To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 1: Beltane

Yesterday was Beltane and today--in just a few minutes, actually--I'm heading out to the Island.

I've spent the past however many weeks studying, it's like I've been taking an extra class, and now I've got vegetative characteristics and geologic history coming out my ears and turning up in my dreams. The reason we're leaving early (the rest of the group is going up in a few days) is so I can learn as much as I can before I lead that hike. I suppose I'll be ready. I'll have studied for weeks and weeks in order to present a just couple of hours of content, but Charlie says you need to know three times as much as your audience in order to sound like an expert.

I asked him if that was really true.

"Tell me a way to quantify knowledge and I'll let you know," he said.

Anyway, but we've just had Beltane.

It was a lot like what I remember from last year. In the morning, Sarah's Catholic priest friend came on campus and blessed the fields and the animals, including the dogs and cats. Over lunch, we had a feast and Sarah and Kit sang. In the afternoon, we danced the Maypole and then had another feast.

A few things were different. We actually had three separate dances, one for faculty and staff, one for Sprouts, and one for the rest of us. All three used the same pole, so when we danced our ribbons covered up the ribbons wrapped by the previous dancers. The whole thing took a lot longer that way and dragged a bit, but I was glad everyone could get involved, too.

As you may remember, the Maypole dance is considered symbolically sexual, so, at least in our
version of it, adults and children and faculty and students can't dance it together.

The Masters went first. Sarah, of course, did not participate, she tends not to get involved in things pagan, but everyone else and various partners and friends did, so there were about twenty of them dancing. They didn't have a band for music but instead wore jungle bells on their legs. They didn't go through the "five-fold kiss" ceremony, I think that was to save time--you don't want people getting bored in a ceremony, I've learned. It breaks the mood. They just hugged each other at the end.

The children went next. Sarah let her kids dance, I think because their friends were dancing and she didn't want to make an issue of it. They didn't have a band exactly either, but they wore jingle bells and the adults clapped for them. Charlie played his whistle--the only time I've really seen him perform, and of course his playing wasn't really the focus of anyone's attention.

The kids did do the five-fold kiss, but they did it differently than we do.

It's a blessing ceremony done at the end of the Maypole Dance. At the end of the dance, you end up facing somebody of the opposite sex (or, someone dancing as the opposite sex, since you can dance as either one) and you do this blessing with each other. The way we do it, you put your hands on your partner's feet, knees, hips, chest or shoulders, and face. You say

Blessed be your feet, that walk upon the Earth
Blessed be your knees, that hold you proud and strong
Blessed be your yoni, the drum that beats Her rhythm (or, for males, blessed be thy phallus, that dances to Her rhythm)
Blessed be your heart, the drum that beats your own (or, that dances to your own)
Blessed be your voice, with you can raise for justice

They're very open about sex here, but I noticed somebody got squeamish about the wording of the ceremony for the kids. The children said only "blessed be your feet, blessed be your knees" and so on. The second half of each phrase was missing, and instead of yoni or phallus they said girlness or boyness. In fairness, some of the sprouts are very young. Alexis, for one, is only four, and even she danced. I'm not sure the littlest kids could remember the whole blessing, let alone understand why anyone should bless anyone else's pee-pee.


Last year I ended up at the end of the dance facing a dude (who was dancing as a woman), which was
weird, but not bad. This year I ended up facing a woman and that was much better. The whole rest of the feast we were supposed to work together to help serve and clean up and we were supposed to appreciate each other. She wasn't someone I've hung out with much, a yearling named Veery, but I imagine that the entire ceremony is supposed to echo some kind of fertility celebration from way back when and I kind of liked imagining that.

Besides daydreaming about Veery, what sticks out in my mind is music.

Last year at lunch Sarah and Kit sang, and they did it again this year, but this year first Sarah, then Kit gave solo performances. Their shared song was in the middle. Sarah sang "Unchained Melody" (that's the one that starts "oh, my love, my darling," from the movie "Ghost"), a song called "Iowa," by Dar Williams, and finally "There Are Places I Remember," by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Then they sang "Sumer Ist A-Cumin In" together, then Kit jumped into "Why Do Fools Fall in Love."

Kit was fantastic, of course. She sang four or five of these great old-fashioned pop love songs, just totally rocking in out, fun, sexy, and kind of innocent all at once.

But Sarah grabbed by attention, too. Her voice is higher, a real soprano, really, really beautiful, but she doesn't seem to let herself go the way Kit does. She is attractive, of course, but she doesn't really do sexy on purpose the way Kit does. And yet, she put so much longing into "Unchained Melody," her voice as pure and taut as an embroidery needle, so much naked want into the words "oh, my love, my darling, I hunger for your touch," I'd heard the song before, but always kind of thought it was about romanticized sexual frustration or something. I'd never really heard the anxiety in it, the fear and loneliness. I teared up, listening to it yesterday

And "Iowa," which I'd never heard before, and at first seemed kind of strange to me (a love song about Iowa?) but then I got listening to the lyrics after a while and I heard lines like "tonight I went running through the screen doors of discretion" and she sang them with just as much passion and energy as Kit could have mustered, all the while dressed in her conservative farm clothes, the dress and apron and head scarf she made herself that make her look almost Amish. And then, after building up all this tension, all this conflicted wanting, she finished up with John Lennon's song of memory, peace, and thinking of love "as something new."

I wouldn't say Sarah as a person is more complex, more lonely, or less simply happy than Kit is; I hardly know the woman, I can't really say anything about her other than that she grows some damn good vegetables. But the songs that she chose to sing, and the persona she presented on stage, explored territory that Kit's innocent songs of desire did not. It's like, I know they're both older than me, but Kit got up there and she sang like a teenager. Sarah sang like an older woman.

But after Kit got up there and rocked it out for a couple of songs, her husband, a professional musician I've never heard perform before, joined her on stage. and they sang "Close to You" as a duet.

First she sang to him (she changed "angels" to "faeries" in the lyrics) and then he sang to her and then
they sang together.

And the thing that occurred to me as I watched them was not so much "I want her," though, yeah, that's true, too, but "I want that. I want one of those, what they have there together."

I want a woman for whom birds sing. I want a relationship where I can say that to somebody.

[Next Post: May 5th, Returning to the Island]

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