This morning, I am sitting here listening to Boston’s 1976 self-titled album, an album that reminds me so much of being alive. A musical work of art that gets my blood flowing after a weekend of Druids. Sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? I’ve got a case of the Druids. Well, hopefully there’s some kind of over the counter, topical medication that help me with that, eh? Only bad thing about it…its catching. And I really don’t want to cure it. 😉
For me, being back in a Druid camp, particularly the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, is a time of glee. I get to have fun, giggle, snort, hug people I haven’t seen in a long while, and meet new people that are (sometimes) taking their first steps into this whacky world of Druids. I get to share their enthusiasm for life and share our genuine love for one another. I have been to every single Gulf Coast Gathering – something I didn’t know until it was loudly announced in camp. Every single one, as I think back, has been a strong anchor point within my life.
My very first GCG was my Bardic initiation. A moment I will never forget. I can still see the faces of the people that were standing in on that initiation. Many of them have become very large parts and influences within my life. I really couldn’t see my life being of any equal value without them in my life. My fourth GCG was my Ovate initiation. Many of those same people were in that initiation as well – only reaffirming who they are in my life. Standing in on the initiations of others over the span of these GCG events, I only hope that I make similar, appropriate marks in the lives of so many others who are taking their first steps in this Path.
One thing I’ve noticed about camp over the years is that the energy is the same with small, subtle differences. New faces add to the mystery and excitement. Feeling their energies of excitement at being in camp and “finding” so many others that are “just like them” are stark reminders of how I felt when I came to my first GCG. Watching these new faces forming those bonds that will be strengthened over the coming months apart, how they go from moments of apprehension to moments of joy and happiness are amazing to watch and even more incredible to re-experience from a position outside of those moments.
Now, I’m not one of the people that enjoy being around a boisterous night-time campfire. The bardic nature of those that were at the campfire made for wonderful music and sounds to fall asleep to. I’m not sure that those out by the fire understood how much their accompanying playfulness were such an assist for some serene sleep. By the way, this was the first year that I have ever stayed in camp. Gas prices made it prohibitive to pull the trailer down to the event, and the distance to a hotel was just too great. Honestly, the dormitory accommodations were not the greatest for my back and sleeping in a sleeping bag only reminds me how far into the past my military years are now. So, having a large group of Bards essentially singing me to sleep was helpful. 😊
Rituals are a huge part of camp. After all, we are all gathered for more than just shenanigans that carry over from sunlight to darkness. This year, there weren’t as many folks in camp as the years before. Lingering concerns over COVID, and the HUGE jump in gas prices right before camp probably were the primary contributing factors. This meant that it was easier to hold rituals in smaller areas, providing a much cozier feel. I found the opening and main ritual to have a stronger feel and energy that was quite amazing to feel.
This year’s camp was also held in a site that was smaller than the typical camp at Fountainbleau State Park. Tickfaw State Park’s accommodations may have been smaller in size than many of the long-time participants were used to, but the energy and enthusiasm of all that were there made for a camp that had a very similar feel to those previous events. Tickfaw, much like Fountainbealu, had hurricane damage. Unlike Fountainbleau (further to the east), Tickfaw had not sustained as much damage to buildings. However, there were tress that had been downed everywhere. During a walk that I took along the roadway, the forested areas at the side of the war reminded me of older, forested areas of Germany that are not heavily populated. The downed trees and the resulting scattered and broken limbs made traversing into the forested areas nearly impossible. Still, the entire park had the feel of pulling back to a new, coming future. Nature has such a wonderful capacity for bouncing back and returning from the most devastating moments.
I didn’t pull my phone out that often, mostly because I didn’t want to read the continual coverage of the war in the Ukraine. I know my mind really needed a break from the depravity of humans killing other humans on the whim of one man’s unhinged nature. Seeing the devastation in Tickfaw certainly brought back the images of burned out, bombed out buildings that were once thriving, modern towns, and cities (and in some cases, older cities with touches of a modern flair). Seeing the small, green sprigs of life appearing in various places among the detritus of such a strong storm were heartening reminders that new life does come forward, even after the worst of times.
So, I sit here with a warm cup of coffee, looking out the window as the rain begins to lightly fall here. Central Tejas has been in drought conditions for such a long time. Any rain, even with the threat of tornadoes mixed in, has a welcome ring to it. Having camp for the first time after cancelling the last two years over COVID, well, it’s a lot like seeing rain here. It was a welcome moment to be among the people who have become an important part of my life. The people who are family to me…even if I just met them for the first time in my life over the weekend.
I don’t agree with everyone’s perspective on a wide variety of things – even the people in camp. But despite our differences in opinion and perspective, I am reminded by a vow we all speak in ritual that those differences don’t define who we are as people.
We swear, by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark, oh spirits and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow.
I’ve spoken that vow many, many times in rituals over the years. Its never meant as much to me as it does now. Two annual gatherings cancelled. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but absence is also a reminder of how important people are in your lives. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without any of them. Those that were there, those that couldn’t make, and those who have passed beyond the veil since we last hugged at a Gulf Coast Gathering. And none of this even expresses how important other Druids have been in my life – Cat, Nimue, Kristoffer, and so many others. For me, I stand with these family members, hand in hand. Sometimes physically, sometimes just in spirit…some that I have known for years, some I have just met, others I’ve not encountered yet….but none less than the others. I may practice my Druidry alone, but there is no way I can practice my life without any of these people.