Last week, I explained how my friend and I embraced spontaneity and found ourselves in a car to an intentional community in eastern Massachusetts.
After a 90-minute drive filled with storytelling, contemplation, and laughter, U pulled into the community’s driveway. As Quiver and I unloaded our packs, U’s mother rushed out to meet her daughter, informing her that a distant relative whom neither woman had met just died. Instantly, U started sobbing. As soon as I had a chance to reflect on the occasion, I was struck by the depth to which U grieved about someone she didn’t know among people she’d only just met; that sort of emotional response is certainly uncommon.
A priestess of a neo-Mayan form of Paganism, U immediately began an elaborate ritual intended to help the spirit of her relative cross over to the next realm. She implored Quiver and me to join in, which we did — he without reservation and me self-consciously. (Unitarian Universalists are called “God’s Frozen People” for a reason; it’s not exactly in my nature to chant and dance and make music without practice and with abandon, but I sure tried!)
After a half-hour beside the indoor altar, U gave Quiver and me incense and herbs and led us outside to a labyrinth. There, we walked and twirled and meditated until, in the warm sunlight and amid the blowing grasses, I began to relax and mentally join in the rite. We sat on the throne to Isis and Osiris and invoked gods and goddesses of numerous cultures and several millennia. Then, we gathered at the fire pit in the center of the labyrinth.
We sat around the fire as U sang and prayed, and Quiver and I followed her instructions in adding the incense and herbs to the fire. As the smoke from the fire encircled us and U continued singing, I began to feel odd. U invited us to stand and look heavenward, and I did and promptly fainted.
When I came to, Quiver was holding my hand and U was gently massaging my shoulders and singing. When she saw my eyes flutter open, U, who I usually describe as the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, explained that everything was all right and that she would now “massage [me] back to the world of the flesh.” Quiver caught my eye and smiled a bit, with a “this is the stuff dreams are made of” look.
When I was strong enough to stand, U and Quiver supported me as we walked to the herb-infused hot tub, where, as instructed, we stripped and soaked in order to cleanse ourselves and complete the ritual.
After that, our stay at U’s intentional community was less dramatic but no less interesting. Together, we traveled to Massachusetts’ North Shore, where we performed the Five Tibetan Rites on the sand and sang to “La Luna” as she rose over the sea. We stargazed in happy companionship before vortexing our way back to the community. There, Quiver and I slept in a brightly painted loft, not far from the “omniamorous” (because she is “in love with all Creation”) U and her partner.
The next morning, we breakfasted on food from the community’s garden, sat outside and discussed religion, spread out maps and (drawing on our extensive collective hitchhiking experienced) planned out our trip a bit, and toured the community before packing up and hitting the road. The 26 hours that I’d spent in U’s community had been unlike any I’d experienced before, and I wanted to ensure that I didn’t forget anything about them. However, while the sun shines, a hitchhiker is in constant motion, so, even as I worked to process and memorize the details of the previous day, I stuck out my thumb and headed to New Hampshire.
To be continued…