I am now back at the hotel after the start of this year’s OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. As I munch on some yellow Peeps bunnies and slam back a Dr. Pepper, I am thinking of what has taken place over the course of the day. Check-in at camp was at 1 pm, so breakfast was at the hotel, and lunch was at Don’s Seafood. That is a ritual of its own. At the first Gulf Coast Gathering four years ago, this was where lunch was had prior to check-in. And it has been the same for each of the four years. Plus the meal does not change either – consisting of the seafood gumbo…though this year I opted for the small bowl, which is a large bowl in my mind. The service is always good, and the location is always clean – so these folks continue to get my business each year.
Camp arrival sparked many hugs and reunions with family that I only see once a year at this event. It is always a joy to see these folks, and physically reconnect with them. As I have said – these folks are family. One of the Bardic initiates from the “Screen Door Boar” incident initiated into Ovate at the East Coast Gathering last year, so it was nice to catch up with him. However, one of the Bardic initiates from when I initiated into the Bardic grade at the first GCG surprised me with the news that he had finished his Bardic grade and was to be initiated into the Ovate grade at this year’s GCG. To say I am thrilled beyond description is an understatement. We shared huge hugs over the news, and I look forward to being a part of his initiation later in camp. This was an immeasurable surprise to me, and I am full of excitement.
Opening ritual was fun. We had a wonderful ceremony. I took on the role of North, and got to watch other folks step up into other roles of the directions that were all new faces in this participatory function. New folks means growth, in my opinion. And I could not help beaming from ear to ear at my fellow cardinal directions. A Gulf Coast Gathering 2018 medallion was presented to Philip Carr-Gomm in the opening ritual, and then the cardinal directions were asked to pass out the medallions that had been provided in four paper sacks to the other participants in the ritual. Quite an unexpected moment, but definitely a treat to be sure.
Once the opening ritual was finished, it was time to gather folks together for the evening meal, which is always a masterful thing in camp. The food that gets provided here at Gulf Coast Gathering is Cajun spicy, and super excellent food. Though, one individual and myself who were talking about old computer technology got chided for being too chatty and slow in line. It happens. 🙂
After the meal was finished, another new moment for GCG Camp happened, as we played “Druid Bingo” – a game where a list of information items are on a card, and you had to find folks that could answer one of the questions from the folks in camp. The design was to get folks to talk with one another and thus get to know each other a bit more. The entire exercise was a massive amount of fun, and was enjoyed thoroughly by all.
Most folks retreated outdoors to the campfire, where I understood that Philip gave an impromptu talk until jet lag started to take hold. I stayed indoors and caught up with a few folks on a wide variety of topics, including a round of networking to help them get a little more connected with other Pagans around the world and outside of our local area (they are also from my area). There was also a long-ranging discussion on beliefs, perspectives, points of view, and some work-related talk (ok, whining and complaining on my end) until the evening started to wear down on everyone, and we all started to head to our respective locations for some needed sleep.
This is one of the great things about camp – the conversations with other people. You get to learn their perspectives on a wider range of topics. And this can lead to opening your mind to a new way of seeing the world around you. While I have my own set way of seeing the world around me, interacting with various aspects of this world and beyond – it is always refreshing to me to see topics that I am locked down on my way of understanding, from the perspective of another. It may not sway my perspective, but it does help me to remember – not everyone does things the same way that I do. Nor do they perceive things in the same manner that I do. And for me, speaking as a single individual, this is an important aspect of what Spirituality is all about: finding your own perspective while respecting that of others.
One thing that I have started to formulate in my mind, is where I want to go with my knowledge-base that I am accumulating in the work I am doing in the OBOD grades. When I first started, it was all about the titles…becoming a Druid within the OBOD framework. However, it is becoming more than that in my mind now. I want the knowledge, and the title is a nice piece of that puzzle – but when I finish, I would like to find a way to become a tutor within OBOD – to help others, while keeping them going and making forward progress in their studies. I realize what these Gwers are doing for me – helping me with a stronger base to my own personal beliefs, providing me with a knowledge-base and skill set that will help me through both my Spiritual and mundane perspectives in my life. I really hope to reach that potential going forward in my studies and my life.
Yes, being in OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering helps to facilitate a lot of this type of thinking. There’s the pleasure of seeing people that are so near and dear to your heart, as well as the new folks – some of whom are participating in their very first steps in OBOD. And getting the chance to participate in rituals, initiations, conversations and fellowship with people that you “click” with. It is an experience that is incomparable to any other for me. I would not trade this for anything in the world.