Day the Eight: Or What I Will Leave and What I Will Take

I have walked the Straight Labrynth to and from my tent many times, and each time I’ve asked myself on the way to it, “What will I leave?” and on the way from it, “What will I take?” Often these questions referred to material possessions. Over time, they came to take on a spiritual dimension. (On Sunday I walked it one more time [but not the last time] to get the last of my gear, left here for a week to dry out.)

Did I tell you it rained almost the entire eight days? That same tropical storm that left parts of South Carolina flooded reached a finger up into Middle Tennessee.

I was unprepared. Everything got wet. Near the end, it got cold and wet. No matter. I had a magnificent time.

So, what will I leave? I’m going to leave my need to push others to recognize truth as I perceive it. Loved ones claim to appreciate this character trait (The last time I heard about was the night before my wedding. Both the husband and our daughters said they like it about me.) I have my doubts. It seems to me that it’s caused more strife than peace.

I won’t be able to just stop discerning truth. How would I interact with the world at all if I did that? But I can be much more mindful about pushing my concluded truth on others. The truth is, it doesn’t do any good. No one is ever able to convince me of a damn thing. Why would I think they would receive my truth any differently?

Man, this is going to be hard.

I’m going to take with me a renewed resolve to eat as a vegetarian. My body responded joyously to the food this week.

I’m going to evaluate my camping gear with the goal of lightening my load while becoming dryer. By the end of this week, the bottom forth of my sleeping bag was wringing wet.

I’m going to walk more.

I’m going to come back here often. It’s only an hour and a half away. Even if only for a day or overnight, or just a cup of coffee from the French press, I need this place, this sanctuary.

Day the Five: Or Yes, Virginia, There Are Bad Faeries

The techno music woke me up sometime before 3 am. I spent roughly twenty minutes tossing in my sleeping bag and grumbling Johann Sebastian Bach’s Get Off My Lawn Toccata in D Major. Apparently, bad faeries are not susceptible to negative energy because my mental pushes to shew them away only resulted in the sound of increased revelry. Damn things probably feed off of negative energy; I should have known. Gah!

The fact that there are bad faeries wasn’t a surprise to me. It isn’t like I hadn’t been warned. Weeks ago, I went out to pitch the tent. As I was walking back to the car, I ran into a kind (and beautiful!) faerie whom I’d met the week before.

He greeted me warmly and inquired of my doings. “I’d forgotten you were coming out today to set up your tent. What spot did you pick?”

I described the area I’d chosen and I said I was happy with it. I wanted a place of solitude so I could choose my level of group activity.

My new friend’s response wasn’t what I anticipated.

“Oh,” he said.

It was the kind of “oh” that meant “how unfortunate” and “this is amusing” all at once.

“What do you mean, ‘Oh,'” I asked with growing concern.
“Well, that’s typically where the bad faeries go,” he replied.
“Bad faeries? What the hell is a bad faerie?” I asked, alarmed.
“Oh, they’re not really bad. They just like to party until 4 in the morning.”

Back home, I’d worried about the bad faeries. I told Sister Enya about my concerns. “I want natural. I want the option of solitude. How bad will it be?” I asked. “Should I move my tent to another spot?” Through her profoundly beautiful smile she cosmically replied, “I think you’ve chosen exactly where you’re supposed to be.”

I had happily settled into the place where I was supposed to be for four peaceful nights, with nothing but the rain, the wind in the trees, and the occasional owl to disturb me, I had all but forgotten the bad faeries. I had become complacent.

What to do? I thought about kindly asking them to leave, but I immediately discarded the idea. At best, I assumed they would completely ignore me. At worst, I imagined retaliatory actions. They might come back and slather Vaseline on my tent zipper, making it impossible to get back inside. Or, they might fill the bottom of my sleeping bag with shaving cream. Or, horror of horrors! What if they stole my coffee?

I realized I had to be smart about this. I remembered that I had a fifth of Jack with me. What if I took it to them as an offering? I knew they wouldn’t be able to resist it. “Yes!” I thought. “I’ll get them drunk and they will soon stumble back to their beds or rocks or toadstools or wherever bad faeries sleep.”

I put on my robe, slipped on my flip-flops, grabbed the Jack, and walked toward their laughter and the thump of their music. That’s when things got confusing. I expected to see outsiders, newcomers, people with unfamiliar faces and from far away places like, California. Instead, these were people I’d been with all week. I heard a distinct, familiar laugh. No! Sister Enya? My big Sister Enya? She’s a bad faerie?!

“Sister Ann! How lovely of you to join us! What’s that?” she asked, honing in on the bottle of Jack.

I became a happy bartender, serving Jack to any of the bad faeries who wanted it, and sipping it myself.

It started to rain. The party moved to the shelter of the bathhouse. Thing is, I went with it.

It’s now 5:58 am and the Jack is three-fourths consumed. I’m back in my tent trying to figure out what went wrong. With the help of the rain, my plan to rid myself of the bad faeries was a success—with one perplexing, undeniable exception: I am a bad faerie.

Day the Four: Or The Kissing Moon

The disorienting light of the moon, not to be seen again for another eighteen years, breaks through the fabric of my tent. I wake up, made fully alert by both the brightness of the unexpected light and the abrupt absence of the falling rain. I step naked into the woods, and I am surprised that I am able to do so comfortably, for the sun has been hidden by clouds during the day and few days remain in this month of September.

I look up. Oh my God! Oh my Goddess! I trip over the duality of the words I whisper. She/he laughs with delight: “Silly man! I don’t care what you call me. Look. Look at what I am doing.”

Light from the moon (truly, light from the sun reflected by the moon—duality, indeed) pours so brightly through the leaves of the trees I can read my watch by it. 3:25 am. Never have I seen such a moon. Never have I seen light such as this. Foolishly, I turn away from it and toward the tent to get my phone. I know I won’t be able to capture this moon, this moment, in a picture, but I am compelled to try.

In doing so I learn what I already know: I am, above all, a social being. Alone on this ridge I cannot appreciate the magic of this moment without the possibility of sharing it. I think of my lover who is far away at home. I wonder if my companions from the night are back in their tent, or are they also awake and alert, staring at the mystery of this moon as am I? Do my children know or care that this is happening? How my mother would delight to see this moon!

I look again. Involuntarily, I touch my lips. I desire a kiss. The need for a kiss has nothing to do with a mother’s kiss and everything to do with the abundance of hairy-chested men (and a few of the smooth ones) I have seen these last three days. The need for a kiss coalesces, crystallizes in my mind.

Lustful moon. This moon has many names, blood moon, super moon, magic moon, goddess moon, lunar eclipse, but it’s name for me is kissing moon. Just a kiss—that is all—and that is all.

Reason rears its well-groomed head.
It tells me to go back to bed.
You are a stranger here, alone.
You left too early; your friends are gone.
Forget the moon; ignore the need.
Go lie down; return to sleep.

And yet, lunacy prevails.

I return to the tent, put on my robe and slip on my flip-flops. By the light of the kissing moon I walk the Straight Labrynth toward the knoll. The path leads me to my night companions’ tent where I stop to hear the sound of their sleeping. I do not wake them even though that is what I want to do.

Oh blessed/cursed moon! Why do I let you torment me? Why this ceaseless need for belonging? For touch? For connection? For a kiss? For love?

I continue on the path. I pass others walking in the dark of the bright moon. I could speak plainly of my need. I imagine any one of them would deign fulfill it, as I believe they feel it too. The magic of the kissing moon is strong but not strong enough to overcome my inhibitions. I walk on. I laugh to myself as I begin to hum:

I go out walking
after midnight
out in the moonlight
just like we used to do
I go out walking
after midnight
searching for you

I arrive at the knoll where there are twelve or so others gathered as I knew there would be. They are young—so young—and they are playful. In their hands they hold mirrors, sliver trays and bowls, and they play with the moonlight’s reflection as they capture it, multiply it. A platter of food appears: bread, cheese, apples. Someone hoists a large container of “milk of the goddess”, a heavily sugared mixture of milk laced with cinnamon. Laughter abounds. I search their faces: Is there one among them who is as driven as I by the kissing moon? Perhaps this one; maybe that one? I reach for the goblet of moon milk. As I tilt it to my lips I think of eucharistic wine. I drink, careful not to take too much. The taste is sweet, as sweet as a kiss.

Clouds cover the moon. The time is past. I wander off the knoll and back to the path. As I walk once more the Straight Labrynth I think of my lover, and as if by magic poof! he is here. I think of my night companions and poof! they are with me. I think of my Sisters, gentle Enya, humble Evita, driven Velveeta, they are near me on the land, and I think of others who are far away: wise Freudiansclip, sincere Wendy, Sweet Celia, Right, Athena, Eunice, Emma, Meaner, Sissy, Eva, Faegala, Soami, and poof! they are here. Sisters, family, friends, lovers, the list goes on, too many to name. Poof! they are here.

I am not alone. The kissing moon has worked her magic.

Back in the tent I write as if in a trace until the dawn of a new day overpowers the light of the kissing moon. But no, that is not right. There is no difference. The light of the sun and the light of the moon are one and the same.

And by that light, that same light, the light that illumates everyone and everything both by day and by night, I greet the first person I see with a kiss.

Day the Three.Two: Or Total Eclipse of the Heart

Random (or not so random—I believe what was supposed to be said was said) storytelling, singing, and dancing around the fire pit as we waited for glimpses of the lunar eclipse to break through the clouds. This was punctuated by a crescendo of drums. What a show!

It felt both profound and frivolous. It felt ancient, and yet it was a new experience for me.

I spoke of the cherished rarity of community and invited those gathered to be grateful. An elder among us stood and sang a song about gratitude. It was lovely.

I also taught the group Teddy the Tree, complete with hand motions, from Camp Cedar Crest counselor days.

Teddy the tree goes _______ (arms out like a tree). He looks at me and goes  _______. He never laughs or sings never does anything. Just looks at me and goes  _______.

Ricky the rock…
Rocky the racoon…
Ella the elephant…

Good times.

Day the Three.One: Or Dinner of Seven Wonders

A great deal of effort went into this evening’s meal. The buffet (always great food) was transformed into a fine dining establishment. We were seated and served seven courses beginning with spicy pumpkin soup, brought to table in a pumpkin bowl. Pickled vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, roasted squash, chocolate-covered toffee, hibiscus tea. All was accompanied by music and narrative. It was the meal of seven wonders.

The table conversation was light-hearted and merry. I got to spend time with Sister Decca.

The experience made me think of a love feast in the Wesleyan tradition. I was filled with gratitude for the amount of planning and work the kitchen team put into make this happen. I thought of other times when people have surprised me with unexpected grace. It springs from an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity. It opens one’s heart to joy.

Day the Three: Walking the Straight Labrynth

Technology is failing me. The handy solar powered charger I bought (and tested!) crapped out on me last night.  It isn’t recharging. It isn’t doing anything.  It’s only Sunday and I’m super bummed. I have a whole week ahead of me.

I find myself walking the path from the communal gathering area to my tent a lot. There’s always some reason: a nap,  a need to organize something, or to return something, or to get something. About the second or third trip (1,111 steps, or so says my phone) on the first day I started comparing the hike to walking the a labrynth. Labyrinths are ancient prayer/meditation practices sometimes confused with mazes. The difference is one can easily get lost in a maze, where a labrynth has a clear path. Most often labrynths loop around upon themselves so there’s no chance of getting lost. One walks the labrynth, empties one’s mind, and prays. It occurred to me that my frequent walk to my tent could function the same way.

These two questions have occurred to me as I walk: What do I want to leave here?  What do I want to take with me?

Now that technology is failing me,  and since I’m in a reflective mood,  I’m starting to wonder if this is a possible answer. Am I too dependant on these devices that require electrical power? Are they keeping me from fully experiencing what’s happening around me?

I’m blogging right now on my phone and the charge is at 36%*. If the solar charger is truly fried as I suspect, then I’m about to find out what it’s like to live without it.

Do things happen for a reason, or do we assign reason to things that happen? Either way, there are lessons to learn.

*A new friend left me his battery charger. I’m good to go. More blogging to come.

Day the Two: Or This Is What Mushrooms Look Like for 250 People

The husband and I helped prepare lunch today. It took four volunteers and a head chef cutting, chopping, stirring, and baking for roughly four hours to prepare tempeh SoS (shit on a shingle) for approximately 250 people. It was delicious.

The head chef made the experience easy work. He directed the volunteers like a maestro conducting an orchestra. There were never any Gordon Ramsey moments. The husband learned a new way to cut celery, sliding the knife while using his fingers as a guide.

The food this entire week has been vegetarian and amazing. I will leave with a renewed resolve to eat this way.

Day the One. Or Why Do I Need All This Shit

I arrived for my ten-day vacation on the mountain around 1 pm. The road progressively narrows as you get closer and there comes a point when there isn’t a road at all. I worried about getting all the stuff I’d packed to the campsite where the husband and I had pitched our tent almost two weeks ago.

Fortunately, I found a prime parking spot at the top of the hill that leads into the camp. I managed to carry the two storage bins, and loose bulk items down the steep road in just two trips with the help of a wheelbarrow. Two more trips from the entrance to our campsite. Early on I realized this was an exercise in maintaining addictions. “How much of this shit do I really need,” I thought. Camp stove and camp fuel for morning coffee, snack food, two bottles of wine, clothes for myself and an outfit for Sister Ann Wenita Morelove—wait. Where’s my suitcase?

Hahaha! I left my suitcase with all of my clothes in it in the bedroom back home. I was able to get one bar off cell service and ask the husband (who was coming at some later time; maybe today, maybe tomorrow) to bring it with him.

I moved my stuff to the campsite, happy to see that the tent was still standing and relatively dry. I did a little organizing and walked the wheelbarrow back to the main gathering area. I couldn’t help comparing my stuff to others folks’ stuff. Honestly I wasn’t doing too badly. Still, next time I’m going to try to be more intentional and bring less.

“Are you parked at the top of the hill?” asked one of the year-round residents.
“Yes,” I replied.
“You’ll need to move your car. Those spots are for folks who are working the event this week. Come on; I’ll show you where to park it and drive you back.”

We walked back up the hill and and basically drove into wilderness. It was like driving on a deer trail. If it rains anymore this week there’s no way I’ll be able to get my car out. Maybe this is why people end up staying here year round.

Another trek back to our tent. I received a text from the husband saying he was on his way. He asked much where he should park. “Park at the top of the hill and we’ll works it out after you get here,” I replied. No sense in circumventing the full experience.

When I got to the tent I promptly fell asleep to the sound of gently falling rain. Perfection.

I don’t know how much time passed but the sound of the tent door being unzipped woke me. It was the husband. He had more stuff with him, including my suitcase. He carried it without the help of a wheelbarrow. He more or less through the stuff into the tent, stripped off his clothes that were wet from rain and sweat, and fell asleep.

Camping is great for sleeping. Anytime is nap time. I anticipate many more naps to come. I just might take one now.

On Camping, Addictions, Community, and Commitments

The husband and I pitched our tent on the mountain yesterday in preparation for a ten day vacation at the end of the month, and I couldn’t be more excited.

The husband will join me when he can, but most of the time I’ll be solo. While trying to keep an open mind, I look forward to the time away from work and routine as an opportunity to rest, meditate, reboot my yoga practice, make new friends, and reconnect with old ones.

I’m trying to approach it calmly. Meals during the time are covered so there’s no worry there. Naively, my biggest concerns are keeping my phone charged (they’ll be no network coverage but it’s how I read, take pictures, and blog), keeping my vape pen charged (I’m completely addicted to the stuff), getting my hands on enough coffee (hopelessly addicted to that, too), and staying warm enough (there’ll be a fire going night and day, so that should be okay).

Part of me wants to take the plunge use the time to severe my dependence on my phone, caffeine, and nicotine cold turkey. Chicken that I am I’m planning to take some coffee and a French press and trust I can find a way to boil water. There’s a fully stocked kitchen so that shouldn’t be a problem. My timidity (does this surprise you about me?) asserts itself and I worry that I’ll get in the way of the flow of things if I show up at random times requiring hot water.

As for keeping my phone and vape pen charged, I’ve ordered a solar charger that should arrive on Tuesday. I don’t know if it will work or not given the demands and the variables. It would be better if the the needs didn’t exist.

My stay on the mountain will be interrupted near the end by my commitment to Sister Night, and later, the Nashville AIDS Walk. Sister Ann Wenita Morelove will attend both, though she may look more disheveled than usual being that she will be manifesting in the woods.

I’m not happy with the timing. I’d rather go into this without the calendar conflicts. I’m trying to look at it as part of the experience. You can help me feel better about it by supporting my walk on behalf of Nashville CARES. I’d love to reach my fundraising goal before I leave for the mountain. Here is where you can donate.

Thank you!