Dragonfest was last week. I've been to several festivals and other large events in the last year, but Dragonfest is still my "home gathering." It's my speed, has the sorts of opportunities I like, and a surprising number of people know my name. The following summary is long and features some parts that are probably boring for folks who aren't attendees. But it's also got some personal triumphs and tribulations, so if you're into following my personal life, read on. If you just want to see pictures, they're here
. I also just got stuff up for April through July.
On Monday I picked mollybzz
up from DIA at midnight. She'd been in China for a year, Thaibodia for a month, and LAX for four hours. We quickly devoured a box of raspberries, exchanged small presents, drank tap water, and attempted to sleep side-by-side in my hammock.
After a fairly brain-dead day at work, I gathered camping and other supplies needed for five days in the mountains with a bunch of Pagans. Molly's friend came over and we admired dragons and had a hawt geek argument about <p> tags. I went to hammock at 1:30; Molly found an air mattress at 3:45.
I woke up at 9ish on Wednesday and packed the car. I let sleeping bees lie until nearly noon before a snack and a few errands. After a shorter drive than expected we set up camp in a swell spot right next to where I camped last year. My new watch that wasn't ten minutes fast played its first trick on me and we arrived at the Carnivore Ritual a few minutes late. But being late is better with bacon. Also better with bacon is sexy women and tongs. We showed up at Opening Ritual late too, but our main goal was accomplished: feeding bacon to vegetarians (I was dressed in little more than a "Bacon is a vegetable" apron) and jackfruit to friends.
The nice thing about clothing optional areas is you can dance in the rain and keep a dry set of clothes for the walk back. Wednesday night featured some very damp songs with Sara and friends at Inspiration Circle. Upon return, we discovered that my family's 15-year-old leaks through whole cloth in the rain fly and tent walls. Like a good Coloradan, I'd pitched on a slope, so the water mostly pooled in the corner. Molly and I also rediscovered our bedsharing dilemma: it's good for physical and emotional connection, but it's bad for sleeping comfortably.
On Thursday morning we were glad to see the kitchen had added spinach, onions, and corn tortillas to the standard menu. We also lucked into a bowl of oatmeal. I made use of a dry spell and a clear table to finish the Chinese dragon with Tarena (for art!). Molly and I had a few bites to eat and showed up late for the "An Irreverent Look at Taoism" workshop. I'd hoped there'd be less looking and more being irreverent, but I was glad to see we weren't the only ones bringing Chinese flavor and pleased to find that my knowledge of Taoism largely jived with someone else's.
After suspending a tarp over our tent and sharing some tea at Camp C in exchange for a curry dinner prepared by Christine, I showed up late to Men's Mysteries. Since I was running it, I passed off the late arrival as "You've all passed the first test: patience." The focus of the ritual was super heroes. Each man shared his super power, ranging from teaching to calming people in a crisis to leading groups. I then asked each to share their secret weakness and metaphorically face it in a challenge with another man standing in as sparring partner.
The most popular challenge was foam-sword dueling, but I tried to make the challenge representational of something the hero struggled with. Pushing-hands for those who needed balance, ring toss for accuracy, off-handed dueling for one who needed to handle overconfidence. Each task was possible, but there was a danger of failure; several men didn't beat their opponent, even with multiple tries as challengees. In addition to the raw male fun of participating in and watching sword combat, I think a lot of guys got a lot out of the ritual. I think some gained some confidence, others humility. The most powerful was near the end from a man whose weakness was secrets. I gave him a solo ring-toss challenge: each time he missed he had to reveal a secret. The first missed and he let something small slip. The second missed and he took a deep breath and shared his biggest secret. The third toss was right on the money. The ritual ended with four men making a commitment to lead Men's Mysteries next year; a commitment to create a space for yang energy in a very yin-dominated community.
Our two sleeping bag solution proved better for sleep, but Molly and I still got a bit of a late start on Friday morning. In honor of International Infinity Day, 8/8/08, Molly led a discussion in her workshop while I served tea. In the afternoon we switched places and I taught a dozen or so people about the I Ching while Molly served tea. I'd hoped for a bit larger turnout, but I think the attendees got a fair bit out of it. Returning to camp and dodging rain, I applied fabric glue to gold ribbon to make eight colorful trigram flags. After a brief dinner, Molly and I hurried to set up Inspiration Circle for the auspicious starting moment.
We hung 63 dingle-dangles between two trees (with a 64th held out for the birthday girl), provided a bucket with about 100 auspiciously round plums, and distributed percussion instruments to attendees. Just after 8 PM I explained the significance of 8/8, infinity, the I Ching, and explained that everyone was to take a lucky dingle-dangle and auspicious plum when they left. At 8:08 PM everyone drummed and rattled to drive the evil spirits away and then Tarena led the 12-yard, 8-person dragon in a dance around the fire to wild approval. I then introduced everyone to the 8 I Ching trigrams and had folks do a spontaneous dance with each trigram flag.
The night went fabulously. Molly led a round of Happy Birthday in Chinese and I presented Cece with a special dingle-dangle. We had an irreverent round of I love the _ / Boom di yadda, boom di yadda
. I created a symphony of cacophony in eight parts with sections of the circle. People danced beautifully with cloth. I closed the circle with a thank you to Colorado's version of each of the eight elements (a lesson about river basins wasn't part of the plan for the night, but seemed right in the moment). In total, over 50 people attended the event. The dragon and flags looked fabulous. Molly's outfit looked fabulous. The kids dancing were sweet. The shared elemental songs made me smile. Several people later lauded the experience; one even said it was the best ritual she'd seen at Dragonfest in years. And it didn't rain all night long. Auspicious indeed!
After packing up Infinite Inspiration Circle, Molly and I took our extra plums and glo-sticks to Freedom Circle and danced with all the lovely people. After it wound down at 12:30 we joined the Serpents for songs in the dark. Most years at Dragonfest I have one night, looking up at the stars, high on running a successful ritual, drums and dances still swirling in my head, where I'm totally emotionally open. I feel as I'm in a universe that can't be seen; it's just a feeling if you know what I mean
. It's an opportunity for my raw emotions to run free and play with my consciousness. Ordinarily, I don't have strong emotional feelings; when I do, they're often focused on a specific issue. But these moments of intensity at Dragonfest are a whole dance, a big painting, an intense experience of whatever is hanging out in my heart. Sometimes it brings huge smiles, sometimes it brings turmoil. This year featured intense turmoil.
When I have a close relationship with someone, I build an idealized persona of them. When I see the person regularly, the person's actual behavior and their idealized persona are fairly close. When we don't see each other much, the idealized persona tends to take over and I start to think the person feels and acts in ways which are closer to what I want than how they are. Since I was able to spend a week with Molly after not seeing her for five months, I was pouring into her all of the physical and emotional intimacy bundles that had built up in my minds eye. But I did this without full communication about her actual state of feeling; I'd forgotten or misunderstood or let slip salient factors.
English doesn't have a good word for the relationship that Molly and I share. (It's not English's fault; I'm not aware of a language that has a good word for it. Or of a lot of movies and books that depict it.) We go on long dates -- our first meeting was a four-day date; we had a two-week road trip date, a month-long international date, and a week-long welcome-back-to-Colorado date. ("Date" has connotations that don't quite work either.) But while we can share nearly every moment of a month, we've no plans to live together. We're explicitly not boyfriend and girlfriend. But "friend" doesn't convey the deep level of emotional intimacy that we share, nor the fact that we're liable to tickle each other for hours at a time. "Travel buddies" and "Sweeties" are the best I've come up with, but (as Facebook says), it's complicated. It's complex. In the five months since I got back from China, I think the imaginary part increased its magnitude over the real part.
I'm rarely jealous and often compersive, But at 1 in the morning as people sipped alcohol and sang songs around a fire, as I mixed physical hunger and emotional need, as my sweetie cuddled with a nice young friend, I felt jealous and alone. In my logical mind I was compersive; glad she found someone neat to share energy with. In my instinctive role mind, I was worried: had she had too much to drink? In my raw emotional gut, I was contorted and pained: time cuddling with someone else was not time cuddling with me. I didn't like feeling that way, and tried to keep it within myself, but couldn't deny how I felt. As the sweet, caring person she is, Molly was attentive to my discomfort and shared some energy with me as well. Before we left, I felt good enough to sing Blackbird
and a few verses of There But For Fortune
On Saturday morning we arrived at breakfast quite late. I stuck around for the Corporate Meeting to share some concerns about the expectation of locational secrecy and provide insight on some other issues. Molly headed for the body painting workshop. Tarena's medical shift ended at noon and we were to meet then to bring the dragon up the road for the kids' parade at 12:30. I arrived at the dragon a few minutes late (continuing the pattern of the week) and Tarena had disappeared, but Kelly and Boots helped me bring the hoops and cloth up to Merchants' Row. As we set up the ribcage, we were informed that the parade had ended 10 minutes previous; apparently my memory is a poor substitute for a schedule. But we rounded up 7 people and had an adults' parade anyway. Lots of smiles, several good pictures
I left my shoes outside as we took a nap on Saturday afternoon and they got soaked in the rainstorm. We'd signed up for the 8-10 safety shift, so I got bundled up in warm clothes, a rain jacket, and wet converse without socks. I was ready to check in on campers and make sure wet coolers were in cars, but the safety staff wanted us to stay in the community center, make sure tea and cocoa were available, and push water off the big tent. Not very exiting, but quite dry. That done, we shared a few songs at the end of Inspiration Circle under a cold clear sky and danced for the last two hours of the best Saturday night Freedom Circle I've heard in some time. I danced in the middle of a close circle of drummers; a great experience.
We sung with Serpents until well after three. While everyone else was drinking mead and grog and cider and expressing wild energy, I only had a few sips and sat quietly by the fire. I still felt bummed that I didn't spend the whole night cuddling, but I felt much less tortured about it. The fellow sitting next to me complemented me on my song selection which included Spoonful
, Circlesong One (the bass part)
, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica
, Aililiu Na Gamhna
(a terrible rendition of the Irish), and the parts of When the Saints Go Marching In
that everyone knows.
Sunday featured a late arising indeed. I fetched a bowl of oatmeal and one of eggs from breakfast and we ate and talked in our tent. My schedule memory failed once again and we missed closing ritual and just barely caught up with the giving tree box. We leisurely struck camp and returned down the mountain. Despite the rain, despite my perpetual tardiness, despite the emotional turmoil, I had a great 'fest. I didn't see a lot of folks I like. Friends from the East Coast understandably were restrained; cool people from Boulder County didn't make it; I was again the only attendee from the old Green Sabbat circle. But I got to see plenty of friends who could make it; the Fort Collins druids and musicians; regular ritual attendees; Denver friends with great food. I didn't spend a lot of time in random conversation because I had so much going on, but smiles and hugs are often just as good as chats.
The seventh night of our date was spent more comfortably on the air mattress, touching each other lightly and clarifying feelings and boundaries. Molly felt I'd been somewhat possessive; I admitted that I'd been emotionally greedy. I clued in on some body language and talked about possibilities for future travel. I am very glad for what the two of us share: emotional support, silly word games, soft touch, running jokes, tasty food, love of the world. I'm so glad I've spent so much time in close company with my sweetie.
Post Script: I've felt pretty intense all week. I was low on sleep and not super productive at work for the first two days back. An early bedtime helped get me back on track, but my pelvis decided to object to sitting down and I had a bunch of physical discomfort. I had a good time at Witches Brew last night and drank a pot of tea that interfered with my ability to sleep. I was wired and horny in the middle of the night. I spent much of today in a state of physical arousal and emotional openness, as if I was hugging someone all day but without the reciprocated warmth on this rainy day. With clarified boundaries, I know I have a ticklish Best Friend Forever, but I also feel the lack of (in poly terms) a Primary. In a way that's freeing as I will soon move in a direction I do not yet know. In a way, it's also very lonely.