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It’s hard to actually write about the Faerie Festival because I get bogged down in looking at old pictures.  This was our 11th year heading off to Spoutwood and it was, as always, magical.

On Friday, Julianna had to go to school for one last day of Econ before an exam and Ben wanted to go to a sleepover birthday party, so it was just Lily and I piling into the van with Bev, Brooke, and Molly.  It was very strange to be two fairies down, I kept counting heads, but only had to get to “one.”  No one was particularly interested in fancy makeup, I was the only one in wings…subdued.

Fridays in general are a bit more low-key at the Festival, which is why I always go that day.  It’s free for kids under 12, so it tends to be a day heavy with baby fae, and who doesn’t love that?  As Bev and I watched a winged toddler dance about the hillside, I remembered the middle aged ladies staring hungrily at MY chubby baby faerie…and now that’s me.

Some of the yummy little winged ones:


She went up the ramp and down the ramp and up the ramp and down the ramp.  About a zillion times.


She was at last year’s fest in her mama’s painted tummy.


Her joy at being accepted by the “big” girls was a-flipping-dorable.

Here was my wee faerie, in 2005:


And thrilled to be with the big girls:


And here she is now, as captured by one of the professional photographers at the Festival:


Even people who’ve seen her within the last year were stunned to see her now.  It was sudden, it was.  One day, I just turned around, looked down to where her face should be and there were boobs there instead.  I really did need a “My eyes are up here!” b/c they were not where I expected.

Julianna has been keeping a 365 Days of Fairies Facebook page, so I took a lot of photos to help her out.  Here are a few of my faves from Friday:


She’s an English teacher and one of her students made her dress out of SAT prep books.  Luckily Julianna wasn’t there that day to set her on fire.



These guys were hunting faeries and chased squealing children, trying to bonk them on the head.  Note the bear’s head gauntlet.


Love a pun costume.


Oh, all right, one more baby fairy.



As usual, I loved the drum circle.  I like to watch the dancers, I love to be in rhythm with my fellow drummers and hear that great sound we make together. 




I swear, I’m actually smiling.  I’m like the Grinch, it takes great effort to curl my mouth up even that far.  I drummed so much Friday, my forearms hurt. And a good thing I got it all in b/c it was crazy-crowded on Saturday and I didn’t bother after a time on a lollipop drum.


My annual picture with Scheherezade.  She’s just lovely and always remembers us and exclaims over how big the kids have gotten.  Our Gypsy Auntie.

Saturday, the girls and I went back.  Chris (who joined us the second year we went and most of the ones after) met us there, as did Kara and Emma (Lily’s buddy from way back).  Here are Lily and Emma the fabled Year That It Rained:


And now:


the Mama faeries:


Why yes, we DID totally coordinate our outfits.

Julianna was off taking photos, so I forgot to get one of her until the very end of the day, at which point she’d taken off her corset.  But she still looks gorgeous.  She was made to dress this way, someday she’ll just succumb and dress as a barmaid full time.


Some of my other favorite shots of the day:


“He’s an albino corn snake!”  “I know.  Let me get a shot of this for your Nonnie.”

A troupe of folks in furry-like costumes were there, really, really impressive:


At the end of the day, after watching my beloved Cu Dubh, a bagpipe and drum group (Lily, on hearing the CD in the car, “What IS this?  I HATE it!”), I bent down to pick up my camera and felt my back seize.  At the time, I stretched and took some ibuprofen but the 90 ride home did me in and I spent the next 4 days in bed.  Not fun.  But totally worth it.  Next time, I hope to injure myself belly dancing…



Okay, so, weddings are over. The peak has been reached, it’s all downhill from here.
That was one helluva party. The wedding itself was lovely. The whole thing took place at the Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden, which is just stunning. We’d gone into this trip with the “this wedding is going to be aMAZing” notion because the bride and groom are successful and clever and have good taste. When I saw the set up for the wedding, I was impressed, but not as overwhelmed as I expected.
The ceremony was under a tree, followed by cookies and drinks in the hedge maze.

Steve did a great job with the service, by the way. Just the right balance of humor and sincerity, nice measured tones. He’s available for all your wedding needs. Look how cute he is in his stole:

So they got married and turned us loose on the cookies and it was lovely, but you know, just nice.

Then they took us down to the reception.

Ho-ly crap.

The bride is a visual designer and money was no object. Trams took the guests to a meadow near the beach. There were tents and pavilions with fluttering curtains and comfortable furniture. Nary a folding chair in sight.



I’ll have more pictures when I’m home and can download from my non-phone camera.

Then the Japanese taiko drummers started:

Video to follow, it’s amazing.
A terrific dj took over from there while the cater waiters circulated around, bringing us wonderous food while we sprawled on our various divans. As night fell, someone scattered little LED marbles around on the lawn. They winked in and out like fairy lights. Children in fancy wedding clothes gathered them and tossed them around. Magical. Steve and I walked out to the beach and returned to find a scene out of a Coppola movie. The spectacle parts, not the strewn-with-bodies parts. There was a troupe of fire dancers, their hoops illuminating the crowd. We were behind the show, but it may have been even better from that angle. We got to see the spangled, synchronized twirling AND the girl whose job it was to snuff all those fires as the dancers exchanged hoops for batons or batons for fire poi balls.

A fire was built on the beach and s’mores fixin’s were laid out. There was a local gal whacking open coconuts with a machete to offer ice cold coconut water (you could also get rum and vodka mixed in, but really, why mess with it).

In the dark, each cabana was lit a different color, the paper globes bobbed in the breeze, the marbles winked in and out…it was a thing to see. Impressive. I felt bad for as-yet-unmarrieds, because you can’t compete with this.

So, it’s pretty here. We woke to find that this is the view from our room:

We’re at a Marriott property, and they’re always nice, but this one is…grand. Huge columns holding up those open-air spaces that you see on TV. Massive ceramic urns. 10 ft tall concrete fish. Where do these things come from? It there a factory that just makes giant hotel decor? And can some one find me video of the 10 ft high fish factory floor? Or maybe the truck filled with them?


We hadn’t gotten our car yet, so we had to walk to breakfast. We ate at The Feral Pig (because why wouldn’t you?) and watched a chicken think about crossing the road. Service here is famously leisurely, so there was lots of time. Steve got something called a Feral Moco, which was a bed of fried rice topped with a burger, topped with pork belly, topped with fried eggs, topped with brown gravy. I got porky tacos.


They were under spiced and not very exciting. And it turns out chickens are EVERYwhere, so we didn’t even need that.

Seriously. There are chickens all over the place. Mostly roosters; it’s like a Fire Island for chickens.


On the walk back, Steve took his life into his own hands:


Look out! Bear shark! Wave!

We got our rental car from a local place for way WAY less than the chains were charging. It’s run by a couple that opened it as a way to live here. They used to visit every year and decided to find a way to move to the island. I can see how that would happen. Look at this:



Yes, I’m keeping an eye out for Vincent the dog and the smoke monster.

We went to the rehearsal for the wedding. It’s being held at a botanical garden. Plants here look fake, like silk plants you’d dismiss as unrealistic.


Of course it’s killing me to not know the names of these things, I’ll have to get an app or a book. Turns out this is where they grow those cell phone towers:
(Photo is at the end. Hard to edit on my phone)

I spent my time at the rehearsal dinner trying to avoid social interaction. Sadly, making small talk with strangers is not a thing that has gotten easier with age. I was looking enviously at the women with babies-they get to pretend the baby needs them. That sure made things easier. I should rent a baby for social occasions…

On one of my forays into solitude, I noticed that the night sky looks different. Logically, of course it does, but it was still weird. I’m no astronomer, but things were clearly not where they should be. And so MANY stars, really beautiful. Like everything else.

In the preview, it’s showing that the last two paragraphs are underlines and blue. Don’t know why. Not going to worry about it. I’m all Mahalo, yo.


We’re in Kauai! We left Dulles at 9am and arrived here around 7:45, which is 12:45 in Real Time. I’m trying to hang on until 10. So tired.

We flew Virgin from DC to LAX, Delta the rest of the way. It was like going from a well-maintained 2010 Infiniti to a 1986 K car. A K car filled with unhappy babies. We were grateful to finally land.

Waiting for the bags to arrive we got to hear a video being played over and over. The gist of it was “the ocean is a death trap, best to just stay on your room.” The oft repeated mantra was “when in doubt, don’t go out.” Actual quote: even when walking too close to the surf, a wave can knock you down and a rip current will take you.. And then “don’t panic,” which is fine for the Hitchikers Guide, but near useless if you put me in a phobia situation. I’ll maybe stay well up the beach with an umbrella drink, thanks. And I won’t pick up any tiki heads.

More when I’m awake and there is light by which to see.

We first went to the Fairie Festival in 2004.  I found out about it late, and we just jaunted up for a few hours on a Sunday.  So this was our 8th year trekking up to Glen Rock, and–as in the past few years–staying for two days.  Our entourage is different each time.  For the first time since my first trip, Chris and her girls couldn’t make it (kid in a cast).  And for the first time, our neighbor Lisa and her daughter joined us.  They came over with the Donalds so that we could get our fairy make-up on.  It was forecast to be hot and humid, so I opted to go without, but I painted some swirls on the girls.

Bev asked if I wanted to lead on the way out.  Will we never learn?  She has a bad sense of direction.  I have a very bad sense of direction.  Together, we’d get lost in our own houses.  She called me, about 5 min. in…”You’re not taking 26?” (she’s very polite.  She didn’t say “Where on EARTH are you going?”)  I realized I’d read the Mapquest directions (it’s true.  I cannot remember how to get there from year to year.  And yet I was in the lead!) wrong, so I told her to just pass me and lead us on.  It went off without a hitch after that.  “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Buffy” Musical episode sing-along in the car.  We parked, covered ourselves with sunscreen and glitter and headed in.

We had enjoyed volunteering to earn our admission fee back last year, so Julianna and I signed up again.  But we’d missed the window for the craft tents.  I got assigned the Tot Lot (quiet spot for nursing mothers and wee ones), and Julianna decided to just hang out with Molly, since she was only going to be with us one day. We started with the opening ceremony, as usual, where the Greenman talked some kids through…watering the Maypole or something?  I was busy with the “I’ll be here at this time”s so the kids could find me if they wanted to.

A mason jar full of virgin’s tears must be poured on the ground to appease the angry grass gods.

It was a low-key sort of fest this time.  Hot, but not the hottest.  The music was better than last year.  Fewer vendors, both of food and of pretty things.  The crowd on Friday was pretty light, but that’s why we go on Friday.  We met Stacey and Annika there, and stayed at their house  that night.

Lily (in the dress Brooke wore last year) and Annika. Lily and Ben couldn’t start buying snacks fast enough.

Julianna and Molly cool their toes in the stream

None of us even wore wings this year.  I started to grab an old pair at the last minute, but couldn’t make them lay right.  Wings, when you’re not a real fairy, are kind of a hassle.  But I felt a bit off without them once I got there.

My stint in the Tot Lot was very uneventful, it was late-ish in the day, and no one came by.  I think the day’s highlight was when Otter, mud-covered leader of the River Tribe tried to give Lisa, who was wearing very tidy Normal Person clothes, a hug.  We had a bit of a Braddock Heights gathering once we found Lara with Wolfgang and August and another neighbor, Wendy, with her two girls.

I don’t tower over Bev quite so much when I’m not standing on a hillock.

I don’t know these people, but I was utterly charmed by the matching paint on her babies.

August was a werewolf…until the heat got to him. There’s a reason werewolves are not a Southern construct.

Drum circle. The woman with the antlers (there’s a phrase you don’t see much!) had the whitest skin I’ve ever seen. And so much of it!

Lily, drumming

August (skinned), Wolfgang, Julianna, and Molly, at the drum circle, not dancing.

Blair and her friend, Maggie. This picture just cracked me up.

Ben, in a rare not-eating-popcorn moment

My very tired fairies, invisible wings a-droop.

We drove 20 in to Hanover to stay with Stacey for the night.  She has 3 French Bulldogs.  They look like Stitch from Lilo and Stitch or, if you’re a Thomas Covenant fan, those black puppy things that were all teeth and dense energy.  Stacey knows the owner-of-exuberant-dogs trick of saying “Wow!  He really likes you!” so that you’re flattered by being covered in dog spit and hair instead of annoyed.  Very clever, Stace, but I’m on to you.

Lily decided she couldn’t sleep on the top bunk, so I said I would.  Tip to 44 year olds of non-pixie-ish size: the top bunk is not for you.  It was about 2 feet from the ceiling and full of stuffed animals, and as soon as I got up there, I thought “I sure hope I don’t have to pee in the middle of the night…I sure have to pee.”  I’d climb back up, doze off, awaken, and think, “I sure hope I don’t need to pee again…wow, I need to pee.”  Just like camping, but with a mountainous ascent each time!

So I was tired the next day.  We had a nice visit, though, and Stacey found a willing Disney-chat ear in Ben.  The kids are threatening to swipe a credit card and go with her next time.  I bid them good luck getting much farther than Georgia on that thing.

This time, Julianna and I asked for a volunteer job we could do first thing, so that by the time Bev and her girls got there, we’d be nearly done.  We got to be “Yellow Paiges” and stand at the front gate handing out programs.  It was excellent fun, as we got to see all the costumes as they came in, I got my favorite level of social interaction (“Hey, how ya doin’?  bye!”), AND I got to work on my carnival barker skills.

“Kubiando! If you become lost or confused during your day, look for the Yellow Paiges.  The Yellow Paiges are full of information!  If there’s something you don’t know, Yellow Paiges are the way to go!” And I had some other rhymes, but they’ve already left me.  it’s a fleeting skill.

We ended up serving more than our time, as communication and timely response don’t see highly valued in the Fairie-American community. But it was fun.  Ben came up to visit us and go read the protesters’ signs.  He was so happy they were there, but disappointed that the signs this year were of the boring “Wiccans are bad” variety (for the record, not a Wiccan festival, although I’m sure there are plenty in attendance).  Julianna was handed a flyer for a “clothing optional” fairy festival “Where you can wear your wings and nothing else” was the tagline.  There’s a fairy ball (snort.  I bet there is.  And I bet it hangs lower than you’d hope) and “spontaneous drum circles.”  Also, a firehoop dancer, whom I imagine is a devout body-waxer.  And just let me state for the record: clothing is never “optional.”  Either you should or should not be wearing it.  Also, do not hand my 15 year old an invitation to a nudist ball, you creepy old dude. sometimes Mama Fairies get judgey and indignant.

Bev showed up with Brooke, Blair,and a friend, so we joined them when we finally got sprung from service.

Blair and her friend, Maggie. This picture just cracked me up.

Julianna on the bridge

Bird mask magician dude, entertaining some fairies

A rare Actually Smiling photo of me.

that’s more like it.

Ben cornered the Kettle Corn market. he had three bags of it in his pack.

Kid with a skink in his pocket. there was also a bearded dragon wearing a wee pair of wings. I always wonder what the lizards think of this whole thing. if they think, that is.

Lily and Rachel the belly dancer. She’s danced with Brooke and Lily for years. But when I try to take pictures, she reacts kind of like a peacock and starts strutting and fanning out her scarves and carrying on. I’m not trying to get YOU, lady. I want the little girl.

Cooling off in the stream before heading home.  Lily and Skinkboy

Maggie, Lily, Blair, and Brooke

And so we headed home, tired and happy.  it was Cinco de Mayo, so we couldn’t eat at our usual Mexican place on the way home, but it was just as well.  I’d have likely gone face-down in my food.  As usual, we vowed to try to have a booth next year.  This time, we’ve added the vow to bring the goats, with little goat wings and strap on horns…



As you sit on your no-doubt fabulous, crumb free couch, clutching one of your many cats and wondering where your time with your babies has gone, and waxing nostalgic about the whole nine yards, remember this day:

Took Ben and Lily to school.

Went to Home Depot to buy some cleaning supplies to tackle shameful bathroom.

Went to Costco for more cleaning supplies (vinegar and baking soda in bulk) to maintain semi-cleanliness of said bathroom.

Went home, scoured bathroom.  Ew.

At 1 pm, loaded recalcitrant goats into back of van to go to school.  Took goats to school for Lily to show them off as part of her science fair presentation.  As per school rules, did not let any one touch them.  That’s right, no one is allowed to touch the goats.  Because school has strip club rules.  Loaded over-excited goats into the van, went home.

Noted van is full of hay (and probably goat poop), recalled that next week is carpool week.  Took van to carwash and vac’d it out.

Got Julianna from where her weird car pool drops her off.

Tookher home.

Got Ben and Lily.

Brought them home, where Ben got his guitar and Lily got on her field hockey gear and they shoved some food in their faces.

Took Lily to field hockey.

Took Ben to guitar.

Went to bank to get money to pay for guitar lessons b/c checkbook is MIA.

Went back to get Ben.

Took Ben home.

Got Lily from field hockey.

Took her home.

She got out of the car and Julianna climbed into it and I took her to a high school performance of Little Shop of Horrors.

Went to store to get some provisions for tomorrow’s trip to the Fairie Festival.

Went home.

Went back out to get Julianna from play.

1/2 tank of gas. 175 miles.

So just enjoy sitting on that sofa with those cats.

ARGH!  I had a long and lovely post.  Went to publish it and WP hiccuped and away went everything I’d written that day.  So I still had a previously saved first half, but have to recreate the second half.  which I’ve put off and put off b/c I hate to write a thing twice.  I don’t even proofread, let alone rewrite.  So grr.  But here you go.

While we went to sleep Tuesday night to an impressive storm–tent walls heaving in and out, torrential rain–I was so tired I sacked out cold and woke around 11:30 to utter calm.  No wind, no rain, no waves.  Wednesday dawned bright and clear.

Frederick Joe came by for breakfast and we chatted about the places we go and things we do.  He turns out to live near where the kids went rock climbing with 4-H.  Really, how weird is it that two vans from Frederick drove to this tiny spot in Wisconsin?  150 people, and 6 of us are from the same town, two days’ drive away.

After breakfast, Emily, Grace, Julianna, and I did a porcupine quill jewelry class.  The instructor, Ginny, had no idea what she was in for, bless ‘er.  She’d placed no limits on age or number and just got flooded with folks.  She took kids first, and I helped out a bit since I have made jewelry in the past (albeit not with my Leatherman pliers).  Once we got the swarm of kids cleared away, I got to make my own earrings.  They were simple, but very pretty and surprisingly light.  Ginny had “harvested” the quills from the THREE roadkill porcupines she passed on the way to the Gathering.  (She says she came upon them.  I’ll just push that image of her swerving her car on a porcupine hunting expedition out of my mind…”I need more QUILLS!”)  Sadly, we did not get to eat roadkill porcupine.  PORCupine, the Other White meat.

Rockin' my earrings. Better photo to come

Shortly after starting my earrings, it became clear that we could use more scissors.  I volunteered to pop back to camp and get mine.  I returned minutes later to find Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl in my spot.  My spot that contained my stuff and my water bottle, wedged between two other people.  Emily assures me that she just plopped her skinny ass down with nary a “is this spot taken?” or “is this your stuff?”  Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl (HNDG) is half of a new couple at the Gathering.  Her beloved, Dreadlock Egg Sac Boy, has his enormous blonde dreadlocks pulled back in a manner that makes his head shaped like the Alien from Alien or like he has some manner of egg sac on the back of his head.  Also, pointy goatee, suggesting he’s an Evil Twin.  On the first day, she was cavorting topless in the waves.  Nudity is a no-no here, but we’ll give them a pass b/c they are new and we hadn’t had Opening Circle (it IS in the rules on-line though.  but I’m being all laid-back and chill).  After that first day, she had the grace to wear an open-weave crocheted bikini top all week (with an attractive tapestry vest over it if it got chilly).  I’ve said that there are no hippies at hippie camp, but these two have that vibe.  They were more Burning Man than Gathering.  Like a catalog-order version of a real attendee.  They irked me.  can you tell?  She showed up late for most of the classes I took and assumed she’d get immediate and personal attention.  She was never mean or anything, just entitled.  She had that Rich Girl obliviousness that can be rawther off-putting.  Trustafarians.

Lunch, then needlefelting.  I’d done it before a couple of times, but Lily wanted me to join her in it, so I did.  She was needlefelting a little cat, I decided to put a design on one of the sweaters I’d chopped up and re-made.  I adore the instructor, Maria, who I think started coming the same year we did.  She’s sweet and young and crafty.  Also has trouble telling kids “no.”  It’s okay to insist that your tools be used properly.  Really.  The kids will get over the trauma of not being allowed to do whatever they want.

Today’s swim was short, as I just couldn’t get into the groove needed to really enjoy that water.  The wind had a chill to it that kept me from relaxing.  So I just sat on the beach and read until it was time to make dinner.  The sun felt soooo good on my skin.  I turned part lizard and just basked.

After dinner, I knitted on the beach for a bit and then headed over to the trading blanket.  I thought I’d take a hat I’d made to trade in case I saw a knife for Ben.  I had avoided the trading blanket like the plague after that first year.  It seemed more laid back and less…mimey now.  A person puts out, say, a jar of preserves.  The people who would like that jar take up the things they are willing to trade for it and leave them on the blanket.  The owner of the preserves then looks over the offers and chooses one (or decides not to trade), and exchanges goods with the winning bidder.  Next person takes up something and so on.  Some of the antics of folks trying to “describe” their item w/o talking were funny and the small children who’d just run up and snag a thing they wanted were cracking me up.

There were lovely hides on display to sell or trade (they sell for over $100) and they’re soooo soft and I want them.  But 44 year old suburban white lady in a buckskin skirt?  I don’t think so.  74? no problem.  24? sure.  But I’m in that REI zone, I think.

Usual hunt for children at dusk.  That is a big part of what the Gathering is, for me.  It’s almost dark, I can’t see, I have no idea where at least one, usually two of my kids are.  I know they’re fine, but there’s always that part of your brain that says ‘what about the lake?” or ” what about those dense woods?”  I send out a thanks to all the parents and kid-friendly folk who so kindly took in my kids and kept an eye on them.  This freedom to meander is important enough to my kids for me to get past the lost-kid anxiety.

On Thursday, Steve, Ben, Julianna, and I were all signed up to take a spoon carving class with Yuri.  Lily went off to finish needle-felting her cat and to felt a gazillion other things (bless Maria’s patience and aforementioned disinclination to say No).  carving was both harder and more satisfying than I expected.  When Yuri showed us what to do, it looked like he was carving a bar of soap with a hot knife.  When went to do the same, it was like I was trying to carve the wood with a plastic spork.  But it was enjoyable.  I felt very butch to go to bed that night with a bruise on my chest, just like Yuri said he often got.

We took a lunch break, and while waiting for Yuri to come back again, I sat in on Joe’s botany class.  It’s the class I loved last year, using a botany key to identify plants.  It was still fun, and I was still able to Win at Plants so yay!  I was the only of our family to go back to carving that afternoon, but you don’t Win at Spoon by going swimming.  It was hard to tell how I was doing, as Yuri has that Scandinavian taciturn thing going on.  “‘S good.  Just take it down some more here.”  “‘S good.  You might want to take in the handle some.”  But when I declared it done and had him put it into the oil to soak, the other spoon-carving guy, Rod, said “Wow, who did that one?” so Win!  And on Saturday, when I went to pick up the spoons after their soak, even Yuri told me what a good job I’d done.  Gold star!  He also said that Julianna’s was really good and that Ben’s was impressive for his age.  Steve’s was coming along nicely, but he over-carved and ended up snapping it in two.  He’s game to try again, though, so I got some blanks to carve more.  But let’s be clear: I won.

Steve and Ben at their spoon carving

Julianna cuts off everything that isn't a spoon

After dinner, we went to square dancing.  it was humid and buggy again this year, but still so much fun.  I was inspired to maybe learn to call dances (and, you know, Win at Square Dance) just to be able to make that much happy happen.  Great music, dancing with rules, lots of silliness.  What’s better?

My camera doesn't like low light OR movement. But there are Steve and Lily

I bid Steve goodnight and walked down to the beach to fetch our teenagers.  They were all sitting around a fire and begged to stay until 10pm, quiet hours.  Making them swear to come back at 10, we left them.  It was such a good space of the teens, they have freedom, but lots of adults around.  They were constantly playing games together, the sorts of games that let them tussle a bit, have a safe physical outlet–capture the flag, red rover.  The first year that we were at the Gathering, there was this little group of teen girls who walked around dressed as if they were at the mall.  We noticed at the time that there were very few teens, it really went up to about 12 and then jumped to 20somethings.  Now those 12 year olds ARE the teens, and they fit in very nicely.  A lot of the teen boys were new this year, but I bet they come back. Wouldn’t you?

Even with her tongue out, Grace is cute

As we walked up the beach, I voiced regret at having to go back and face responsibilities, esp. the heavier 4-H load I’d agreed to take on.  Michael asked what the 4-H’s were, so I recited the “Head, Heart, Hands, Health” pledge.  Andrea, sitting near our camp as we arrived, asked “Do you know the Girl Scout pledge, too?”  So I told her that I was never a girl scout, but had been an Indian Princess.  She guffawed, “A what?”  And so I explained it to her and told her how I was in the Blacklick tribe (“the WHAT?”  No, really, it’s a real tribe.  I think.) and my dad was Big White Oak and I was Little White Oak (oh, I assure you, I lobbied HARD for a horse-related name), and my mom made me awesome pants with an orange fringe down the side and we had vinyl fringey vests and we could work to earn feathers for our headbands (“You did NOT!”) or wampum beads (“Nuh-UH!) or patches for our cool vests.  She declared “that is the most un-PC thing I have ever heard of.”  And yeah, pretty out of touch–and I’m stunned that it still seems to exist–but it was always respectful (albeit in its own anachronistic way) of Native American culture and it was father-daughter thing, which meant the world to me.  But man, did that ever make me feel like I was old enough to have seen a minstrel show.

Oh, and also on Thursday?  Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl and the beloved took their canoe out onto the lake…backwards.

Capture The Flag "jail"

Lily rocking the sandals she made

I awoke Monday morning vowing to get the Nobel prize for the person who invents a silent tent zipper.  I got very little sleep, between the constant zipping up and down of my neighbors and Ben’s frequent shouting in his sleep.   Usually, it wasn’t any sort of agitation he shouted about, mostly he was just loud.  Loudly declaiming about marshmallows.  At 2 am.  ZIIIIIIIP!

My first class of the Gathering was a grass mat-making class.  Lily took it with me.  Our instructor, Dan, was a good teacher and very funny.  He’s a tobacco chewer, however, and made me grateful this is not a vice I encounter in my everyday life.  At the outset, he said “Sorry, this is the only time all year I get to do this,” and shoved some chaw into his mouth.  And then, at short intervals, spat into a juice bottle.  A juice bottle that, increasingly, appeared to contain diarrhea.   I’m all for freedom to do with your body as you please.  And hey, it’s once a year, enjoy!  But please, please, wait for the 2 hours the class takes.  I had to keep averting my eyes and a Hermione like myself is compelled to make eye contact with a teacher, so that he or she knows I get it and I’m engaged (it’s how I mask having not done the reading).  Anyway.  Lily and I made a mat each. And by “Lily and I” I mean “I made a mat for me and one for Lily.”

Dan had said that he knew people who’d made sleeping bags of grasses using the technique we learned.  These people apparently have an exoskeleton, b/c I was covered in an itchy rash by lunch time.  I didn’t have an afternoon class, so Emily and I got into the lake.  The sun was nice and warm, in the low 80s (and no humidity!  I love this place!) but the water is c o l d.  Probably around 60, Emily said.  Emily and I hung out and chatted for quite awhile.  I went to make a “chattering mouth” motion with my hand, to illustrate someone or other who was talking too much and noticed that my hand didn’t quite work the way I wanted it too.  Noticed that my arms were kind of noodly.  We remembered Joe, at the morning circle, telling us about “cold shock” and how your blood all goes to your torso to keep your organs warm, leaving you with “noodle arms.”  Turns out he wasn’t kidding.  We were never in any sort of danger, of course, since we were standing on the ground, not floating way out from shore, but it was still kind of freaky.  An enjoyable “hey check this out” kind of freaky.  As we warmed on the beach, I could feel the warmth returning to my extremities.  Lake Superior isn’t messin’ around.

Felt good, though.  I really do love that lake.  There’s an interesting lack of life (and death) that I associate with the beach.  I’d see a hole in the sand and think “crab,” but there are no crabs or critters of any kind.  No washed up bits of sea creatures or aquatic plants.  Pretty round river rocks, not shells.  The seagulls are quiet.  The water is so clear that you can see your feet in water to your neck.  And because it’s fresh water, rather than salt, when you get out you feel tingly and clean, not sticky.

Steve, you may recall, does not camp with us.  He stays here:

See the cutey little donkeys hanging around outside?  They watched him jump rope in the morning.  He camped as a kid and is done.  Also, he likes to breathe at night and needs a bi-pap to do that properly.  And that requires electricity.  So he rises to a fresh omelet made from eggs from the backyard and comes in to camp in time for any classes he wants or just to hang out on the beach or in the lake.

On Monday, he showed fairly late and we hung out on the beach, reading, until Ben showed up.  He and Ezra (Michael and Emily’s son) get on like two cats in a bag, so we had to do a fair bit of refereeing.  It really is the only tough note in our time at camp.  We’re all hoping they grow out of it…

After dinner, we went to the welcome circle.  Everyone introduces themselves and says a bit–how many years they’ve come, how glad they are to be back.  That’s always the point at which I dispel all thoughts of not coming back and vow to return until I can no longer make the drive.  It has the feeling of a family reunion of sorts, catching up,  or even just seeing the familiar faces.  Remember Roach and Amelia, who taught the raw venison jerky class last year (Roach says the maggots are okay, remember?)?  They got married and Amelia’s pregnant!  They met at the Gathering 4 years ago.  We all got a little misty when Roach told their story.  And then, after the circle, a guy came up and said “Hey, are you from Maryland?”  And I said yes.  “Where?”  Frederick.  “Me too, I live out near Detrick!”  Yes, another guy from Frederick was there.  We have no overlap that I can discern, and yet we both made the journey.  Wild.

We had to break up the games of Foot tag and Red Rover that the kids were playing on the beach so that we could trundle off to bed.  Sundown means bedtime ’round here.  They all cried “No Fair!” but by the time our lot had brushed their teeth and gone into the tents I could hear that the games were over and everyone else had gone “home” too.  I fell asleep listening to a fiddle playing down the beach, serenading the 20somethings as they danced under the full moon.  I wondered if I could have enjoyed this as much at that age.  I’m not sure I was that girl, but I sure wish I was.

"Red Rover, Red Rover, send...Zac. WHAT is on your head?"

Ben is airborn for a Red Rover breakthrough attempt

There was a light rain in the night, but Tuesday dawned bright and cloudless.  I’d planned to go into town with Steve, so I didn’t sign up for a morning class.  After Joe hauled our van out of the ditch on the side of the road (it claims many vehicles every year), Ben joined us and we headed off to Bayfield for some smoked fish.  SUCH a cute town.  I was totally ready to move there.  I didn’t take my camera and I can’t find a shot on the web that really captures it, but it was a perfect little sea (okay, lake)-side village.  It’s a fishing town, so it even smelled right and the gulls were noisy b/c there were people to give them french fries.  It’s built on hills, so it looked like Cornwall, England (my newest obsession after seeing it in the show Doc Martin) and I want to live there.  Now.  Forever.  Apparently, and of course, it is expensive.

We were on Knife Quest 2011, trying to find Ben a fixed blade knife.  He was at his usual level of obsession.  We searched everywhere and came up empty.  We soothed the pain by stopping at Tetzner’s Dairy and getting ice cream to bring back.  I can’t believe we never got a shot of the ice cream gorge, since we did it 3 times, but we were “The camp with ice cream.”  Good ice cream.  Like you’d expect to get from a Wisconsin dairy where you drive to the farm and put your money in the envelope and take the ice cream.  good.

We swam again when we got in and then made dinner.  The kids got up a rollicking game of Capture the Flag, cutting up a yellow and a red Tshirt to give everyone an arm band.  The teens, in particular, really enjoyed these games and they were playing as often as not.  I know my kids got more exercise in that week than the rest of the summer–counting swim team!  It was good to see, but it made me a little sad that there are no neighborhood pick-up games like this.  Capture the Flag was elaborate and wide ranging, with “guards” in the water and up in the camp as well as on the beach.  Kids from 6 or 7 up into the 20s were playing.

Julianna and others "in jail" waiting to be freed

The first night of the trading blanket didn’t go well for Ben.  Last year, he’d made a wooden knife and traded it for a real (if rather crappy) folding knife.  He made another one this year, even less well-crafted, and was disappointed to get no more than a cigar box and a couple of turkey feathers (“From the guy that gives you something if no one else will!!”)  It was hard to see him so sad, so often, but hopefully the good times won out.  He seemed to settle in and find a way to get along as the week went on.

After Capture the Flag, Michael and Skogin (one of the “freegans”) were grappling on the beach.  in their drawers.  We’ve teased them (and they play along) about their “bromance” and much hilarity surrounded their lake-side wrasslin’.  One kid, though, thought Skogin was a girl and was utterly scandalized that anyone would get that close to a girl.   Ew.  Like turning a hose on the dogs, though, it started to rain and we headed back to batten down the hatches, expecting a doozy.

Where are our pancakes?

Grandfather stones

Ezra crafting armpit hair for Grace

…DOS, get it?  Day two!  It was much warmer.  Still a bit of a chill, but I switched back to my standard long hippie fairy skirt and shoes with soles that kept me out of the mud.  Saturday is always more crowded than Friday and the weather was pretty close to perfect so it was packed.  Still lovely, though.  Still peaceful.  The mid-day drum circle was too crowded to really be fun, but the last one of the day was fantastic.

We’d tried to get there at opening to get our pick of volunteer jobs.  Breakfast in our hotel, however, was a languorous affair.  Even so, we got to go back to the arts and crafts table.  this time, we got to make a LOT more wings.  Julianna and Blair made fairy monocles.  The too-young-to-volunteer folk went out to buy junk food and check back in now and again.  As usual, I left scheming how I could stay longer next time.

Opening Maypole dance.

Lily, Anika, and Brooke

Julianna and I watching a show

Cindy-lou Who eats the chocolate off a pretzel

The wonderful Sheherezade the Gypsy, who remembers us each year and greets us at the gate with warm smiles and hugs.

Oops, had the pics set small.  too lazy to go back…

Look! It's Stacey! She met us there the second day, with Anika

Me 'n' Bev. I'm a delight to have as a friend.

Annika and Lily watching the dancing

Moss Man and entourage

Lily, Ben and I spent quite a while racing leaves in the creek. Like Poohsticks, but with leaves. And cheating.

Ben up a tree

Julianna and I "dancing"--in my case, stomping rhythmically and swishing my skirt.

i much prefer drumming to dancing.

This was Day One, but I forgot it. Molly and Julianna

I loved the drum I could straddle. I missed my calling. Instead of dating drummers, I should have BEEN a drummer.

I went on my first hike with the 4-H Pack Goat group on Sunday.  If the housing market wasn’t such a horror show, I’d put my house on the market right now and buy land so I could have goats.  LOVED the goats.  So ornery.  And we know I love an ornery critter.  Brian, our fearless leader, was having trouble with his usual goatmobile, so he showed up in a rental van full of goats:

this picture never stops cracking me up.

I popped in the front to scratch their ears and whoooo-WEE it was stinky in there.  I was imagining the next person to rent the van saying “DAY-UM, smells like they were hauling goats in here, jeez!”  But I think the picture would make an awesome U-Haul ad

While the goats were tied up, waiting for us to go, hikers kept showing up at the trail head and chatting with us about the goats.  To a person, they each said,”Well THAT’S not something you see on the trail every day.   One woman said “Um, your goat!” and pointed.  Oreo, the oldest of the goats, was ripping all the notices off the trail head bulletin board and eating them.  “This is crap.  That is a lie.  Nonsense. Ranger Propaganda…”

The kids got a talk about toxic plants we’d encounter along the way.  Apparently mountain laurel is really toxic to goats and it is EVERYwhere at the park.  In bloom and gorgeous, but toxic.  So the goats all had to wear little muzzles.  They were not amused by them.  Oreo kept trying to sneeze his off. Probably to eat some more park notices.  Especially the ones about toxic plants.

This is Oreo.

The trail was fun with the goats.  There were two baby goats along and they’d periodically just pop up into the air and kick their heels.  Just joyous to be out in a new place.  Oreo was the leader, but he’d periodically just lay down.  Not all the way, like he was actually tired, just part of the way, making it clear that he was just being a jerk.  He’d squat there until the other goats started to get ahead of him and then he’d lurch up and trot to the front.  Loved him.

His handler kept saying “Oh, he’s not usually like this!” and swearing he was the Best Pack Goat Ever.  It really cracked me up to hear the girls (there are boys in the club, but they weren’t there) bragging about their goats and playing up their brilliance.  It hit me that it was like Pony Club–only for the slightly odd girls.  And by odd, of course, I mean awesome.

Julianna and Lotte:

taking a break

We stopped a few times, since most of the goats were new to this and the old hands had had a lot of time off.  near the top of the trail, we stopped in a little clearing for a while and the girls chatted and cuddled the goats.

Next month, Julianna is going to go to a weekend goat gathering in Ohio.  I’m hosting a party that day, so I have to miss it.  I’m sorry to miss the camp.  but not so much the van ride.


July 2018
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