quite late with qorinda and gothicdruid in the hot tub. We were in the water for about 3 hours, talking about all manner of things, before we finally got out.
The next morning (Sunday), I again skipped the dawn ritual. I caught a bit of breakfast, and headed down to the stone circle (late) and got a sunny patch for the rite Ian and Liafal were leading. In this rite, we were to find our spirit ally and talk or bring him/her back. Before the visualization had even started, I was able to see what I would find as my spirit guide: millions of roaches swarmed into the circle and around, and I watched them with great interest as they moved as one creature.
As we got into the visualization, one in particular stood out from the crowd. He was wearing a pair of Groucho Marx glasses and smoking a cigar, and he climbed onto my shoulder so he could guide me around. I've even drawn a picture of him.
We wandered for a while, talking, meeting other animals, and generally raising hell. Eventually we came back. We were invited to share our experiences, and to talk about our Sprit Guide if we were so moved. As we went around the circle, I was struck by all the cool totems everyone else had, and was a bit embarrassed by mine. A few mentioned eagles, hawks, or other birds, one mentioned a stag, a couple of wolves surfaced, and Nam mentioned a monkey, and spilled the water all over her neighbor in the circle. Finally, when it came to me, I called the cockroach by his common name, not his saintly name, and said: "Cockroach, for telling me why I couldn't have a cool totem."
After this, I packed, and got ready to go. I said a few good-byes, and got into the car (after snapping a few photos of the circle) to go to the Arizona Stagecoach. I was fortunate to have a hottie dropping me off, and so we talked a bit and drove.
Problem was, when we got to the Arizona Stagecoach office, it was locked and barred. It was a small corporate office, and it was obvious that no coaches were boarding from there. We found a phone booth and called their airport office, and they informed me that we needed to be on the Arizona Shuttle. We looked them up next, found out where we needed to go, and drove over. We were a bit late, but they put me on anyway.
Good thing, too, otherwise I would have missed my flight.
Anyway, we made a couple of other stops. At one of these stops, we picked up a young girl, couldn't have been more than 16. She was really very cute, and she sat right next to me.
She spoke to a few people on her cell phone, but it wasn't until she called her mother that I realized that she was probably a runaway.
From her hushed conversations and the tears that she kept wiping away, I realized that the makeup box she was carrying was all that she had. Inside, I could see her ID and Social Security card, not things that are usually carried in a makeup box.
I sat beside her, quiet for a time, not at all sure what to say. Really, I was at a complete loss for words, and I felt like I couldn't do much but watch her cry.
She tried once or twice to fall asleep, but as there was nowhere for her to lean and put her head against, she was doing the "nod-and-wake" thing that a college freshman does at a 7:30 AM math class on a Monday morning. Finally, in one of these moments of wakefulness, I decided to try talking.
I pulled my inspiration from a Jimmy Buffett song, of course, and began to work through the lyrics looking for guidance. Not really knowing where to begin, I simply turned and started talking.
"You alright?" I asked.
"Yeah." Her reply was short and curt, rather just like I expected it to be.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"No." Again, the reply was a statement meant to end discussion.
I waited a few minutes, until she'd tried to fall asleep and had woken back up again.
"I know how it feels."
She looked at me for the first time with that. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, I heard you talking to your mom on the phone. You said, 'There are just things I have to do.' I told my mom that once, back about 8 years ago."
She sniffed. "Really?"
"Yep." I left the conversation there, hoping that she'd pick it up next.
There was silence for a few minutes.
"Did you go home? Later, you know?"
"Yeah, I did. I didn't make it too far, actually. Sounds like you're going to Washington?" I was relieved that she was talking, though I wasn't sure I knew what I was trying to do.
"I don't know if I will."
I paused for a moment. "Why's that?"
"There's just some. . . complications," she said, and started to turn away. I caught some wetness on the side of her eye under her sunglasses.
"I don't need to know about those," I said. "You've got someone to pick you up? A friend in Washington?"
She smiled a bit. "My friend Kim is meeting me. She's got a place for me to stay."
"That's good," I said, glancing out the window. "We're almost to Phoenix. When do you fly out?"
"Couple hours. I'm not looking forward to staying in the terminal."
That gave me a thought. "Can I buy you dinner?"
She blushed. Hard.
I backpedaled a bit. "That didn't come out right. I meant. . ."
"No, I know what you meant. I appreciate the offer. And I accept." She was smiling now.
We made some small talk for a while, until we got into the airport. We got off at the same terminal, and went in to find a place to sit down and eat.
We talked over dinner, both of us taking our time. She never did exactly tell me that she was a runaway, and I never got her full name. I didn't ask about either question, though, because I knew that if I had an answer to either, I'd know something I didn't want to know.
Finally, I asked her if there was anything I could do for her. Again she blushed, and she said that there wasn't anything I could really do. I reached into my bag, and pulled out a book of stamps. "If nothing else, take this. Never know, they might come in handy."
She took the stamps, and I saw her tears well up again. "I have to get to my plane. So do you. thanks for everything you've done." She put out her arms, and I gave her a hug. She whispered something in my ear, and kissed my cheek.
And she wandered away.
I boarded my plane an hour later, and flew back to Columbus. I landed at CMH at 11:30, and Brian picked me up. In all, it was one of my favouite trips ever.