Mid summer arrives with cool temperatures in the late nights. The sun sinks into the Northern horizon after ten; bright shimmering stars stand in lovely configurations that never change until the morning light blooms after a few restless hours of sleep. The Gathering happens deep in the thick forest; a special place carved out where like-minded folk could come and create a like-minded community for a small bit of time.
After just five days The Gathering ends with a spectacle, a Paganistic service, it’s goal being to purge the soul of something that is haunting you or something dear to you that holds you back that holds on to something you need to let go of.
In days of yore pilgrims were rewarded for their piety with a glimpse of a saintly bone or a piece of mummified finger as a relic of devotion. Our Renaissance half-heathens would have been overjoyed to emerge into twenty-first century pilgrimages like The Gathering with its mix of tribal sensibilities and modern conveyance; the modern seekers creating a more tribal and pagan culture of worship than the pious Christian pilgrims attaining Constantinople by constant prayer on the backs of equally pious donkeys.
The new gatherers had fire and whisky and all manners of attaining their precious high, their oneness of forgiveness and resolution far more intense than the worshipers of a single almighty entity.
These modern pagans whose sensibilities were closer to their Neolithic brethren were going to erect a gigantic pyre to burn everything they brought with them including all of their problems and obstacles in an orgy of fire, searing away sin, wallowing in forgiveness.
The start of our trip is the tenth of June; ten days before the Summer Equinox, when the modern pagans descend into the old forest creating The Gathering.
My name is Bob; you don’t need to know my last name. I will be your narrator and trip guide for this chapter of The Gathering. You might guess my age to be not more than forty-five but I know I am at least twenty years older than you youthful ones might think.
Like America is rapidly becoming, you won’t be able to guess my ethnicity. I am brown and my eyes and hair could tell you a lie as my head is shaved and my eyes are grey.
My fulfilled wish was to be a guide for new recruits. I have achieved what I set out to do for the past five years. My Craigslist ad tritely read, “Either you’re on the bus or you’re off the bus.” Corny, I know but I know where I coming from and I hoped that it would attract the type of people I want to share the journey with.
The rest of the ad read, “Experienced driver is seeking fellow travelers to go to The Gathering. I have been a witness for the past five years. We will ride there and back in my beautifully prepared, fully equipped RV. You will have a private sleeping area; five hundred thread count sleeping bags, air conditioning for the hot days and heat for the cold nights. I am a world-class trained chef with cooking credentials from New York to Tokyo, Paris to San Francisco. I provide pure water to drink. You bring your own personal “trip” devices. We even have two showers in my completely green, ecologically correct motor home. Message me for more details.”
The calls came in fast and I picked my team quickly and painlessly. The morning of the tenth we met in Ravenna Park. I prepared breakfast on one of the great wood stoves at shelter number one. Their instructions were to come alone with enough gear for a ten-day trip.
My four fellow travelers were dropped off and carried their bags up the hill to the shelter. The RV was parked all freshly shined and polished for the road. I had a great breakfast brewing on the red-hot grill: Crepes Suzettes, Thai fried eggs and hot strong coffee.
Once we introduced ourselves (first names only) I explained to my little tribe that this ride would not be normal because in order to find out a little about each other we had to tell a story. Not just any story mind you but one that illuminated the reason for taking this pilgrimage to The Gathering.
The group picked up their belongings as I carefully made sure the fire was extinguished and boarded the ship, er, I mean the RV. My four new friends settled their personal belongings into their berths. The RV had a great table with big comfortable chairs and as I prepared to drive they found favorite spots to sit as I buckled myself into the Captains chair, checked my dashboard and prepared to take off.
I turned on my microphone and as we hit the highway. I addressed my mini tribe. “Travelers, we are about to embark on a very special journey. Since I am your driver I am going to start the round of story telling. This way you can get a sense of who I am so hopefully you will trust in me and I won’t appear to you as a stranger since we are going to spend the next ten days together. By sharing our stories this trip will develop so much meaning. It is like hiking with a group of strangers you have to trust in me as the leader. This way we will also get a glimpse into each other’s psyche.