Autumn Nights Near Otis

So what would convince me to spend 13 hours in a car on an overnight trip?  Why, the Traveling Clergy program, of course!  And why wouldn’t I want to go to Massachusetts and meet lots of ADF members I’d never met in person before, who might actually take my opinions seriously?  Besides the thirteen hours in the car, I mean.  Actually, I had already decided after seeing many requests for us to travel on High Day weekends that I would volunteer for the next one we got that wasn’t on a High Day, no matter where it was.  So when the Harvest Nights festival put in a request for mid-October, I did indeed volunteer.  I do love New England, and it also gave me a chance to visit the region where I was born, so that worked out.

It turned out that Jean Pagano was also going, and he also live in Michigan, so we arranged to travel together.  We left at about 7 PM Thursday, and in the middle of the Tigers game to boot.  (The sacrifices I make!)  I managed to do a few hours of the driving, given how not used to all-nighters I am these days, that’s about what I thought I could manage.  (Memo to self: Yeah, it’s probably too late for you to have children in this lifetime.  You’d never survive the first three years at this age.)  We arrived at Rob Lewis’ home in Albany (just across the river from my birth city of Troy) at about 8 AM Friday, joining Kirk and Robin who were already there, and I managed a nap and one last e-mail check before venturing into the world of no wifi.  After stopping at Price Chopper (really, that’s the store’s actual name) for potluck items, we all headed off to the site together, which only took an hour.

The site was a Girl Scout camp, which made for some new festival experiences, like no alcohol (ennh), quiet hours beginning at 10 (ennh), dormitory sleeping with seven of us in one section (ennh), and no wifi (the worst thing about the weekend).  Actually, the most annoying bit may have been the lack of anything resembling a nightstand or table in the sleeping areas: setting up my travel altar was far more of a challenge than I’d anticipated, but the window sill was just wide enough to handle it.  After dinner (I did manage to find Greek Gods yogurt at the store, which went over well), there was a scheduled “meet the Kins” thing where various folks would sit around the main area and answer questions about their hearth cultures.  Inertia prevailed, and we all stayed in one group and talked about various home practice topics.  Well, the clergy are traveling to these things to fulfill the needs of the people we visit, and there was clearly a need for that!

After getting up for Michael’s dawn rite the next morning (and I doubt I could have slept through it, since it was happening twenty feet away from my bed and only a curtain blocked the way), we had breakfast, and then I wandered about the site while Kirk did his presentation on ritual skills.  The lake was amazing!  After that, I did my presentation on invocations, even after Kirk had given away about half of it in his presentation, and was surprised to see so many people taking notes, as though what I had to say was worth writing down!  Not something I’m used to.  I guess I really have spent half of my life making invocations, haven’t I?

While Michael followed tat up with a workshop on trance techniques, I drove into town to check my e-mail and find out that they Wolverines were losing (this making the third year in a row that I’ve been out of state for the Spartans game), and didn’t get back until after 3, which was the scheduled time for the “meet the Guilds” session.  Since I’d promised to represent the Liturgists, I felt terrible about being late – until I walked in and saw only five people in the main room.  Apparently doing a trance workshop at a festival is a great way to convince people that they need a nap!

After dinner, we did the main ritual, in a nice space that was located right outside the front door of the building.  I’d been assigned the Waters section of the liturgy, so I went ahead and did it the way we SLuGs always do it, with everyone joining hands to focus their own energy and the blessings of the gods into the water.  I keep forgetting that other Groves don’t do that, and the look on Kirk’s face when he realized I expected him to grab my arm while I was holding the pitcher was priceless!  Oh, and I also remembered why we don’t do the Waters at our night rituals, my apologies to everyone I spilled on.  At least the omens were good (see Michael’s post for details) and no one died.

After that, Kathleen did a workshop on finding constellations and planets in the night sky, where we all made paper star chart gadgets, and then half the people just used their smartphones to do it.  Given how cloudy it had been off and on throughout the day, the stars were actually a lot more visible than I’d have expected.  And given how long it had been since I’d practiced backyard astronomy, I was surprised how many of them I recognized!

I went to bed early that night (and the fact that I got to sleep while everyone was talking in the main room proved how much I needed that), then got up early for the dawn rite again and breakfast.  Robb confirmed that the Tigers had lost the night before, which made me almost as sad as having to leave the festival.  Jean and I headed out right after breakfast.  I’d been hoping to stay for the “how to build your Grove” workshop at noon, since that’s something I actually know a little bit about, but it turned out the people who asked for that workshop hadn’t come to the festival anyway.

And so, thirteen hours and one Lions loss later, I was back home.  Seriously, all of my teams lost that weekend.  I am so not leaving the state again until after the NFL season ends.  Still, I was very happy to help ADF’s clergy continue our work to share our knowledge and experience with our more far-flung members, and I hope I get another chance to do it soon.

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

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