Hot shower, my own bed, and hamburger! Three things I missed most while in Tennessee. I missed email too. But otherwise, I was happy to camp, eat vegetarian meals, and sauna for 9 days. Went to the Beltane gathering of the Radical Faeries, at Short Mountain Sanctuary near Nashville (near-ish). 9 days and 9 nights. Was challenging at times, a lot of fun, sexy, and refreshing. A lot happens in 9 days.
A curious coincidence: There's a Bible camp on Short Mountain, at the summit. When I was 14, I attended that Bible camp, the very same one. Our drums and shouting every night must have scared the be-jeesus out of those Christian kids and their adult counselors. I know it would have scared me at 14. What a strange journey to come full circle 25 years later, to a very gay, very pagan sanctuary just 100 yards downhill from my old Bible camp. I got to tell the story several times to the Faeries. Some thought it was humorous. Some were touched.
Beltane was overwhelming at first. The strange-ness of the culture, the concentration of gay men (about 500) together with our emotional baggage. Frustrated sexual energy was a common topic in heart circles. There was Circuit Party energy. I preferred that sex not be an issue during my stay, but it was an issue. I felt alone in a crowd at times, but also felt crowded by intimacy. I kept to myself the first few days, worried over my appearance and cool-ness, felt like an alien; and yet, I also had a few sweet, low-effort romances and made dear friends. I spoke in heart circles (a Faerie tool for personal growth similar to a 12-step meeting or Quaker gathering) about coming home. I felt warmly received. I teared up. A Faerie gathering is also emotional work.
Thought a lot about friendship up there. Been in New Orleans six months now. Miss my San Francisco and Seattle friends. And although I do feel connected here and rewarded for the decision to move, I can't say I have many bosom friends in New Orleans yet. That was apparent to me at Short Mountain. Six other New Orleans Faeries attended, but they were strangers to me. I was on my own most of the time, and made all new friends. Thought I'd bond with the New Orleans boys, but it didn't go that way at all. Kiss kiss in passing. After six months, the New Orleans Faeries are warm acquaintances. I'd like to change that. Not a criticism or complaint, but a reminder to check my expectations. And to step up effort where effort proves fruitful.
There were shows on the knoll, with the goat barn (where I slept twice) as the stage wall. Project Faerie Runway had 3 episodes. And The No Talent Show lived up to its name. Actually, there was some break-out talent, and more strange-ness.
The big event at Beltane is dancing around the May pole, which I expected to be hokey. Instead, it was a wonderful ritual about community building, free expression, and joy. I danced a tightening spiral, gripping my burgundy ribbon beneath a canopy of ribbons, all rotating toward the center. I wore a pink summer frock I bought for a show but never wore. My matching chiffon scarf is wrapped around the May pole.
There were other rituals too, drumming around the nightly bon fire, and a deep respect for the land. That's what appealed to me most about the gathering. Short Mountain is over-the-top beautiful, especially after 9 days of intimacy with the landscape. The stewards do a wonderful job of using the land for everybody's benefit, while maintaining its beauty and sustainability.