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, April 30, 2015

Year 3: Part 3: Post 1: Beltane

Happy Beltane again!

I never paid any attention to May Day before I came here, though of course I’d heard of it. Now, I look forward to the holiday. It’s like I’ve gotten a whole new set of holidays that are really starting to feel like mine. I'm not sure whether I think of it as religious, per se, although I'm learning that the distinction between religion and life is subtle to non-existent here--an event can be just plain fun and yet have deep, though unspoken, spiritual significance.

What is the significance of Beltane? I could tell you what the Wiccans say about it (or, at least, what some Wiccans say about it, it's not like they're organized), and I can tell you about the history of the holiday in Europe--it's not like I've been fating around in class the last couple of years. But what Beltane means to me? I don't know. It's fun. The weather is beautiful now, all green, with white and yellow and red flowers, and the birds are singing but the mosquitoes aren't out yet. And I like the dancing and feasting in this weather.

Just like the past two years, we made a day of it, blessing the farm animals, dancing the Maypole, a mini-concert, and holding a couple of outdoor feasts. The big difference this year was we did the Maypole first, before lunch, then blessed the animals and fields, then had dinner, and then the concert last. I think they change it a little every year, but some things are always the same.

Like Sarah brings in her Catholic priest friend to do the blessing.

It’s always strange to see the priest come in. I don’t think of this as a Christian place and I know some of that impression is by design. A lot of the people here are willing to accept inspiration from any spiritual tradition except Christianity. They seem this place almost as a refuge away of Christian dominance. And, of course, I know there are Christians in the outside world who think of Church as a refuge from paganism. It’s as if the two define themselves in contradiction to each other. And yet, once a year, here is this priest.

He doesn’t seem hostile to the rest of us—he seems to regard paganism as an innocent mistake by people who mean well. Kit says his attitude is patronizing, but I think that within his frame of reference he is very accepting—more so than she is.

As you may remember, the Maypole is symbolically sexual. Not only is the pole a phallic symbol (and the ribbons wrapped around it become a yonic symbol), but Kit thinks that at one time the dance was a way to randomly choose sexual partners for a fertility rite--they had to e random because it wasn't about personal desire, it was about honoring the Goddess in every woman and the God in every man. The way we do it, we're not expected to have sex with our dance partners (though I think some do), but instead we work together for the day, to help make the feast happen and so forth, and at dinner we publicly thank and appreciate each other.

Last year I ended up matched with Veery, who is gorgeous, and I had a good time daydreaming about fertility rights. But of course, there is no rule that says you have to be a woman to dance as one--we're actually encouraged to take either role in the dance. So, this year, just like my first year, I ended up partnered with a dude.

The funny thing was that the dude in question was Eddie, who has gone really far out of his way to dance through his life as a man. So why was he dancing as a woman for the day? I asked him. He said it was to keep people guessing.

I guess he figures he doesn't have anything to prove anymore. Maybe I think I do have something to prove, because just like before I felt really awkward being symbolically partnered with a guy. I had no problem at all hanging out with him for the day and then praising him publicly, though--I really like Eddie. I think he's a great guy. And I said so.

Eddie ended up with a role in the concert--planned, of course, it's just that I didn't know the plan. The concert has expanded each year I've been here. My first year, Kit and Sarah aung a single duet. Last year, they each sang several songs and then Kit and her husband sang a duet. This year, there was a full band and four separate acts--none of them very long, but still, it's getting pretty elaborate.

And Eddie was the opening act.

He sings really well and has great stage presence. He can't play an instrument, but he had the band to back him up, and even had two back-up singers. He started with "Good Lovin'," by The Rascals, then did "Joy to the World," by Three Dog Night, and finally "My Girl," by The Temptations. And he was really good--joyful, playful, and sexy. I have to admit, if I liked guys, I could imagine liking a guy like that. Anyway, I was psyched for my friend and kinda proud that he was my partner for the day.

"My Girl" was, of course, a not-so-veiled reference to Kit. His hopeless crush on her is even more serious than mine and he introduced her with a courtly bow just as he finished the song. She grinned her acknowledgement of him and then launched into "Why Do Fools Fall in Love,"  by Frankie Lyman and The Teenagers (yes, I've looked these songs up--I don't have these attributions memorized!) and then three more songs about love and sex. She rocked, of course. She always does.

Then Sarah did two songs--"The Surry with the Fringe on Top," from Oklahoma, and "Mother Earth and Father Time," from Charlotte's Web. That second one--look at the lyrics:

"How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life's eternal rhyme?
How very special are we
To have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time?
He turns the seasons around
And so she changes her gown
But they always look in their prime.
They go on dancing their dance
Of ever-lasting romance
Mother Earth and Father Time."

How is it that Sarah chose a song that was more clearly seasonal--and more directly pagan--than anything Eddie or Kit sang?

Finally, Allen, alone with his guitar, did "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" by Carol King. I've heard him sing that song before and he doesn't just sound like a man singing a song about a woman's point of view--a girl worried she's going to get dumped after putting out, worried that she's being used. He sings it as a man--a man with the same worries. He brings out the universality of the song.

I wondered if Allen's song was meant to address the shadow side of Kit and Eddie's light-hearted lustfulness? I think all of us need more, and can be hurt more deeply, than we might think on a sunny spring day.

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