Tom's travels

Playa Del Fuego; my favorite shirt; Zelda's exercise: synesthetic descriptions

So last weekend was Playa Del Fuego. Fun but sort of mellow. Nothing really extraordinary to a Starwood veteran - though the naked slip & slide was fun. Also nice hanging out with the Zelda's folks at our camp, I think we did a good job of drawing people in, getting folks involved in our writing exercises.

The big bonfire ("burn", in the lingo) on Saturday night was actually a little disappointing. The fire was nice enough; there were some fire performers, which is cool but I'm getting jaded and not that interested unless they're really good; and there was a little bit of drumming, but not much and not for long. No dancing. I don't see the point in a bonfire without dancing around it in a circle.

But I had a good afterward hanging out at "Whiskey and Whores", a bar theme camp. Met a girl who spun poi, who finally gave me the key to figuring out the three-beat weave; met a few pretty women. which is always a favorite pasttime.(What happens at PDF, stays at PDF, so nothing more to say on that. :-) )

coming back from Boston

Now I'm on the way back from Boston, where I just attended the AOBTA conference. Always a good time, just some of the best people, plus great leaning opportunities.

Just before I left I got a message from Robin on my answering machine. She had been mugged! She wasn't hurt, but her computer was stolen, her cell phone too. It was after midnight when I checked the machine, so I didn't call back until I was up here, and it took me a few days to be able to reach her. But it looks like they've caught the thieves (they used her cell phone to make a call - not the brightest crooks), so it seems to be resolving as well as it possibly could.

Friday I took a great class in "Tai Chi Easy", a well-constructed simple set of qi gong exercises from the 108 move Tai Chi form. Just what I needed to get my stuck energy moving. There was a class on marketing your practice, that I got a few good ideas from, and a neat class on doing research that talked about a statistical method that I think could be a good alternative to the double-blind clinical study (hard to do in bodywork, or psychotherapy, or surgery...).

"I love being religious"

Another Starwood moment I want to make sure to note, in fact that might make the opening of the book:

Opening ritual. Maybe 100-150 people, elders and children, men and women, some in various interesting regalia, some men in kilts or sarongs, some in simple t-shirts and shorts. We've invoked the directions, honored the ancestors and the gods and the spirits of the land, and now, laughing, we join hands in the spiral dance, running and leaping together and swinging each other, sort of a giant game of "crack the whip", until we all fall into a glom at the center.

In front of me is Lady Sue, who I met at my first festival, an older feisty redhead. She looks back over her shoulder at me and, smiling, says "I love being religious!"

Obviously this is a different sort of "religious" than the Catholicism I was raised in...and that's what I want to explore in the book.

This is your brain on Starwood

Ah, Starwood. How to explain? Maybe the last night's bonfire...one of the biggest bonfire events in the country. Think a pile of flaming logs the size of a small house (the House of Fire! I must use that next year..."Welcome to the house of fire") with hundreds of people dancing around it and drumming, all night.

The moon is almost full, and hangs above the fire. I am wearing a lovely Chinese silk jacket that I just got, looking damn good if I do say so myself...this festival I have been manifesting the archetype of the Lover a fair bit (and more on that later), but tonight I pulling down a blend of the King, the Magician, and the Holy Goof, dancing around, coming up to people and telling them "Now don't tell anybody, but the moon...is beautiful." I am the King bestowing blessings; I am the Magician, teaching my secret knowledge. I have a hope that for someone, this will be the moment, the exact thing they needed to hear. But mostly I am the Holy Goof, for the whole thing is ridiculous, I am for some reason I cannot explain talking in a Tom Waits gravel voice.

I am dancing all night, the sun comes up and there are fewer but still many of us, some dozing off on the sides or wrapped in embracing couples or trios. A bunch of people in ridiculous superhero costumes come changing in and bring an infusion of energy - how can you not be joyful at the sight of a tall thin man in an American flag jockstrap waving an inflatable toy sword? A pretty girl - an old Starwood fling with whom I have, perhaps, reconnected - gets me to hula-hoop for a while.

Some of our fearless leaders, America's top alternative spirituality
leaders, arrive and start a bocche ball game in and among and dancers. I
overhear Ian Corrigan, Archdruid Emeritus of the neo-Druid group Ar
nDraiocht Fein
, and Reverend Ivan Stang of the href="http://catb.org/jargon//html/H/ha-ha-only-serious.html">ha-ha-only-serious Church of the Subgenius, talking about how they have no idea how to score such a game.

Jugs of "Discordian Juice" - some fruit juice and alcohol mix - get passed around. Rev. Stang produces a jug of "Subgenius Antidote" for the Discordian Juice (it seems to have the same active ingredient) and a hot blond girl grabs me by the hair and makes me drink some. I do not complain.

Around 8am I am exhausted, feel my work is done, start to gather my things. In one of those moments that means nothing to anyone but those involved, I find that my karma is still tangled with that of the only ex-lover with whom I am not on good terms, she is coincidentally standing right where I left my bags, talking to someone seated nearby. We do not speak (the last time I did that, she spat on the ground - yes, the energy remains that toxic) as I pick up my bags and start up the hill, only to be called back to the fire by perhaps my favorite magickal ritual.

A few years ago our good friend Brian Jefferson realized that the chorus from an old soul song makes an excellent chant. And now a bunch of sleep-deprived and intoxicated freaks and seekers dance around and embrace and sing to each other, "I want to thank you / for lettin' me / be myself, again..."

And this is your brain on Starwood.

sleep and love (Starwood workshop writing exercises)

At my Tuesday morning workshop, "Sparking a Creative Inferno"...about a dozen people here, not bad for a 10am slot...

First exercise: a wordlist, generated from the theme "sleep":

pleasant hat dream peace dance snuffles restless blanket nuzzle tired
coffee lack now wonderful

restless in this place
tired and alone
a blanket not enough to warm me
there is one I think of

I remember our dance
firelight warm on her face
her hips under my arm swaying to the drumbeat
lulling me into a wonderful dream of more still more pleasant closeness

report from Brushwood

At Brushwood now, in the lull between Sirius Rising and Starwood...arrived
last night, saw a interesting thing when I got off the highway, a bunch of Amish (or Mennonite?) people playing volleyball, women in bonnets, men in suspenders.

On the ride up, passed under a bridge for "Middle Road", could only think of Buddhism, I was passing under the dharma somehow.

Sitting under my pavilion this evening, playing guitar, a cute girl came up carrying a flute, asked if she could play along. And it occurred to me, hurray for women who aren't shy, if I had to always rely on my bad conversation-starting ability I'd never get to talk to a pretty girl...

Ok, that's a little self-pitying now, ain't it? But still, I find my energy in this endeavor scattered since Cathy broke it off. (I am glad, though, that I went to Red Emma's to buy a copy of the Harry Potter book (which I finished today), reminded me of how many pretty girls seem to hang out there. Oh, and another great revelation - you see lots of pretty Asian girls at the Asian supermarket.)

Good music today, I have neighbors, a couple, the guy plays guitar, the woman stand-up bass (the flautist I met is camped with them), they were playing at their campsite this afternoon, now over at Phil's Grille as I sit across the way in the Starwood bar, great stuff. Then walking in I passed Randolphe (Harris) playing by the side of the road, amazing as always.

Just saw Nicole, she was headed off to meet with Dorian and Jason who just arrived. Brian and Joe are also here, Trisha on the way, so we'll have the Baltimore crew well-represented.

my Starwood workshops

As previously mentioned, I'll be presenting workshops at the Starwood Festival again this year. Now, I know which ones:

Sparking a Creative Inferno

Zelda's Inferno is a weekly Baltimore poetry workshop that has been meeting and writing since 2000. We have only one rule: if you have words on the page at the end of the exercise, you win! Longtime Zelda's coordinator Tom Swiss will lead participants through writing exercises that might show you new ways to spark the fires of creativity. For poets, bards, and writers of all types and abilities.

Self-defense as a Spiritual Practice

You are a manifestation of the divine, a child of the God and Goddess. That makes you a being worth defending; yet our culture's confused attitudes about violence, plus the self-esteem issues faced by many people in the Pagan community, often obscure the fact that self-defense is also defense of the divine principle within all of us. In this workshop we will try to cut through the fog and discuss attitudes and skills to preserve not just your body but your divine nature. Targeted for those without previous martial arts or self-defense training; but experienced students are also welcome. We will practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills for dealing with conflict, and a few simple self-defense techniques.

absence does not always make the heart grow fonder

It seems that absence does not always make the heart grow fonder.

When you're apart from a lover for a while, sometimes you come to realize how much they mean to you; sometimes you come to realize you can get by without them. While I was doing the former, thinking about Cathy quite a bit while I was in Japan, coming to understand how much her presence has meant to me the past few years, she was doing the latter, rethinking whether the whole dynamic of our relationship was working for her, and concluding that it wasn't.

So on my return I'm not just entering in to a whole new sort of relationship with my home country, but also into a new "just friends" one with my lover of the past several years.

Change. There you go.

So I'm a bit sad about that.

Ok, more than a bit.

Not really much more to say about it, still processing I guess.


Right now I'm on the train up to New York for black belt clinic at Honbu. It occurs to me that this would be an absolutely unacceptable ride in Japan; rough jouncy tracks, loud people shouting into cell phones, trains dirty (by Japanese standards) inside and out; freezing over air-conditioning. (Really, turning the AC thermostat up to 76 would save so much energy...)

By the way, I lost almost ten pounds while I was in Japan. Perhaps going to a different country is an extreme weight-loss plan, but walking everywhere and eating smaller portions and less junk, burns off the fat. I haven't weighed 145lbs since I was in high school. If I can maintain about that, it ought to be good for me.

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