October 15, 2014
I am back and mostly recovered from Twilight Covening. I don’t much care for driving, but the trip up and back was through some really gorgeous country. Part of the delay on the way back was because it was the end of Columbus Day weekend, and in theory, the “leaf-peepers” were out. It’s hard to tell. I do know that my world is orange right now- the trees are orange, the nasturtiums are orange, the sunlight itself seems orange. I read that the color orange wasn’t used until fairly recently, everything we call orange, our medieval ancestors called red.
Today and yesterday have been very warm, with very low pressure which is making me headachey and cranky. The weekend had rain Saturday morning, warm sunny days and chilly evenings, so I expect this is our Indian Summer, and we will be able to take the screen door off soon. Not today because it’s the day the Ladybugs swarm on the south wall. (Then, I think, go into cracks and winter over inside the walls, occasionally venturing in to be annoying inside.) In the spring there’s another day when it gets warm enough that they come out again for another day of swarming on the south wall, then disperse through the garden and other outside areas. This year other people on my facebook friends noticed and mentioned it, so it’s not just something I’ve seen.
As I start writing I wonder how much to say about Twilight. It’s a gathering of between 100 to 200 folks out at the corner where New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts meet (in MA), on their Mount Washington (everyone knows that the NH Mount Washington is the real one!). It’s held at a 4H camp Camp Hi Rock, and is on a lovely lake with cabins, and pretty much no cell phone coverage, which I think is an advantage. TC is described as a “Four Day Ritual” and it is, in many ways; but what has attracted me are the groups, the “clans” where small groups of six to twelve people focus on one thing for the weekend, and it can be quite transformative. There are many mini and medium sized rituals- “attunements” before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight, there is an opening and a closing circle, there is the “releasing fire”, and “trance dancing”, and the “dream circle”, a labyrinth, and then on Sunday evening the huge ritual that may take half the people to create, but walks people through a sort of “role playing” scenario stopping a points to interact with sacred beings and archetypes until they come out at the other end, often profoundly changed. I am not sure I can really explain it any more than that, it’s extremely experiential. I would say that each person who goes through it, takes away something different depending upon what they need and what they bring to it.
I helped Jane, who for years has been hosting an alternative ritual, usually a guided meditation that allows people with mobility issues to go through the same (or close) scenario in a light trance state. I think Twilight has been happening for over twenty or twenty-five years, and many of the people who come are in their fifties and sixties, so each year the alternative ritual gets a bit larger. This time I think it was twenty two people, (about twenty percent of the people not creating it). Sometimes someone has hurt themselves, like the time I broke my toe while packing for TC. Sometimes they just aren’t able to handle the hours in the cold and dark. I would find it hard to negotiate in the dark. I know one of the people had back spasms in cold, and one had gotten diarrhea and didn’t dare get more than a few minutes away from the toilet. Jane used to do it in a sleeping cabin, but we’ve outgrown that. This year we took over a corner of the dining hall. I’d like to get into one of the heated buildings for the sake of the elders, but we’ll have to see whether that’s feasible. I am personally convinced that for most of us, it’s too hard to do trance work when you are really uncomfortable. Aging is quite a challenge, and one I’m trying to deal with myself.
One of our clan members “Frater” called me out on it every time I described myself as old. But Old is a relative term, sometimes (as when I compare my current self to my younger self) I feel old. Other times, I compare myself to people to whom I look for wisdom and advice and I feel rather young. OK, am I old or not? I’m 62. My mother and her mother each died at 63. When I was a kid, I looked at my grandmothers in their 50s and thought they were pretty old. Once you are past ages of legal restrictions, counting years isn’t that important, the numbers that count are the ones describing your weight, your blood sugar, your blood pressure, how much you can carry, how far you can walk, those numbers are far more descriptive, and there is so much variation in these from person to person it’s hard to tell. In the old days how many teeth you had left might signify. Perhaps now we’d say how many favorite foods have you had to give up? What’s your range of motion if you have arthritis? How many medications are you on? Each morning when I’d remember my vitamins a half dozen other people would be reminded to take their meds. It is lovely to have them available, but I think it’s safe to wonder how many are necessary.
This year Jane and I did the Moose Clan again- herbalism. Jane sells herbs and spices, and her herb and spice blends (which she left in the truck), and she put up a 10×20 tent out back of the dining hall with many bins of herbs in them, bowls, and a stove. We both brought tools (mortars and pestles, bottles and tins,) and ingredients- I brought a gallon of plantain oil and a gallon of honey. I also brought each person a folder with the recipes we’d be using.
We made a batch of sore throat syrup (with the honey), some “oops ointment”, several “tea mixtures”, and “Four Thieves” Vinegar. I lead a weed walk, which after having Raven lead it last time left me feeling very humble. Jane asked me how it went and I told her that they’d “plumbed the depths of my ignorance”. We did find a mysterious berry we looked up when we got home and it was called Baneberry- very toxic. We also found some lovely gnarly branches people took home to make into staffs.
For the final circle each clan does a brief presentation to share what they’ve been working on. Each of us held up an herb and said what it did, we finished with Melody holding up the baneberry (also apparently called “Dolls Eyes”) and saying “Kill you dead, No Touchie!”. Given that the reason we use herbs is because we expect them to have an effect, I think it’s a good reminder that some of the effects may not be to our advantage! All natural is not the same as “safe”.
I was incredibly impressed by the people in the clan this year, they included a doctor, a lawyer, a nurse, a librarian and a teacher. I have no idea what the others may do, but they all were intelligent and eager to learn a new set of skills. Using herbs isn’t that difficult. When you are used to simply picking up pre-made packages of something, it’s too easy to assume making it ourselves must be too hard or why would we buy it? But really, it’s often mostly convenience- same as cooking from scratch. And as with cooking, the advantages of not having lots of things put in just to sell and preserve the product makes it well worth the slight effort.
Unsurprisingly, since I spent four days of this week at Twilight, and didn’t take any free reading (although I did take a small library of favorite herbal books), I haven’t read as much this week to comment on. I did read (before and after) Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. When I left the protagonists were the god Om, who is the object of the Monotheistic religion on Disc world and his reluctant prophet. Somehow Om had gotten stuck in the body of a turtle, and I thought that was going to make him a stand-in for Jesus, YHWH learning what it’s like to be mortal. I was wrong, but it’s still a fun hypothesis to explore mentally.
I am in the first parts of the Big Rachet, a book that I heard about on NPR last week and got from the library. Among the things of which I had apparently not been aware is the magnetic pole deflecting stuff from the sun, and how the moon helps keep the tilt of the earth from making the seasonal changes more extreme. I am fascinated, and wonder why there aren’t more people out there sharing these cool things every day. Don’t you learn something new every day? Doesn’t it excite you? (this leads me to believe I am recovering from last week’s depression.)
I fear I haven’t jumped into the work I should be doing on the conference because after several days of high stress and low sleep (I usually average about 9 per night, and got about 6 per night at TC), not to mention camping in the fresh air, even if we were in cabins, I came home with a heavy chest, an ear ache, a runny nose and general aches. Did I get exposed to something or was I simply exhausted? Who knows. Willow gave me a cup of tea, John gave me a vitamin C, and Kat gave me a hug. I went to sleep and slept for 14 hours straight. When I woke up I was still logy- finished reading Small Gods and started Carpe Jugulum, and went to bed early after doing a quick check of my email. Today I feel better, and am getting caught up on laundry and dishes, and starting the workshop schedule for CTCW. My guest on the New Normal tonight was Dennis Windsinger Seavey, and because we didn’t plan beforehand, we didn’t have a topic, but talked about everything from omnivorous eating to martial arts/ sciences to bodybuilding to his films.
Some random thoughts from the news this week: I hear there’s been an “outpouring” of aid to fight ebola in the last two weeks; did we have to get scared that it would effect us before we’d respond? I hear that 7 people were burned for witchcraft by mobs in Tanzania. Wow, one would like to think that’s something that doesn’t happen anymore. Why do these mobs need that outlet? Another thing I heard on the news was “The best antidote to fear is an effective response”- which I think carries over in every part of life, but worry because so often the response is (as with taking people’s temperatures at the airport as a “defense against ebola”. Come on! there’s a 21 day incubation! If you want “effective” you’re going to have to institute a 21 day quarantine, OR recognize that taking temperatures is as useless as having people take off their shoes. This “defense theater” is infuriating! Yes, if you have no effective response you are afraid. It’s something like having people say “get a job” when there are none available that will pay for even basic food and shelter. Can’t we think of things that will actually help?
Whenever I thought about “Columbus Day”, I kept thinking that the Columbian Exchange was what happened after this “first contact” between the Old and New Worlds. We tend to think of sending tomatoes, potatoes, corn, chocolate, turkeys and tobacco to Europe, and horses, cows, and honeybees and some vicious communicable diseases to the Americas. Because of the diseases, when the white men started moving in they found a continent pretty much empty because an estimated 90-95% of the population had died. (Supposing it had gone the other way, and Native American cultures in their full power and population had lived and crossed the Atlantic to “discover” a Europe with only 5% of its population to resist colonization?) But I keep wondering about the interaction with the Norse- why didn’t Leif Erikson’s group pass all those diseases to the Scralings when they made contact? Yes, Colon may have been an exploitative jerk who enslaved and exploited the Caribs, but what he did personally was nothing compared to what the diseases did. That was inadvertent, although the Europeans certainly took advantage of it.
I forgot to mention seeing a 3-D printer in the library last week. I don’t know whether to be dismayed or amused that they seem to have used it to make 3-D ghost decorations.
Last week I talked about being depressed- I had pretty much convinced myself that I should have followed the old dictum that if you haven’t got anything positive to say, don’t say anything, but then someone wrote and thanked me for being open about it, so maybe it was the right thing to do. We have got to stop hiding depression and other diseases if we are going to be an open society. I thought about the phrase “Check your privilege”, I think it means to think about things you haven’t ever questioned before.
So- a short letter this week, I do tend to think that my health being better than most other people I know that are my age is because I get more sleep than most, so I want to head back to bed. I have great faith in rest and nutrition.
I would rather spend seventy five years in New England than five hundred in Loth Lorien.