On Saturday, I went to Botsford Recreational Preserve, as I do several times each year for our Grove’s High Day rites, and occasionally to stop by to visit the owner and the nemeton, and once to read his electric meter. This time, though, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the owner, even as I kept expecting him to step out from behind a tree or his house as he often did. But Don passed away a few weeks ago, and I was there to attend his memorial service.
I got there early and parked in the lot at the office buildings next door, as I knew the parking in the preserve itself would fill up quickly, and it’s not like I can’t handle a small walk, even in the summer heat. (If I hadn’t taken the day off from work for the service, I’d have been doing a lot more walking than that!) There were plenty of people already there, and more kept coming. By the time the service proper started at 1:30, I counted over a hundred people there, including eight of us from SLG. The firec circle area, where we hold our Fire Watch, was filled with chairs facing to one side of the circle. There wasn’t much of a formal service, not a surprise, as Don had no interest in religious ritual, even if he did let us do our own rites there.
After the initial speaker, those who wanted could go up to the front and say whatever they wanted to say. Being the Grove’s clergyperson, obviously I had to say something, but I think I would have gone up there anyway, even if it wasn’t expected of me. I talked about how Don would come down during Fire Watch and identify all the bird calls we were hearing in the night, and after the ritual on Saturday he would take anyone who was interested out into the preserve to identify wildflowers and show off his treehouses. And how lucky we were to have found such an amazing place for our rites (but not too strongly, or it might sound like I was whining to his kids about letting us still meet there) and how every time we looked around the woods, that we would feel Don’s presence there, because his presence there over the decades had so shaped the feel of the land. No, it’s not easy for anyone to imprint their own personality on an old growth forest, but I think Don managed to do it.
After the talky part was done, there was food (probably the only traditional thing about the service), and some socializing. After a few hours, my Grovemates had all gone, but I stayed there for the ash spreading. All those who were still there walked around the paths on the outer edge of the property (why do I seem to spend my few days off from work doing even more outdoor walking?) and took handfuls of his ashes from the bag (no, Liz, there was no scoop, we barehanded it!) to scatter them at various places. We didn’t stop at our nemeton, which is fairly central on the property, but we did visit places I hadn’t see in years, like the huge cottonwood with its roots crossing the creek bed, and the “turtle crossing” sign, and the treehouse surrounded by a moat. It’s an amazing site.
Speaking of which, the question I know my Grovemates are all just about to type into the reply field: I talked to Don’s son-in-law before I left, and he gave me the contact info for the executor of Don’s estate, who I called today. They still need to go over what their liability issues are with a lawyer, but it definitely sounds like they are going to keep the land in its current state and try to let people continue to use it for events. Probably the worst case is that we’d be expected to buy our own event insurance, which many ADF Groves already do, and would likely be under $150 for the whole year, maybe a lot less. As soon as I know anything more definite, I’ll let everyone know, of course.
For more info on Don and his legacy, here are some links:
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
PS – My personal thanks to Candy, Serena, Barbara, Breezy, Rod, Liz, and Gen for taking the time to be there.