Sunday, October 21, 2012

Warmth in the Phoenix Flames

I was really tempted to make this blog entry all ZOMG NEKKID FIRESPINNING!!!1! Technically, it's true--that spectacular display was just one beautiful surprise I encountered at Phoenix Phamily's Autumn Meet--but there's more to this festival than entertainment. You can go anywhere to party. For me, this weekend was more about finding community: sharing our gifts with friends, learning from Pagan elders, and above all, listening. I did a lot of listening.

While the rum and dirty limericks flowed freely, so too did the original songs, the art, the music. Everyone had something to share. People learned to make mead, play Native American flute, do Reiki, and breathe fire. We danced, drummed, exchanged homemade crafts. I discovered a whole family of precious people of all ages and walks of life.

You see, although the hands-on activities certainly held my attention and made my world a little sweeter, I spent much more time just sitting and talking. All ages mingled throughout the day, children included, but mostly I spent time with elders. I got to know Omi, a sort of Pagan pioneer of our time who doesn't seem to realize what a big deal she is or at least hasn't let it go to her head. I also got to meet Ardy, a kind old woman with a sharp wit and a sharp tongue; she welcomed me on the very first day and I only later found out that she hosted the very first Phoenix festival in her backyard.

The conversations went deep, both in and out of the workshops. What is the historical basis for our spiritual practices today? How do we interpret the words 'harm none' or other moral codes held by Pagans? When is force justified, in physical and magical context?

And yet--it wasn't all scholarly. A big highlight of the weekend was a daytime ritual involving children and adults, weaving the web of community. The young and not-so-young each told one another a portion of a happy story. Everyone tossed different colored balls of yarn over a structure that would become a gigantic rainbow web around a lovely old oak tree. The little ones were completely absorbed in the moment and surrounded by loving family of all kinds. Together, we did weave community.

That was also the intention of main ritual. While there were some glitches and unintended humor, the goal was achieved. I pointed out afterward that we already had what we were looking for, before the circle was even cast. What we were looking for was there all the time.

That brings me to what some would call the tiniest footnote ever, but I find it strangely symbolic. I'd bought a solar lantern months ago, looking forward to a lovely flickering candle 'flame' to light my way back to my tent. It never worked before this weekend. This is because--and I swear I looked there before--this is because I just had to pull out a tab inside to let the lantern draw power from the sun and illuminate my path in the darkness. It had this ability a long time ago; I just had to take a very small but important step to let it do what it was able to do anyway.

Despite the waning of the sun this time of year, my flame is burning as brightly as it ever has. My heart is full of old and new kindred. I feel safe and welcome at this hearth. Nothing comes between us: not our egos, not our differences. We are family.

This, I tell you, is community. This is what I was hungering for, what so many of us are hungering for.

It's worth braving the porta-potties.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Do ALL the things?

I am toddling curiously toward the dying of the year, still feeling young and flowerish inside. I am holding onto summer, green leaves, the mystery of swimming. I never want it to end or even change. I may trade out frozen drinks for pumpkin beers, but they're still cold so I tell myself that doesn't count.

You see, this time of year I catch myself thinking Phineas and Ferb had the right idea. I feel like doing it all. Summer is like that. Even after you're done with your formal education, summer is packed with things you don't have to do but NEED to do. I haven't quite figured out my version of climbing the Eiffel Tower, creating nanobots, or finding a dodo bird, but here in the sunny South, it feels like there's still time. I know the kids went back to school already and we just had a Mabon ritual, but in my heart (and my armpits) it's still summer.

Oh, the seasons change here, but you have to be very observant to notice. The sandspurs don't grow so feverishly anymore. The leaves are still alive and clinging to the trees for a little longer. Their colors will change soon, but they will be muted pastel yellows and oranges. Autumn here is as gentle and subtle as the summer was not.

Just the same, I'd like it to stay summer all the time, and it just doesn't. I want all of the flow and none of that ebb that makes us appreciate it more.

I don't want to slow the pace, but I need to. I need to be reminded that we will not all be living this present life forever. I will not always have my parents here on this plane with me, for instance, nor will I always be here. Sometimes I forget this.

Even my own nature demands a change. My body's cycles tell me when it is time to slow down and look inward. This is that time. There is so much birthing and dying going on at once, right this second every second, that I sometimes want to go someplace where the earth doesn't keep turning so fast. There is so much that I wonder how any of us can take it even for a day, let alone a lifetime.

So for a day or even a few days, I will slow down when I can manage it. I'm pretty sure the meaning of life is not Do ALL The Things! or even Save or Feed or Heal All The Things. I thought it was when I was younger and scoffed at those non-religious or not-my-kind-of-religious types who did good things just because, well, it was good. I feel different now.

And if I discover that the meaning is BE all the things? That's a matter for another lifetime. Or more.