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Some thirty stalwart spirits braved the edge of Hurricane Hannah to begin building “Belchertown’s own pyramid.” Sailing knots secured the tarp which – propped up by two ladders – withstood the night, protecting us from the downpour and thrilling us with sounds of rain and wind as we christened the cairn near midnight with Wrongo Dongo. Howls mixed with cheers in a cacophony of exuberance as we embraced the spirit of ritual, blending our voices with nature’s infinite chanting. I was asked for a convocation (see “Other Use“); all I could muster was Thank You. I felt calm and peaceful in our candlelit circle, humbled by and proud of my friends.

“Happiness is an elusive thing. It has
something to do with having beautiful shoes, but it is
about so much else . . . About having
friends like this.”

Blue Shoes and Happiness
Alexander McCall Smith
p. 217 (2006)
[past tense changed to present]

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In all important respects, we gathered as we always do – indulging delicious food, drinking comfortably, talking, dancing, teasing, touching, teaching and calling each other into being. I learned so much, as I always do. :-) Everyone oriented to the ceremonial element in their own way. Some recalled significant moments of shared interpersonal interaction, acknowledged difficult aspects of private histories and/or future challenges, and speculated on the symbolism of our individually swirling energies encapsulated by nature’s capacity for storm. Others lost themselves in dance, told tall tales, lampooned themselves and others, played tricks and carefully watched for the precise moment to deliver a perfect pun. Most of us did some of everything. We take our fun seriously, without letting fun completely overtake the serious.
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There was power in our utterances last night and this morning. Dorothee educated me on linguistic minorities in France and the Belgian Flemish/French controversy (more on these later!), and Nick proposed jazz as a uniquely unreproducible medium. The confluence of these topics with my upcoming research woke me right up (or was it the Turkish coffee?!)
“Oh yea, that was in quotes,” Don said, walking by a few minutes later as Nick explained, “I don’t want my life to be an open book, I want people to question me.” We were talking about how online social networking could remove mystery from our lives by producing a vast field of ambient awareness (another longer-term side effect of ambient awareness could be the evolutionary loss of certain cognitive skills associated with fact-based memory). An iPhone provided entertainment for awhile, its accelerometer on display with Newton’s Cradle . This put me in mind of the results of a recent “mind map” of local and global trends affecting a particular organization’s anti-racism and social justice activities, in which nearly all trends were described in terms of increase (more more more and faster) instead of decrease.
How did we get from the accelerometer to air-conditioning? I cannot recall, but the comment reminded me of Christopher Dickey’s claim:

as air conditioning conquered the lethargy-inducing climate and Northerners by the millions abandoned the rust belt for the sun belt, the past wasn’t forgotten or forgiven so much as put aside while people got on with their lives and their business.

from Southern Discomfort, a Newsweek article
by (fyi) the son of the author of Deliverance)
about the U.S. presidential campaign and contemporary race relations

Somehow nostalgia for the “old days” of answering machines (when you received your telephone messages only when you got home at the end of the day) got intertwined with the luxuries of heating and cooling . . . The Chosen One mused, “we’ve had heat for a long time, it’s harder to make cold.” Indeed, air-conditioning as we know it today is a phenomenon of only the last century: for millenia humans have known how to keep ourselves warm, but only “yesterday” have we figured out how to make ourselves cool. (Uh oh. Global warming is here, now.)
When Brandon left is when it hit me. Some of these people I really may not see again. Dhara reminisced about meeting me at bowling her first year here. She and Henk had been the ones to unveil the group present. (Rumor Mill: going viral. First batch original orders for t-shirts and bumperstickers should be placed here.)
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The Nepalese mantra gracing the cairn is, as best I understand it to date, a kind of paean to precious knowledge and pure beauty. We have created physical evidence of passing this way; and less tangibly we have left our marks upon each other – bits of spirit inspiring compelling turning and calling us on, always with the invitation to return. “It’s good,” Franz said today, “to be a little bit bothered by each other.” Yes – such is the evidence of communal connections: they persist!
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I pledge my best to go as the water flows.