I’m home from the third annual Northwest Lammas Festival, a homegrown affair started and sustained by some of my mermaid sisters and brothers. (We thank you deeply for your hard work throughout the year!) My mind and heart are filled with images and sensations of heat and cold, mist and sweat, intricate drum rhythms and laughing babies. The first fruits of the harvest: the gathering of the tribe and the sharing of the fruits of our hands, hearts and minds.
I love my friend Waverly Fitzgerald’s account:
“I attended last year and returned this year, eager to experience some of the magical moments from last year, like swimming in the river, and singing the song “They Shall Remain” in the closing circle, and breakfast at the Acme Cafe on the way home.
But the beauty of repeating an experience is that it isn’t quite the same the second time. And although all of those things happened again, I left with a whole new set of magical memories. Like singing around the campfire and sleeping in my car and waking up every few hours to see the shifting tableaux of the campground, like a series of camera frames.
When I first curled up in my front seat, I could look out my window and see the picture above, of the bonfire and sparks dancing upward into the night sky, like fiery snakes, and the people were only rosy glows moving in and out of the light. A few hours later when I awoke, I saw only a blazing fire throwing off great sparks; all the rest was dark though I know there was a fire tender keeping watch. The next time I woke up, fog had settled in the valley, and the fire was just a dull orange glow although the ascending sparks occasionally lit the mist above the fire with bursts of pale peach-colored light. I woke again a few hours later after daybreak and saw a circle of empty camp chairs around the fire pit. It was all so close, almost within a hand’s reach, it seemed, though the bonfire had seemed so far away from my car when I retired. I closed my eyes again and when I next woke up, the chairs were populated. People were drinking coffee and talking. I rolled down my window and let their words drift in, along with the smell of dried grass (I love the smell of dried grass.)
Probably the best memory, though, was my recognition that I had become part of a tribe. Even though I hadn’t seen most of these people since last year, I felt so comfortable, so accepted, so welcomed, it was easy to be myself (a shy person and a cranky camper). I have a feeling this gathering, in its own small way, recaptures the way people felt when gathering for the Teltown Fair back in the eleventh century.
A chance to reconnect with old friends, to hear the stories of what’s happened in their lives, to sit back and watch the new babies being passed around the circle, to see how the kids have grown, to admire the talents each person brings to the group (clothing, song, art work, learning, embroidery, food art, ritual, etc.), to feast and sing and dance. I’m already looking forward to returning next year, knowing the magical memories will be completely different.”