So, learning to listen to myself is not just about knowing when to say the right “nos.” It’s about recognizing my ability to sometimes know exactly what floaty, sunny sticky fantasticness to put on the calendar. Go me. High-fiving myself.
When Sweetie dropped me off at the festival, I was a little late for the 10 am soul retrieval ceremony. I got there as the shaman lady was starting to call all the spirits to join us—the four directions, the animal spirits, the fairies, etc. She was dresses in white and sang a little like Nico.
I joined the group silently and sat in the sun getting oriented. There were five other people there, mostly ladies. The sky was ridiculously bright blue and there were all kinds of birds goofing around in the new-leafed trees.
I’m agnostic about all things spiritual (or I pretend to be…) but rituals just tend to work for me. Every week at church (Unitarian) I line up to put a stone in water, commemorating the week’s most important joy or sorrow. I write affirmations and gratitude lists. Once, I went on a shamanic journey and met my spirit animal, a black panther named Sheila. (She instructed me to “just love,” in case you’re wondering.) As much as I try to sometimes distance myself from the magic parts of faith, I also kind of believe in it.
As I watched the shaman lady shake her rattle over each person, banishing bad spirits and calling for their souls to return, the prettiest thing was watching the tears at the corner of the woman’s closed eyes sparkle in the sun. Between retrievals, she chatted with the crowd, saying a lot I couldn’t follow about wolves and fairies—pagan in-jokes, I guess. It made me want to be really careful not to get an ironic expression on my face. I also tried to find ways to spray sunscreen without disrupting the proceedings.
When it was my turn, I lay down on the sleeping bag and declined the shaman’s offer to shield my face from the bright sun with a blanket. She whispered “Are you struggling with depression?” Close enough, so yes. “I just want you to know, Freya is coming.” (Sweetie and I had a lot of fun Googling pictures of Freya the next day. Goddess of love, fertility, and war who rides a chariot driven by two cats, btw.)
As she shook the rattle over me, I felt my lower back open up the way it sometimes does during yoga.
The lady seemed like she was, in fact, taking something out of me. At one point, she roared and shook, growling and fighting. I felt bad for having something that yucky inside of me. She sang to my maybe-wandering soul: “Return, return to yourself, return. Return, be at home, be at peace.”
When she was done singing, she whispered in my ear: “I don’t know who disappointed you, but it will be better now.” I almost laughed—even a shaman could see my Greenberg-ness.
Once I was finished with my part of the ritual, I felt like it was okay to strip down. Nobody was nude-beach naked, but one other lady was topless and that was enough to make me feel like it wouldn’t mess up ritual etiquette. After the ritual finished, I made some friends by spraying them with my SPF 70 and asking them to do the same to me. Everyone seemed nice.
The shaman lady told me that all of the growling had been because of a bear spirit who is apparently guarding over me. Which is funny because I’ve often remarked to Sweetie that we need a Helpful Polar Bear to live with us and top us so we could take a break from taking care of ourselves. This was a grizzly bear spirit, but still.
Chatting to some of the circle afterwards about the bear spirit and my penchant for bearlike dudes, one lady suggested that I meet her friend. Either she or fate sent him over to chat with me at lunch. I was shivering in the camp dining hall topless, as pants were required in there. For some reason, this nice huggable guy sat down and I just started yammering away—I love/hate when this happens, when I meet someone comfy and all of a sudden I’m telling them every little thing.
Everybody, I was totally not thinking about the fact that this was a sex festival too, that if you’re talking to someone nice, you might suddenly be kissing him. That’s exactly what happened when he found me after lunch, nude and sunning myself on my monkey blanket, waiting for it to be time to go on the nature walk. We talked some more first, me continuing to spill out secrets. When I got up to go, he asked if he could give me a hug. As often happens to me, he was clothed and I was naked. His hands were warm on my back, his beard soft on the curve of my neck. He held me tight in that giving-good-energy way. He kissed my neck and I said “Oh. Huh.” Then he kissed me pleasantly on the mouth.
It reminded me of the mosh pits of my teenage years, how one minute you’re smushing along with everyone to the music and the next, you’re making out with a stranger. It’s kind of the way I think life should be all the time.
I headed up the hill for the nature walk lead by my favorite magic-y rope guy. The stranger headed up the hill for a nap, a nap that I now realize I probably could have joined. I wouldn’t have missed the hike though. It was lovely and chatty and sweet, and I kept seeing the prettiest white swallowtail butterfly. Everyone kept saying it was following me.
Next time: “That cake flower isn’t going to feed itself to me…”