In preparation (and trepidation?) for my first trip to Wellspring – or any ADF festival – in eight years, I spent Thursday evening doing laundry and packing the car. I had been considering renting a car for the trip to save wear and tear on my own, which I need for work, but after having $400 of work done on it on Monday, I decided (a) I couldn’t afford a car rental on top of the hotel room I was getting, and (b) the car had better be in good enough shape for a road trip after I put that much money into it!
The trip to Brushwood was quite uneventful, the only problems I had at all were about ten miles from my house, with a construction zone I didn’t know was there because I so seldom go southeast from my house any more. During the trip, I finally started listening to the book-on-CD of Robert Fagle’s translation of The Odyssey read by Sir Ian McKellen, which got me into a good Hellenic polytheistic mood.
On arriving at Brushwood, the first thought that struck me was: there are a LOT of people here already. Like twice as many as I expected. I probably should have had higher expectations, since ADF has roughly doubled in size since the last time I was there, and of course the installation of a new ArchDruid does tend to bring more people. Skip was the only person I saw right off who I recognized, and he told me that Kirk was off undergoing his secret AD preparations.
I went out to the hotel – why a hotel for Wellspring? because nobody has yet convinced me that I bring honor to the gods by sleeping on the ground and screwing up my back – to check into my room and go online briefly. That’s when I got the weird and sad news that both Alexei Kondratiev and Gary Coleman had passed away. (I’ll say more about Alexei in next week’s entry.) I also discovered that the hotel did not, in fact, have wireless Internet in any of the rooms, but it did have a USB cable that I could plug into the wall and into my laptop, making me think that I had hit a time warp and that it was 2001 all over again. I also discovered that many of the items in the hotel room had single words printed on them: the pillows were labeled “firm” and “soft”, the body wash just said “scrub”, the shampoo was “clean”, and the conditioner was “tame”. That last one got me pondering the viability of a hotel where every amenity was named after a Pixies song. Think of it! The clock radio would have “Planet of Sound” written on it, the coffee pot would be “Where Is My Mind”, the Gideon Bible would say “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, and of course, the condoms would be labeled “Bone Machine”.
Back to the festival site, where I finally found the SLuGs’ campsite, and Rodney dragged me around the festival to meet everyone who had been in ADF for less than eight years and thus had never met me. I also talked to Carrion, who had been tasked with getting all of the Clergy Council members not otherwise involved with the ritual preparations to handle the opening roles. I was assigned the Inspiration invocation, which suited me well since I’d been listening to the Odyssey on the trip and was in a Musey mood.
I went up to the main building to use the men’s room to change into my white chiton, and was startled to see Kirk standing by the entrance! “Er, am I supposed to see you before the ritual?” “I don’t know, are you the one they sent for me?” “Er, huh?” It turns out the clergyfolk handling his preparations had told him to wait there for further instructions, and he thought I was the one bringing them. After assuring him that I wasn’t, I hugged him and left him to his wait while I changed. I think he was in the shower when I left, but I was too polite to look. >8) It wasn’t too long a wait until the rite, and I planned out my invocation in my head. (And my thanks to Irisa for pinning up my hymation, which Gen usually does but she wasn’t with me this time.)
Dusk came, and we gathered at the crossroads before proceeding to the nemeton. Kirk was seated off to the side, looking like he was in a trance. We stood about three deep all around the raised circle of the nemeton – yeah, this was DEFINITELY more people than I’d ever seen here. (Before anyone asks, no, I’ve never attended Starwood or Sirius Rising. That’s just too many people for me to be comfortable around.) Obviously I didn’t have long to wait before my piece, and despite my stumble in calling Homer a “soundless storyteller” instead of a sightless one (though in fairness he’s also been soundless for several centuries now), it went well. I’m told that as I said “Esto!” at the end, the grouping of Hellenics on the other side of the circle squealed. Apparently I now have a fan club. The rest of the ritual went well and was very powerful, even if a few steps were nearly forgotten (but pointed out by Kirk, thus proving that he deserves to be the AD). After the rite ended, we SLuGs waited in line to hug Kirk and to have some of the whiskey he brought as a gift to the assembled folk – well, Kestrel and Liz had some, Rodney and I don’t drink. I wandered around the camp for a bit before returning to the hotel at 11, trying to honor the “if you’re in bed by midnight then you won’t get into any drama” warning that seems to apply to all festivals.
After stopping by Findley Lake to buy candles and garden decorations from the store that used to be the Ladybug Cafe (*sniff*, how I miss them), I arrived in camp at around 10:30 the next morning, in time for the ritual to establish a Fallen Warrior shrine in the nemeton. Lots of emotion in that one, as you can imagine, and I’m very glad to have been there. (And definitely looking forward to the addition of an Athena statue to the shrine!) After that I hung out at the Warrior Games area and got some practice in, then I attended the Healer’s Guild ritual, which went well. I got my scores in for the Games – I could have spent more time on the archery (my best talent at such events) but I didn’t want to spend the whole afternoon on it. Sadly, I didn’t get to attend any of the workshops that afternoon, nor did I hear any of the Bardic Competition works except for what the wind carried from the pavilion to the games field. But I’ve organized enough festivals in my life to know how it goes, and I’d rather have too many wonderful things going on than too few.
After a trip to Sherman to buy groceries and snack on some excellent hot wings at the local tavern, I got back in plenty of time for the potluck, which, like everything else about this Wellspring, was a lot more huge than I was expecting! After that, I watched the concerts by both Revelry and The Mickeys, which were both great, and then back to the hotel. (Should I have stayed and used the hot tub, since it was actually cool enough at that point? Nah, avoid the drama…)
Sunday morning, I left the hotel later than I wanted to and nearly missed the beginning of the National Meeting, which would have been just tragic. >8) Actually, this one moved along pretty smoothly and was actually semi-informative, plus we got to see Kirk promise to let people slap him if he ever referred to the ADF Store as “Regalia” again, which he then did about thirty minutes later.
After that came the time slots where all of the Guilds and Kins schedule their own meetings, which of course overlapped and I ended up missing the Liturgists’ meeting (the only Guild in which I’m currently an officer) to attend the Hellenic Kin ritual. That ritual was great, and it was good to work with the other ADF Hellenes and just be all Hellenic and stuff. I’m glad I brought my water from Delphi with me, Michel used it to help him prepare for the omen taking. (Obvious use for it, really, why didn’t I think of that?) I stayed in the nemeton for the super-secret Clergy thing, then back up to the main campground to buy Reg-, er, stuff from the ADF Store, including two shirts (yes, I’m one of the ones who bought a SolSIG shirt!), some pouches, a new runestone set, a few books, and a small plush Druid made by Grey. Then I attended the Clergy Council’s open discussion, consisting of the Clergy Council and three observers. Well, don’t say we don’t try to be open about what we’re doing. >8) Mainly it was Michael discussing his proposed changes to the Clergy Training Program, which ADF members can read here. (And somewhere in here I finally met Jamie Goodwin, whose Protogrove I mentored, but he was only at the site briefly. Aww.)
After a quick trip to Findley Lake for dinner (which I shouldn’t have done, apparently the leftovers from Saturday’s potluck were more than enough for a meal for everyone at the site), I changed into my black robes for the Symbel. Rodney managed to set up the Grove banner for our table, so the four of us plus Sharon Smith sat together. The toasting of the gods and the boasting of personal achievements was limited to one per table, which kept things moving nicely and kept the energy levels good. (I don’t attend a lot of Symbels, but I’ve heard plenty of stories about how bad they can get when everyone feels the need to talk for five or ten minutes.) I toasted Lugh and Ana (and thought about mentioning Zeus Teleios as the god who holds people to their oaths, since there was oathtaking coming up, but decided against it, next year maybe), and boasted of our successful rental and management of our suite at ConVocation. (Thanks to Kestrel for suggesting that, otherwise I’d have just said that I passed the First Circle of the CTP, decent but a little self-centered for my tastes, even for a boast.) (Second and Third Circle, I’ll boast.) Stone Creed had platters with bread, grapes, and excellent cheese at every table, a first for any Symbel I’d attended. (Not that I attend many, as I said.) Since I was only drinking water, driving back to the hotel was no problem.
I packed up and checked out early on Monday morning, and stopped by Brushwood for the closing rite and to say my goodbyes to everyone there, most of whom I had only met in person a few days earlier. Rod, Liz, Kestrel and I stopped off in Erie on the way home at Quaker Steak and Lube so I could have, yes, more hot wings, and then we caravanned home, at least until the downpour in Ohio that cut visibility so much that I lost sight of them. Well, other than that the trip home was uneventful.
So, wow, after eight years without, it was quite a rush to experience all of that again. And back then, I knew most of the other people who were there, this time it felt like everyone was new. (And young. Way younger than me.) Taking part in seven rituals in three days was pretty heady stuff, too. I hadn’t really understood how much I missed it until I went back. I hope that everyone reading this who hasn’t been to Wellspring before has a chance to do it some time in their lives.
Now all I have to do is find a way to get to Midnight Flame in September…
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF