"Is this the kind of help where they say, 'I need help moving,' or the kind where they say, 'I need help moving bodies'?"
"More the bodies kind of help," I replied.
I spent five waking hours at Wellspring this year before I had to leave. I wasn't sure when I'd get back, but I figured I might make it back for a night. Hard to say. There were far more important things than being around a bunch of people who could get along just fine without me.
I drove out past the hardware store where I kissed a girl in public for the first time and reminiced about that for the first thirty minutes of my drive, though I admit that it flew from my mind when the two deer ran past me on the interstate. From then, it was an experience of driving through areas I've never been, checking to ensure that my passport was intact, and getting where I was going. I had both my portable altar from Waking With Fire last year and my Kit in the car to ensure that I was ready for anything.
Somewhere along the way, I realized how strange it was that the words, "I'll be there," were really so deeply meant. I thought about how I had said it, and at the time, I meant it. I knew that. What I did not know was how deeply I meant it, how desperately I wanted to be there. I did not know how deeply and desperately I intrinsically knew that the distance I was traveling for this friend was a drop in the bucket compared to how far I would go.
I listened to strange techno remixes of "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" and "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk". I saw some beautiful scenery and watched for the crossings over an old trail I know and love.
"It was then . . . that I asked myself the big question of whether or not I really wanted something as complicated as a woman back in my life."I read that quote while wrapped up in a blanket on a temporary bed, and I started thinking about my life and my relationships. I think that yes, I do want to try that complication again, I do want to have that fun and that fear. It's the paradox of the game that you play and the life-and-death struggle that women and relationships are that I want. As Jimmy sang, "I came off the rebound, started lookin' around, and figured out it's time to have a little fun."-Tully Mars, A Salty Piece of Land, p. 93
In many ways, the trip was good for me. Getting to see an old friend and realizing the depths of my feelings for that friend, how I would have gone ten times as far simply to be there; seeing new places and old ones all at once; I met new people and learned new things; and I even had the amusing experience of, "Oh, you're Michael J Dangler! I read so much of your stuff!" and I think (hope) I managed to avoid the blush of embarassment that always accompanies that phrase.
St. Barbara was with me for the entire trip, watching over me through storms and strangers, lightning and ninja monkeys. A friend was my guide, who got me from place to place, and I'm indebted to him for everything he did for me on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"When do we start?" I asked.
"As soon as he gets back."
"I know you said he was off island right now, but where is he?"
"Last week he was suddenly called by the gods to Xibalba."
"How far is that from here?"
Bucky started laughing. "Well, it ain't down Highway 307. Xibalba is the nine-layered netherworld where shamans seek the wisdom of the spirits. There is a steep and secret road through a series of caves that can be entered only by shamans. It is a very dangerous place, with lots of snakes and dragons down there; torrents and abysses flank the road, which is covered with thorns. In this place, the evil demons live who dare to challenge the gods to combat."
"I think I'll wait until he gets back," I said.-A Salty Piece of Land, p. 70
I was surprised to find that my St. Barbara medal has a reverse of St. Catherine of Siena, who I don't know anything about. All I can see, as I look at the medal, is another figure. To me, Cathy ain't a saint. Sorry. I'm going to stick with my saint of lightning and my roaches, thank you.
Still, Barbara got me through a rough time. The storms, the descents, the ascents, and a couple other things. I do have a pair of patron saints now: one Catholic and one Discordian. It's kinda the same way I look at the deities of other pantheons: the deities there are things I can work with without necessarily believing in them. Guys like Hermes, Manannan, and Thoth simply don't exist in my usual paradigm. This is, generally speaking, probably okay, as I doubt they believe in me.
I returned to Wellspring on Sunday night, in the middle of the ritual. Bard Dafydd was just finishing the attunement, talking about the interconnectedness of the Groves, and I stepped into the circle right next to Skip. I spent the rest of the night and the early morning discussing policy, primarily, and trying to get all the things done I couldn't do because I was away. I came away satisfied that the 15 total waking hours (out of a possible 120 or so) I spent at Wellspring were spent very well, and that I had spent every minute of the weekend in exactly the right place.
I've had a lot of time to think about a lot of things, as you can probably tell. The decompression from worry and angst and fear that this trip brought made it one of the most unwinding sort of vacations I could have ever had, despite the crazy urgency, fear, and occasional dread, I feel a lot better now than I did before.
At the end of the trip, my friend was alright. I admit, I'm still on pins and needles, hoping that things are resolved (and knowing, deep down, that they aren't fully), and I find myself ready to go and do it all over again.
"I'm not looking for salvation, just a salty piece of land."-"A Salty Piece of Land", Jimmy Buffett