I have just returned from a long and involved trip South – first to Santa Fe to visit family, then to the Bay Area for New Year’s Eve and dear friends and small adventures, then to Seattle to build family, then back to the Bay for a further adventure, this time with a stranger. It was a clean narrative, completely without disaster, and I safely arrived from where I left, at the Vancouver airport, without either serious physical or emotional injury and having only lost one item of clothing. (May not be remarkable for other people, but it may actually be the first time in my life such a thing might be said.)
There is not a lot to say about my time in New Mexico, except that I have finally experienced that classic North American thing that people experience when they visit family in an isolated area in an isolating culture, minus the bits about disagreeable politics. For example, I was told there was a Solstice party happening the evening I arrived, so I dressed up shiny and put on my warpaint and arrived in style, only to find it was an entirely different thing. A coven of women (who might be the type to spell it womyn) have been gathering six to eight times a year for thirty-five years to have a pot-luck, create a “Circle” of good intentions, light candles, welcome spirits, tell stories, and sing old songs. I was the only heterosexual present and the youngest by an easy twenty years.
To give you a clearer picture, they meet on dates that are significant to the moon and on at least two occasions, without any irony, someone present referred to the United States government as The Man. It was like time travel. I kept expecting someone to laugh and the entire gathering shatter, but I looked around the room and realized that I have read about these people in books on first wave feminism. It didn’t occur to me while I was delving into that history, but apparently some of those people are still riding that wave, passing talking sticks around in circles and singing droning hymns to The Goddess that they wrote while stoned in a yurt on the side of a mountain in a woman’s enclave somewhere in 1978. If I had gone outside and stood on something, I would even have been able to see the mountain the yurt had been located.
As experiences go, it was an echo of a hundred different moments I’ve witnessed (and tried to escape), so not new, exactly, but distilled down to an ultimate essence. I slowly became fiercely uncomfortable. I felt hammered by the singing, by the tone of it all, by the waiting. I was a fish out of water with a bicycle and I wished, with increasing desperation, that I could switch bodies with someone who would love to be there, like my friend Pam, or simply teleport her there. I am disagreeable when confronted with rituals or religion. I feel that the invisible things that weave the world’s narrative are things like atoms or quarks, neither of which will ever care or be capable of caring about rattling sticks or human interaction. You can do whatever voodoo you like on your own time, (pray to invisible super dragons, consult random chance oracles, LARP, read horoscopes, or whatever), and I won’t care, but I am not ever going to be a complacent participant. Even so, it was interesting. Interesting in an I-wish-I-were-writing-about-this-instead-of-in-the-middle-of-it kind of way. I wanted to document the living history as it unrolled before me. So here I am, writing about it, still wishing, nearly a month later, that someone who would have appreciated the evening had taken my place.