Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Sunny and hot
Fun things I forgot to mention yesterday:
— I found genuine Czech beer at one of the local grocery stores, one of the brands we drank in Prague. So I bought some. Yeah, expensive, but a nice treat. It makes me happy (I rarely drink beer) and brings back happy memories.
— I tracked down an old friend and we started emailing again and catching up. We’d both worked on WICKED. She left to teach in Thailand for a couple of years, and is now in Munich. Good for her! So we’re having fun catching up. (waves, thrilled to reconnect).
Looks like I’ve got three deconstruction seminars booked — one on a fantasy novel in September, one on a steampunk film directly after it in September, and one on a paranormal mystery in late November. I will post the details when I have them, in case any of you are interested in taking it. I am going to start working on the seminar in the next week or so, re-reading/watching the material, taking notes, and sketching out the lectures, which I can then flesh out over the summer and be ready to go without a last minute scramble.
Not as icky as they threatened yesterday. Ran my errands. Hung out with the neighbor’s cat — who made his little sad face when I left and I felt guilty. Took care of Elsa. Got some admin work done. Got some cleaning and purging done. Unfortunately, not much writing done. The job boards sucked, but I have some other proposals that need a bit of polish.
My friend and I sorted out the travel arrangements. She wound up taking the train into the city from upcounty and then switching to take the train out to our town (she and her husband actually lived in this building when they first married, although I was living on the West Coast at that time). I picked her up at the station and we drove across town to the spiritual center. It’s beautiful — an old manor house on the water, with rolling lawns, etc.
Turns out there was a talk/presentation before the walk. Had that been in the information or in any of the many communications I had with the admin person over the past week and a half, we’d have been there on time for it. It was identical to the woman’s presentation last August — which, in some ways, was a bit unfortunate, since many of the people were regulars. She read from the handouts rather than using them to supplement her talk, and seemed unfocused and disorganized. I remember her being a little flighty last summer, but nothing like this. It was a fairly large group, and people kept drifting in, probably because none of us had been told that there was a presentation before the walk, and every time more people drifted in — and, I have to say, they all floated in as ubostrusively and respectfully as possible — it completely threw the presenter. She called for more chairs, which one of the maintenance guys brought. Then, he stood at the back, laughing and talking loudly into his cell phone, which I found incredibly disrespectful to all of us. Just because you’re speaking in a different language doesn’t mean we can’t hear you — nor does it mean we don’t understand the gist of what you’re saying.
Some of the people were regular labyrinth walkers, but many weren’t, and she was so distracted, she didn’t explain now to pace one’s spacing in a large group or how to exit the labyrinth once we’re at center. So, people got bunched up and trapped, which rather negates the spiritual element.
The labyrinth itself is lovely and walking it — even with a lot of people who are looking around, worried they’re not doing it “right” and, somehow, although there is only a single route with no false paths (unlike a maze), getting LOST in it — it’s still always lovely.
When we came out, we were asked to “share.” Um, no, I don’t know any of you, and, if I had a profound experience rather than trying to help the confused, I prefer to think about it for awhile or it’s diluted for me. Give her credit, she did not put anyone on the spot.
Unfortunately, those who stood up to share all started with something to tell us how important/rich/etc. they are: “I was looking through my 500 piece collection of sacred art this morning . ..”, “I realized I deserved the diamond bracelet my husband gave me this morning . . .” The kindest thing I can say is that they are on a vastly different journey than I am. And the only reason I can phrase it that kindly is because that’s what my friend pointed out, and she is far more generous about people than I am, especially when our bullshit detectors were going off so badly I’m surprised lights and sirens weren’t flashing over our heads.
My purpose in spiritual work is direct connection with the Divine, and to work on my flaws (of which there are many) in order to leave this place better than I found it — and not, necessarily, in a loud or look-at-me-I’m-leaving-immortal-work-behind way. Life as a metaphor for camping — leave it better than you found it, clean up your mess, try to create some happiness for yourself and others. The purpose of almost everyone I’ve ever encountered at this particular center’s events (I’ve attended a half a dozen over the years) is to find justification and receive absolution for the monied life they lead without actually doing any work or making any changes to foster or create positive change.
The thing is, you don’t need justification or absolution for having a nice house or jewelry or a good life, provided you didn’t get them by hurting someone else (which probably negates most of these women’s husbands, who work in the financial sector and have made their money by screwing people, so, yeah, I see why they want justification and absolution). But having a good life is nothing to feel guilty about. Nor do you have to give every cent to a charity or give away all your belongings and live in a tent or whatever. Just — be nice to people. Smile. Be welcoming. Let someone with fewer groceries get ahead of you in line. Let someone make a left turn in front of you when the light changes.
Someone’s dog wandered over and started to explore the labyrinth, and, honestly, it was one of the high points of the evening. It was adorable.
And — this is AWFUL on my part, if I believed in Hell, there’d already be a seat with a plaque on it waiting for me — the potential for a comic mystery in this whole thing is HUGE.
People started to drift to the ritual space. The guy with the art collection who was trying to pick up an earnest, pretty, striving-to-be-spiritual married woman (and, bless her, she was trying to be kind and gracious and not run into the bay screaming) asked about the ritual, and she mentioned it was a fire pit, dancing, and drumming ritual. She was excited and brought her drum. Um, why did the admin person not tell me when I asked what to bring six times and got no response? I don’t know if I would have brought my drum, but I’d have liked to know about it. And I prepare for a drumming ritual differently than for type of circle they’d posted as the event. As I mentioned, I’d asked a half a dozen times what to bring, should I bring something for a feast, etc., and receieved no information. Someone else mentioned they were keeping the cafe open. Now,there’s nothing wrong with the cafe on the premises; however, open rituals are about community, Solstice in particular is about community, and one of the most important aspects as the feast. And there wasn’t one here. Not only that, but I since found out that, since most of the attendees are “on a diet”, they don’t have food in their circles.
Okay, it’s fine, run it any way you want BUT LET PEOPLE KNOW AHEAD OF TIME.
I’ve run dozens of open rituals over the years and attended hundreds. Whether the substance of the ritual is what you’re looking for or not, there are certain elements I’ve found are important — make everyone feel welcome, take the time to explain how it will work so no one feels confused or like they’re doing something “wrong”, sprinkle the regulars among the newcomers so the newcomers have someone close by who can guide them, and feast. “Feasting” doesn’t have to mean a big spread — it can be handing around a basket of cookies or carrots or something. But the connection through shared sustenance is important.
Oh, yeah, and ask five people to bring matches, because four of them will leave them in the wrong bag, and, somehow, yours will have gotten wet in transit.
Anyway, there was no sense of welcome or inclusion or warmth or organization. I could imagine that the first three would build over the course of the ritual if the last was in place. And I’ve been to plenty of totally disorganized rituals that were so warm and inclusive that it didn’t matter how disorganized they were, because we were all laughing so hard and having so much fun that we could be spontaneous and figure out the organization as we went. Not only were we on very different paths, there was no interest on the part of any of the “regulars” to welcome or connect any of the new people, who wandered around confused and lost. Which is fine, it’s your space, run it however you want, and it describes this town in a microcosm (if you’re not white and rich, they can’t be bothered), but this is a big holiday about community, and I didn’t want to spend it with people — okay, I’ll say it — people I didn’t like, and more importantly, didn’t respect.
So my friend and I split during the transition from one space to another.
I turned to her ad said, “Let’s go to the Tiki bar.”
“Tiki bar?” She lit up.
We took some photographs on the beautiful grounds, got into my car and drove over to the 1920s art deco amusement park in town, parked, and went to the new Tiki Bar that recently opened on the pier. It’s run by the same people who ran, for many years, one of the best restaurants in the area (which is now a bank).
It was packed — on a Monday night no less, but a good packed, not a nasty packed. We got a table right away. We were just going to have a quick adult beverage, but since I was driving, we decided we should take our time and maybe have an appetizer. My friend had a margarita and the calimari. I had blue Sangria — I’ve never had that, it’s Sangria with Blue Curacao, and I’ll drink just about anything with Blue Curacao — and the mussels.
The portions were HUGE. My plate of mussels could have fed four (but I ate them all anyway) and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen my friend not finish her portion. We sat there, watching the sky over the water turn from blue to lavender to periwinkle with a bunch of people just hanging out enjoying the evening, and it was more of a celebration than standing around a fire pit with people I don’t like.
Food and drink were excellent and reasonably priced. Service was good. People were nice. I did offer (threaten) at one point to rip the speaker over our head out of the wall when the DJ got a little too carried away with his very loud bad 80’s flashback, but it was sorted out. All in all, it was a lovely way to spend the Solstice.
We wished our lovely waiter many large cash tips for the season, and left him one to start. We took pictures of the lit-up ferris wheel.
I drove my friend home, turned around and came back, and was home a little before eleven. Traffic wasn’t too bad, and the large moon lit up parts of the roadways that didn’t have streetlights. Started plotting the story I’ll write based on the evening.
Lovely gift arrived in the mail, perfect for Solstice: Barbara Ardinger’s FINDING NEW GODDESSES, which is a playful look at modern needs and life. One of my favorites is “Our Lady of Perpetual What’s For Dinner”.
Tended to Elsa and went to sleep.
I head off to acupuncture today — yeah! She’ll need to use ice picks and knitting needles, and I’m having separation anxiety, because I won’t see her again until the fall. Plan to get in some writing. It’s supposed to be hot, humid, and stormy. Will hang out with my neighbor’s cat early in the day, and then check on him later on – if it’s very hot, I’ll put the air conditioner on for him for a bit.
Got a stack of new paperwork from my editor on the mag where it was just bought by someone else, etc. Payment times are MUCH longer with these new folks — it used to be that I’d email the invoice and get a check the following week. The new people are now saying 4-6 weeks. I may have to re-think my relationship with them.