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Summerland Gathering: Aug 26-28, 2005

The weekend started well. I packed up on Wednesday night, preparing to head out immediately after work on Thursday. I dropped by Fly-By-Night on Thursday to pick up Psyche's stuff to help her transport her shop for the weekend.

Once most things were together, I headed to Yellow Springs to go take care of getting setup in preparation for picking up Monika at the Dayton airport. I set up the tent and prepared some sleeping arrangements. I checked with 6th Night to see if they needed any help, found that they didn't, and sat down with Kirk and Skip and Selene and Orion and everyone else.

Skip showed me a copy of his new book, The Solitary Druid, and pointed out a particular item of interest: I'm listed in the acknowledgements. It's just my first name, so almost no one is going to know, but I will, and that's what's important to me.

I left around 8:45 PM to pick up Monika. On my way out, I saw a floating head projected onto a screen in the middle of nowhere, but on the way back we found out that it was a movie. I pulled out onto the interstate, looking forward to seeing her. I admit to a good deal of excitement, as I hadn't seen her in a while, and I always miss her terribly. Unfortunately, the last two or three miles of I-70 had four perfectly good lanes closed down for "construction", even though the construction vehicles were taking up a single lane. I despise late night traffic.

But I got through, and I parked in the short-term parking area only about ten minutes late. Coming through the doors, I glanced around, checking the arrival boards (and carefully avoiding the departure boards), and saw Monika sitting near the baggage claim, waiting for me, a smile brightening my (rather tired) world.

I wandered over, gave her a hug, complimented her hair, and grabbed one of her bags. We wandered out into the night, and headed off to find a place to eat, as I'd promised her dinner.

First, we stopped at a Steak-N-Shake, but while in the parking lot, we saw that there was an Olive Garden across the way. We looked at each other, I put the car in reverse, and we headed over there, hoping that they were still open. We missed the closing time by about ten minutes, and so it was time to head back to Steak-N-Shake.

We had a good dinner, falling back into our normal patterns of conversation (i.e. we flirted intensely) as if we never stopped talking. We spent about an hour there, then hopped back into the car to head back. Once we got back to Camp Clifton, we unloaded her things and I showed her around the camp. Finally, we went to bed, and had a wonderful slumber party. I'd have to say that this one was a bit better than the one at Walking With Fire last year.

Sometime in the middle of the conversation, I remembered that I had totally forgotten to get a projector for Skip's workshop. I had reserved it and it was all ready to go, I just never picked it up. I worried about it for a minute or two, then realized I couldn't do anything about it.

We ended up falling asleep around three in the morning, with an alarm set for four.

The alarm woke us up around 4 AM, though neither of us was able to get out of bed until about 4:15. But, alas, we had to, in order to get down to Cincinnati to pick up Meredith, as I'd decided that it would be easier on her if we picked her up in Cincy rather than in Dayton. Oh, how I regretted that decision in the moment.

Monika and I climbed into the car, totally exhausted, and started down the road. We passed the giant Jesus statue on I-75, as well as something that looked like a Mormon church. We arrived at the Cincinnati airport a bit late, but pulled in to a parking space around 10 minutes after Meredith's plane was due to land. At that point, Monika was startled by a little green frog jumping around in the front seat with her. She tried to let him out, but I insisted that she take the frog with us, until we could find some greenery for him to spend his evening in. Monika did find some next to the terminal, and I went in to find Meredith, who was just inside the doors.

Once we managed to get everyone together, we headed off to have some breakfast. We stopped one exit north of I-275, still in Kentucky, and had breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant. While inside, the heavens opened up and poured out what looked like the wrath of God on us (not too surprising for a bunch of Pagans). We ate our meals, with Meredith receiving plenty of coffee, and talked about what we should do next.

When paying the bill, I asked about the nearest WalMart so that the ladies and I could pick up some food. The girls got the directions, and we hopped into the car (making a bit of fun about her accent). We headed deeper into Kentucky upon taking one look at the stopped traffic on I-75 north, and pulled off shortly thereafter to ask directions again.

And let me tell you, any directions that start with, "Pull out of my parkin' lot" have to be good.

We did eventually find the WalMart, which was on our "rhiat", and we spent a good two hours there, picking through the items, both amusing and mundane. Meredith came away with two new hats (the red one was absolutely smashing), and both she and Monika came away with some amazing shoes that lit up when they hit the ground. This ability was discovered on accident, when Monika dropped the shoes. See, it's good to drop shoes. At $1/pair, the girls couldn't pass them up.

We then drove north, after finding the interstate (which was just left of the "foah-way inta-sektion wit' tha banks. Ya'll kno, where tha bain kiz?"). We passed the Jesus statue one more time, and finally made it back to Summerland about the time that Meredith would have been landing, had she flown through to Dayton. I figure, if nothing else, we saved her an hour of travel time, and gave her some slightly better company than the sloppy man she probably would have sat next to.

I immediately found Skip and asked him if he needed the projector I had forgotten. He gave me some good-natured ribbing about forgetting it, but fortunately, he was prepared for my error, and had brought some flipcharts with him. This saved me a trip back to Columbus.

At this point, Monika and I went to pass out in the tent. Sometime later, I recall waking up to someone shouting something right outside my tent. I did my best to ignore it, but eventually woke up around 1 PM because of the sheer amount of noise people were making. Just outside, I found that Rod had set up next to me, which was a nice surprise.

I woke myself up, smacked myself around, and headed out to help some people with their tents. Nick and I gave Psyche a hand with hers, then helped Jim and lees set up theirs, followed by working out the utterly confusing and weird tent that Crystal had. I made sure that Anna was moved into my tent, then headed out to start getting my notes together for the workshop I was doing, which was a sort of hodge podge of "Intro to ADF" and "ADF and Wicca" all rolled into one.

I gave my workshop, and it went pretty well, given my overly tired mental state. I got a shocking number of good compliments on it. That was the only workshop I attended the whole weekend.

Following my workshop, I did my best to round up my Grove. I caught most of them and dragged them to Judi's Den of Iniquity, which would soon live up to its name.

The business meeting went just fine, but immediately afterwards, Monika spun a bottle on the floor, and the whole business meeting suddenly devolved (or did it evolve?) into a wild game of "spin the bottle".

I kissed more people in the next hour and a half than I had in my entire life. And I think that the Grove actually bonded very, very well over the game. It helped that there was a large amount of participation from nearly everyone present. As I sat there watching the bottle turn, I was amused to see that the Grove (and those who suddenly became "honorary members") began to show a kind of kinship that I hadn't seen before. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world, really, as it really did bring us so very close for that moment.

On the other hand, I started to realize something that would come to a head the next night. More on that in a moment.

After kissing literally everyone in the room (including the men), we wandered up to the bardic circle. Though we missed most of the individual rounds, some of the people got up there and did some really great things. The duets between Meghan and Monika were fun to watch, as was Rod's story about the Little Green Frogs (and just when writing this review did I remember that there was that little green frog who went with us to the airport that morning). I also got to sit with , Tess and Matt and share some rum.

However, by 10:30, I was fading fast, and perhaps a quarter of the way through Ian and Liafal's set, I begged off to bed. I ignored the K.U.R.S. game going on down in the pavilion that Monika, Meghan, Nick and were engaged in, bid them goodnight, and headed back to my camp. On my way, Misty caught up with me, and we had a much-needed talk, after which I did finally pass out and fall asleep.

I think, though, that the most amusing thing about my timing on sleep that night is that Nick got to get to know Monika a bit, and became totally inseparable from her for the weekend. More on that later, too.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Monika and Anna came back to the tent. I was so damn tired, though, that I didn't move, even though I was awake. I listened to them complain for a while about me being spread out, about the alignment of the air mattresses, and their desperate attempts to move the bed around. Finally, they just gave up and Monika slept on my left side, and Anna slept on my right. I woke up later and found Anna shivering on the mattress below me without any covers, and pulled her onto the bed proper and held her close for a while.

Waking up between those two was simply the best thing ever. Well, except for the fact that I knew it would happen the next night, too.

We finally rolled ourselves out of bed around 9 AM, and we all hit the showers, and Monika and I then went into town to get some food. We also ended up stopping at McDonald's and grabbing breakfast, which was also helpful.

We sat and talked for a while, then finally headed back to the festival, fed and ready for the day. We enjoyed the ride in, laughing and talking and flirting back and forth as usual. Monika received a point along the way, but I don't remember what it was for, exactly.

I spent the afternoon chatting with people and looking at vendor items, and finally got to meet Ashley, who is remarkably charming and fun to be around. I managed to screw up our meeting time for the liturgy meeting we had originally scheduled for lunch. Instead, it would wait until the night.

I got myself ready for ritual by doing nothing. I avoided those assigning parts and didn't bother to change clothes. I just wanted to attend for a change, something I rarely get to do anymore.

The ritual was nice, though not the mind-blowing experience some had. This probably had to do a lot with the inclusion of some Great Rite~ish imagery that bothered me a crazy amount. But all in all, the sun shone down upon us when the Gates were open, and damn if Kirk didn't do a fine job of leading that rite. It did feel pretty darn good.

I wish I were half the priest he is.

After the ritual, I got some food in me, and then we slid into the liturgy meeting. We got pretty much everything figured out (all that was left was tinkering with the damn thing), but then the liturgy meeting devolved (or evolved) into something else: a bit of bondage.

When I went to change for the evening and put on my bondage pants (I really love the damn things, as they're so comfortable), Rod shouted after me that I couldn't change in my tent, but had to return to the Den of Iniquity to change. All you girls owe him for that.

Anyway, as I was putting the chains on the pants, someone asked about being tied up. And I obliged.

Those who don't know me that well often assume I'm into tying people up, or being tied up, because I wear the pants. It's really not that at all: I honestly just find them that comfortable. Besides, they're a great conversation starter.

What I get out of a little light bondage and such is that it's fun. It's fun because the other person enjoys it. What most people don't realize is that I don't do anything for any sort of pleasure beyond the pleasure of play in its purest form. I'm not at all dominant or submissive, but will play one part or the other if it will make it fun for the other person. Personally, though, I dislike both.

I avoided kissing people directly for the most part that evening, and pretty well concentrated on listening to them and trying to make sure that they were doing alright. I don't have a lot of experience with this, but I didn't want anyone to leave their comfort zone: "if it isn't fun, then we shouldn't be doing it" is the basic motto I was following here. I think the furthest I went was a bit of ear nibbling and hair tugging, but I wasn't paying attention to that. I was worried about the person tied up.

In retrospect, I should have had a single safeword that everyone knew, but I didn't think about that until this morning as I was reviewing the events of the weekend. I also should have noticed the peer-pressure aspect of this. . . I don't think it was fun for everyone who participated. I think some did it because everyone else was.

The peer pressure got to me, too, though, and even though I don't like being tied up in the least, I figured that yes, it was indeed my turn when that was brought up at the very end. I handed the chains over and let myself be lashed to a bed, again thinking, "Hey, if they like it, I'll play submissive."

I forgot that once I was tied in, no one would be watching me to make sure I was comfortable. And I had no safewords.

For the first few seconds, a few of the ladies did some kissing and caressing of my body, and Monika gave me an amazing kiss full of mead that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. Anna was working on my right hand's fingers, and then suddenly I noticed something start to go wrong. One of the women had her mouth on my left nipple.

I lost track of the women who were directly below my line of sight at that point, and suddenly realized that a few of them were not at all interested in my pleasure, but were interested in taking advantage of my situation. My thought process went something like this:

"Shit, she's licking my nipple!"
"Aw, hell, she seems to be into it. She's having fun, and that's good."
"But I'm not."
"I need to say something."

So on one level, I was still thinking, "Yes, this is fine. As long as they're having fun, I can deal with a bit of discomfort." But on the other, I realized that my discomfort isn't what they really wanted, and I needed to inform them of it.

But as soon as I opened my mouth to say something, I felt the most painful thing I've felt in years: someone bit down hard on my nipple and caused me to cry out. I don't remember who it was, and I really, really don't want to know, because I don't want to connect them with that event and with such a serious breech of trust. But they're really, really lucky that I didn't kick them and every other woman within reach of my boots. I was sorely tempted.

I remember my thoughts exactly, but it's such a string of expletives that transcribing it would offend even the most jaded of my readers. I'm totally serious.

At that point, though, that Magician Self that keeps me working through experiences with both unicorns and Cthulhu kicked in, and I fought the urge to pull the chains apart right then and there. I calmed down, banished with laughter, and eventually got out of the chains.

This caused me to start thinking, though, about what was going on. I realized that the spin the bottle game had stripped me of any ability to say "no" to a kiss. If I didn't kiss a person, their feelings would be hurt. I realized what the Magician had been hiding from me ever since that bottle was spun the first time: I was rebounding, and rebounding hard. I was endangering relationships I should not be endangering. I was hurting myself and everyone else in the process.

The spin the bottle game had been some fun, but with this added on top, I suddenly realized that any progress made toward getting over Tina had been eradicated. I just wanted to be back, safe in her arms. Safe where love was never complicated by fear. I wanted to be away from these people, away from who they thought I was.

To that end, I resolved that I'm stepping back. Kisses won't be doled out like candy. Festivals are no place to freely kiss around. I won't ever have my freedom of choice taken away again. The kisses made during those games were worthless. There was, in general, no intent, no purpose to the kisses. Sure I may have enjoyed them at the time (let me re-phrase that: some of those kisses were amazing, fun, and excellent), but several were made because I was afraid. I was afraid of hurting feelings. If you've just kissed three other people, you can't say, "Oh, not you, though," and not expect feelings to be hurt. I took the easy way out. I think I need to re-visit the virtue of Courage.

[note: If you assume that a kiss you got was worthless, then get some self-esteem. Believing that is a mistake.]

The bondage is similar. I'll never tie up another person without having a level of trust and humour much higher than normal (as well as an available safeword and complete medical history). If I find a partner I trust, maybe they can tie me up if it amuses them, but I'll never be tied up in an environment in which I'm uncomfortable again. While an edge of fun is required for me to do it, the core of it absolutely must be trust. I can't do it just for fun.

I have always had a low sex drive: women who can awaken it are rare but special to me. It takes real love on some level, on both our parts. I've never thrown it around casually until this festival. And I don't like it being casual. That doesn't mean it has to be committed, but it does have to have a real, honest connection, and there has to be some sort of very, very close relationship, even if it's just really, really close friends. I have that kind of connection with perhaps five women, and one of them's a married lesbian in a monogamous relationship and another is my ex-girlfriend, so that rules out two women who might sleep with me right away.

But with the Magician Self intact (well, partially. . . even he was a bit shaken up by having something that unpleasant done to his nipples), we ended that game and I headed down to the pavilion to watch the band.

Sometime early in the night, Jenni came up behind me and dug her fingers into the back of my neck and pumped them back and forth with a lot of force. I very nearly fell over from the shock and the pain, and then she walked away as if nothing had happened. It was probably the meanest off-switch that's ever been thrown on my body, and I suddenly just wanted to go somewhere and die. I spent the next hour pushing people away who wanted to know why I was shivering and seemed to be in pain. Several people tried to touch me and I had to brush hands off my shoulders for a long time. The Magician Self that had been operating at half-steam up to this point was totally broken.

Shortly afterward, though, came one of the more amusing sights of the night. I saw Judi run across the pavilion to lees and Jim and point out into the night. There, framed by headlights from a car (and startled as hell by the light) were Nick and Monika, hastily ending a kiss and looking ashamedly like a pair of deer caught in the headlights.

I later informed them that the proper course of action when you are suddenly spotlighted in the middle of a kiss is to do something really, really scandalous, not to step three feet apart and not look at each other for an hour. Speaking of info for later: Nick, if you want, we should sit down one day and talk about chasing girls.

Monika was hoping to get to play the five-string electric fiddle that one of the band members had, but she was denied this. I was rather upset about that, myself, as she'd been lead to believe that she would be able to play.

As I got back into the rhythm of things, slowly rebuilding the Magician Self for use in the morning, I was finally asked to dance by a young lady. The issue here was that I had no idea just how young she might be, so I placed my hand high on her back and held her a good foot away from me, and kept my left hand tightly clasped on hers. I probably looked like an idiot, but I wanted to keep some good space between us. . . I know her parents were around somewhere.

On one level, I'm disappointed that only one girl asked me to dance, but I'm not surprised. On another level, though, I couldn't have danced up until about that point, anyway, because of the way my shoulders were spasming and my honest desire not to be touched by another human being because of it. So I danced one song that night (the last one), with a girl far too young for me. She did, though, help build that Magician Self back up quite nicely. She was fun to talk to and fun to dance with, even if I did have to hold her away from me, and I probably looked pretty silly doing it.

On the bright side, though, I saw Anna dancing very tightly with some young guy, looking alternatively amused and horrified by him. This was well worth watching up close.

I sat around for a while after the band went offstage, listening to Monika and Meghan play a session with a couple of guys from the band. They'd all had too much to drink, though, and so it was rather unimpressive (though it lasted a long freakin' time), and I left with a strange dislike for Irish music. I had never seen a session before, though, so I watched nearly all of it until I realized that sessions are the most boring thing in the world for a spectator, even though they're obviously a blast for a musician. Once I realized that, though, I decided to go for a walk.

I told Monika where I was going, half hoping that she'd come join me, half hoping that I'd just get some time alone to think about all the craziness that was going on. I got the alone time.

I walked up to the fire circle where I had made both my Dedicant Oath and my Patron Oath. This gave me a chance to be alone, and remember where I've been. I watched the stars turn in the wheel of the heavens, and I reflected on my own significance. I thought about the Grove, and about whether I should remain on as Senior Druid. I thought about the crazy things I'd done, and banished my regrets but retained the lessons. I drank some mead and some rum and thought about the girls with rights to the other half of each bottle. I thought about the Chaos in my life and figured I could use some more. I thought about the silent offering I gave at Trillium and what it had done to me and cost me. I thought about my roles in ADF and which ones I needed to remove in the near future, and settled on a course of action for one. I thought about my friends and how much I loved them.

I thought about a lot of things that night, and made sense of a lot more. I wandered back down and hung out in a cabin with several people before deciding it was time for bed, brushed my teeth, said goodnight to the group and to Monika, and went to bed.

Anna followed me shortly, and we talked for a bit before falling asleep.

I woke up the next morning with Monika on my left and Anna on my right again, and experienced the same wonderful euphoria I had the day before. It struck me that these two women could sleep with anyone they really wanted to, and they slept with me. I felt amazing for that simple fact. It didn't matter that we didn't do anything at all, but it did matter that they were there with me.

Sunday was basically just a take-down day. We all pretty well got up in time for breakfast, and we got to get some pretty good food to eat. I got caught in a meeting with Jenni, Kirk, Meredith, Ian, Liafal, and Francesca. I realized very quickly that I wasn't going to get any real say in anything, and so I played waiter and gopher and pretended that I was important. I failed.

After breakfast, I was feeling sick to my stomach. I went and passed out in the tent for a while, which helped, and started clearing out the inside of it at some point. I was lucky enough to catch Monika on the way back from the shower, which brightened my mood a bit, as I didn't get much of a chance to talk to her before. We chatted a bit, then I started taking down the tent. We got it down pretty quickly, and then turned to packing the car, when I realized there was a problem: I was short one seat for the number of passengers I needed to take to the airport.

I worked it out in my head, and figured that Meredith had the later flight, so it would be best for me to get Monika back to the airport so that I could get back to Columbus in a timely manner. I searched quite hard to find Meredith a ride, and finally figured out how, and from the email I got yesterday, I know she got back safe.

I packed up Monika and we said our goodbyes and headed back to Dayton for some Olive Garden before I took her to the airport. We worked up a good witty, flirty banter, and we had some fun. I drove her to the airport (we were amused by the Jimmy Buffett song, "Miss You So Badly," [lyrics] coming on the radio as I pulled in), parked in the short-term parking lot, and we sat for a little bit longer discussing certain logistical issues. It all worked out in the end, though, and I sent her through the metal detectors. My vacation was over.

But damn if it wasn't one of the best festivals ever!


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