I’ve spent the weekend in the Lickeys for The Druid Network’s con. While I’ve sung and done story telling at pagan events, I’ve not spoken at one before. Normally I get to feel more confident that I might know more than the audience does! I talked about Druidry at the end of History and will be blogging that through the week. It’s been a good weekend, lots of lovely people, good stalls, great music…
All credit should go to Bish for having figured out a program that allowed scope for pagan time and could still deliver on schedule, that gave plenty of time for informal talking and sharing, and that had some excellent content. For me the most interesting bits were those informal conversations, following on from things said in talks, probing into ideas, chucking things around- it was very creative and productive feeling, and I know I’ve learned a great deal. There was a great atmosphere. My first encounter with Paul Mitchell was entertaining. He’s very much in the style of Billy Bragg. I also got to hear Tallis Kimberly, who sang Tom a spoon song! Photos to follow, I suspect… all very good stuff. I wish I’d been more awake at that point.
For me it’s been a strange, emotional weekend. Last time I was at that centre, I was the previous me, and it made me realise how much I’ve changed as a person. There were people I hadn’t seen in years, and while it was a joy to see them, it also made the pain of long absence sharper. Last night, due to illness there was a gap in the program, and Bish gave me a room and an hour or so of session running. I’ve not run a singaround in over two years. It used to be an integral part of my life. Happy-making to know I can still do it, but again, that knife blade of loss. I miss my folk club.
Then, I persuaded the remaining stalwarts this morning to go up the hill – the views and the trees are stunning and I could hardly visit and not do that. Bards of the Lost Forest used to meet there, and we ended up with a small circle of con-survivors, gathered in the space that had once been my grove, sharing a few awens and saying hello to the trees. That one broke me.
I have cried a lot this weekend. Mostly I did it quietly and privately – I never find it easy to be open with tears, but stood in the space that had been so precious to me for so long broke me right open and I ended up sobbing in a way that usually, I don’t when there are other people about. There’s one thing you can say for Druids, they don’t scare easily! There was patience, kindness, hugs, good words, a sense of being held by community. And that’s a funny thing too. The old me never really felt like a proper part of The Druid Network, just someone who tagged along and tried to be useful. I’ve never felt more part of that than I did this morning, snotty and pathetic though I was. It’s odd how these things go.
Grief. It comes in waves, and not always predictably. So much of who I was died, so much of my old life became lost to me. I go through this process, and the bubbles of pain come up, the missing, the places I was torn and wrenched on the inside. There’s a healing in letting that grief out. I start to feel a bit more like a person, and one who maybe does belong somewhere.
That person to person, real, in the moment, in your face contact of events is so important. I love the internet, I love the floating out and sharing around of ideas, but its not the same as talking, and listening, and walking with people in the mud, and looking at the same view together. It’s been a long time since I last spent a weekend in the company of Druids. Too long. I think the period of much needed retreat is coming to an end, and its time to start building and doing and being in the world again, consciously and with awareness of my skin, as a participant not someone who assumes they can only ever be on the periphery.
So, I want to round off with huge thanks to Bish both for the big, awesome event he’s just pulled off, and for the much needed space he allowed me to do things, and for the good words when I fell apart. And my thanks to Theo, for wisdom and empathy and pointing me at ideas I want to go and explore. To everyone who turned up and did a thing, thank you – and turning up in and of itself is a big deal. Thank you for being there, for talking, listening, asking questions, singing songs, telling stories, being druids, being yourselves, being lovely, and challenging, and inquisitive and very human and real. There are a lot more names I could name, folk who made the weekend rich and interesting with their presences, but I don’t know everyone’s names, and you all deserve recognition for contributing to something that was very good indeed.