Bear Ceremony 2 – Moving Onwards

Masks off now, the class members were clumped together, high from their experience.

“Oh man, I forgot to say anything about the importance of the cycles of the Salmon…”

“Ariel, it was cool that you received a message from the Mountain as you were BEING the Mountain.”

“Yeah, I’m still pretty overwhelmed by that. I need to talk to the elders about it… Could you feel Ursula there? It was like she as Bear was growling at me.  I knew if I didn’t speak what I had received that she would rake me with her claws.”

“Did you hear how the long gone Natives connected with both Ariel and Owen?”

“That was cool when you stamped your feet, Gabe. The antlers on your mask seemed to be glowing and I got shivers down my spine.”

“Funny that I got so grounded when I usually feel so fluttery,” said Mariposa. “I feel like I could do anything right now. Only thing is that I didn’t get any specific message as to what that should be.”

“Maybe your grounding was your message – as a gift – and the rest will come when you stay or return to that state….”

“You guys did a great job,” said Charley coming up. “And the masks added a magical touch.”

“It was so powerful feeling the Salmon come alive in me just by putting on the mask…. “

Marsha stood quietly listening to the excited buzz.  She could find no words for her experience. It had been deep, no doubt about that, but…..

 

Molly brought a plate of salmon, scalloped potatoes and a big piece of chocolate cake to Ursula who sat quietly in the corner, the Bear mask by her side, looking rather dazed at the noise and chatter around her. “Here’s some food to bring you back. First drink this glass of water. It was the biggest glass I could find.” Not getting more than a glance from Ursula, Molly remembered another tact to take. “What’s your name?”

“Umm…. Ursa…. Ursula…. Ursula Goodwin-Brown.” Ursula’s voice got stronger.

“Good. What color are the candles on your dining room table?”

Ursula laughed. “Red! Thanks for remembering to ask me those questions.”

“You’re welcome. I suddenly thought of the time I got interrupted by a sequence snafu when I was deep in process being Gaia at our ceremonial weekend out by the River that time. I was so feeling her pain and anguish about the clearcuts, it was at least twenty-four hours before I could shake off the daze you were just exhibiting. Everyone had to do a whole ‘nother cleansing ceremony just for me. We figured out some important techniques after that, didn’t we? Don’t forget to mention them to your class when you go back over all this.”

“Salmon for the Bear part of me,” Ursula said gratefully, reaching finally for the plate of food and then feeling the protein hit her system. “Potatoes and cheese for my humanness. Chocolate,” she said as she gobbled it, “for celebration. They did a good job didn’t they?”

“I’ll say!”

“Look at them over there chattering away. I should go be social – talk to them.”

“Not quite yet. You’re still a little in that other world. Let me rub your feet.”

After a bit, Ursula gave a deep sigh. “I think I’m back in my own body now. Enough at least to carry on.”

“Okay,” Molly agreed, “I think you’re good to go. Onward into the fray!”  Molly didn’t realize how prophetic she was being.

 

“Guess we got our go-ahead,” said Jazz to Gideon Terranova standing by the sparkling Christmas Tree circled by the potluck of gifts waiting to be picked through and claimed. They had put two Tantra tapes in the pile and wondered who would gravitate to them.

 

“Charley, we need to talk,” said Michael. “I gotta get some perspective on all this.  Not right now, but…”

“Anytime, Mr. Di’Angeli. Anytime.”

 

“Ariel! It’s so good to have you here.” Pia moved emphatically, her long green skirt swishing. “What a powerful message. Come talk with Owen about what you both were getting.”

“I hope I didn’t… upset… anything.”

“On the contrary,” said Molly who had also made a beeline for her once Ursula was back on her feet. “I think you may have livened things up considerably. It goes hand in hand with what we’ve been getting all fall. We need to be stepping it up somehow. We just can’t quite get a handle on how or what we’re supposed to do. Let’s get some food and go sit with Owen.”

“Things can be pretty touchy with Native Americans in general and specifically those few who relate to this area. We’re always hesitant to step on any toes,” cautioned Molly.

“And as anyone who has worked with Traditionals can tell you, they can be offended if we seem to be taking over in any way or stealing from their practices.” Pia was emphatic. “We’ve stolen so much else that is theirs as it is.”

“Not all Indians feel so protective,” said Owen.

“You’d think they would like us to be more in tune with the land and its beings – like we’re finally finding ‘religion,’” ventured Ariel.

“I wouldn’t presume to do a Sun Dance outside of the existing native peoples’ contexts, but all shamanic traditions use smudging of some sort,” Cindy spoke up. “My own Celtic and Germanic traditions call the directions, as do the Andeans. The word ‘shaman’ is actually a Siberian word… And then there are Michael Harner’s teachings about what shamanic traditions have in common, what he calls ‘core shamanism.’ I feel so clearly that this is a time for integration of the many variations of the themes. That the New Age is not about hanging on to old turfs.”

“It’s kind of like the question of how we treat scotch broom, holly and ivy, and other so-called invasive plants. Not even foxglove is native,” Owen chimed in. “Do we uproot them – and each other – out of here? Don’t we all have something to give to the NOW?”

“That’s right. We are hardly native to this place!”

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown….” Ariel sang a line of the Christmas carol. “It’s always confused me that those two plants are traditionally sacred to the pagans in the British Isles – especially during Yule.”

“Nitrogenous Scotch broom, like alder, gives health, i.e. nitrogen, to the soil. Do we give health – fertilizer – to this place or do we just detract from it?”

“Yes and no, of course. We’ve definitely taken over the ecosystem.”

“I’d say we are a mixed blessing.”

“Like stone soup.”

“Yet we haven’t had much luck connecting with those who used to live here – those people who used to be on our River and Mountain.”

“And we have to be extremely sensitive….”

“But Pia, aren’t you planning to put together a ceremony honoring the salmon?” asked Jay.

“Who told you that?” Pia responded sharply.

Taken aback, Jay stammered a bit. Had he done something as wrong as Pia’s tone implied? “Uh, Mom mentioned it in class.”

“Fuck!” Pia exploded. “Can’t I tell her anything without her blabbing it all over?” Pia turned and stalked away.

A stunned silence came over the group left at the table.

“Uh oh,” said Owen.

“Should I not have mentioned it?” moaned Jay. “I didn’t know it was an issue. Mom just said….”

“Of course, dear. Guess you didn’t know this was a sensitive subject,” Molly reassured Jay. “Pia has a thing about stepping on the Native people’s toes. Ursula tends towards pushing the melting pot concept a bit more. Plus they often have different boundaries about what to speak out about on any given subject.”

“I forgot that Pia and Ursula have a history of misunderstandings like this,” said Jay.

“They’ll work it out. At least they always have before….” Owen sighed.

“You mean, we’ll help them work it out!” said Molly.

“Well, yes. I guess I do.”

 

“Ursula!” Pia went straight to the person she considered the culprit in this affair to speak her mind, barging into a cluster continuing to process the details of the evening’s ceremony. “What the hell do you think you’re doing telling people about my Salmon ceremony idea?!”

Ursula remembered to take a deep breath before she turned towards Pia. “I did not realize that you were keeping that quiet. I know you are concerned about stepping on Native people’s toes. But I will thank you not to make a loud issue about it in such a sacred time and place, especially when I’m just coming out of anchoring.”

“I told you that in strict confidence. I DO NOT feel ready to have it be public information and I’ll thank you not to spread the word prematurely. I’m still working it out for myself. You are always rushing in to SHARE. Like you need to be in on it all. To be the first to announce things. Sorry, students,” she said the word sarcastically, “but your teacher is kind of a know-it-all sometimes.”

“Pia,” Ursula said warningly.

“You knew damn well I wanted to wait until we had some sort of sanction from existing tribal peoples and that it would take time to find them and….”

“I’m very sorry I’ve upset you but I assumed that networking the idea was a valid way to make the connections to find such people who could give us some sort of license. Not that I think we need license, by the way.”

“I know you don’t and that bugs me too. You just want to step in there and co-opt all the old ways and…”

“I’m truly sorry, Pia. I did not get it that this was not to be shared yet. It’s such a wonderful story of how you got the guidance. In fact, it does seem like we got a kind of a go-ahead tonight. That should make you feel better.”

“That’s still up for discussion. I don’t think it’s all that clear…. I think we should be carefully considering…. And anyway it certainly isn’t a matter for common gossip.”  She spit out the word.

“I know you and I have different senses of where the line is on gossip and networking. And that I tend to have a looser definition than you do. You know it’s my belief we get further when things are shared. And I don’t see how we can be a psychically connected ‘tribe’ if we keep secrets from each other.”

“Tribe! Goddamn it, Ursula. Even using that word is stealing from the native peoples. We don’t have a clue what tribe means – we’re just wannabes! Wannabe Indians and wannabe medicine people.”

“Isn’t that what bugs you, Pia? You have this leading and you want to follow it. Gaia spoke to you, for heavens’ sake. But you’re afraid of not being genuine enough. Nobody owns all this stuff. We all have it in our background in one way or another – past life or ancestrally. We need to re-member it. We need to own it.  And practice it. If we don’t talk about it how are we going to make any progress and learn from each other?”

“You told what wasn’t yours to tell.”

“I’m truly sorry about that. I didn’t realize. My memory isn’t what it used to be. I’m not always sure anymore where and when and with whom it’s ok to share what. It’s gotten to be too much to track. I didn’t think this was such a personal thing…. I don’t remember you specifically saying not to mention it. Really I’m sorry.”

“Humph!” muttered Pia as she stormed off.

“Oh damn!” Ursula spoke shakily into the circle of open mouths around her. “That’s not what I want to be dealing with right now. As you can see, it’s not all sweetness and light in River City. Misunderstandings. Miscommunications. Different perspectives. We’re not immune, obviously, to conflict despite all our high talk sometimes. We’re definitely a work in progress… Stay tuned.”

 

 

 

Dia de los Muertos

The circle sat quietly in sacred space, men and women. Some in chairs and some on pillows on the floor. Candles were aglow on a center altar cloth with a sparkly spider web design, as well as a small mossy animal skull, a piece of Ursula’s grandma’s hand-tatted lace, and a bowl of marigolds. It was the Day of the Dead.  Dia de los Muertos.  All Souls’ Day.

The larger, more public ritual at the Community Center had gone off well. People had brought mementos of their dear departed to create a huge altar in the west that glowed with multi-colored electric lights, fall flowers, gaudy Mexican hangings and a great deal of love evidenced by photographs, artwork, and bits of the lives of those who had passed on.

Molly had explained that many traditions considered that the veil was thin between the worlds of the living and the dead at this time of year when the leaves were falling and the harvest was mostly in.

People had spoken the names of the deaths in the previous year into the circle and everyone repeated the name twice. The tissue boxes scattered around the circle came into good use as tears flowed. At last, when it had been quiet for a bit, someone began to sing softly, “May the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by…..” Immediately everyone had joined heartily in on the chorus. “There’s another home awaiting, in the sky, Lord, in the sky.”

They had ended the circle with a woman from the city leading them in a few of the Dances of Universal Peace. Afterwards there was feasting on the food people brought that reminded them of a loved one. From blintzes to enchiladas to Ritz crackers and salami, the beloved dead had their due.

Now in this circle it was time for the smaller after-session, held this year at Charley and Ursula’s house, chosen in part for the availability of the hot tub. Joining them as usual were several not usually part of the group who had lost someone during the year and who were open to a deeper connection than the larger circle allowed.

Cindy sat with bowed head. She used to feel pressure to “produce” at these occasions and then worried that what came to her was a product of her imagination. The training of generations to doubt psychic “knowings” was hard to dispel.

I-mage-in. Magic. Imaging. Being a mage. After several years of doing this she’d acquired faith that what came through to her had relevance, so she didn’t care as much what others in this intimate circle thought. She trusted the effectiveness of the invocation at the beginning to allow in only those energies dedicated to the highest good of all beings. She was comfortable doing this in small groups where she knew most of the people. Maybe some day she would be willing to be more public but for now she still wanted some degree of invisibility.

She didn’t think of it as a séance. In fact she shuddered at the word and its connotations, especially as it was one her husband, Van, threw at her when he was being particularly skeptical of her gifts and process. But she knew it was true that she had a special connection with those who had passed over and this was the time of year when their disembodied voices seemed to press on her most forcefully and persistently. It used to be that she and June were the only ones to “receive” but increasingly in recent years others experienced connections as well. They had an agreement that whoever popped in their heads was considered to be present. Given all the people they knew who had died, it was no longer a stretch to say that the ones who appeared in their minds wanted to connect. It was always interesting to see who “showed up.” And who didn’t, which by definition wouldn’t be noticed until afterwards.

 

Molly hummed notes without a tune to herself. Others soon picked it up and it segued into toning that soared, multi-leveled and glorious. As the harmonies and disharmonies wove in and about, a palpable cone of power rose above them. Some could actually see it shimmering. June and Raven, for instance.

Suddenly, with no word or direction, the tone broke off. All of the voices fell silent. Some touched their hands to the floor to ground the energy into the earth. Some covered their hearts to take it inward. Some reached skyward to call in the dead.

Molly spoke into the silence. “As I was toning, I kept thinking of Seth – my dear work companion at ReBound – gone several years now. I could feel his energy around me wishing me well, apologizing for ways that he let his ego and insecurities get in the way and let me down. Thanking me for taking on Loki-dog until she died. This is the first time I’ve felt him in circle. Occasionally he comes to me at ReBound, though it’s hard to separate out his actual spirit presence from the memories of him associated with so many aspects of the place. Maybe there is no difference….” Her voice trailed off.

“I remember how much he loved odd metal bits,” said Owen. “He got a lot of people started welding. And he could fix anything.”

“He never met an engine he didn’t like,” laughed Alex. “When we cleared out his work area and then his house after he died, there were dozens of them.”

“He could be pretty hard headed and not everyone got along with him, especially our younger staff,” remembered Molly. “He was always so charming though, I forgave him even though perhaps I should have been harder on him for some things. We both were such rule breakers…. He sure was a teacher for me about trickster energy.“ Ursula and Raven each reached out from either side to put hands on her knees.

“Is he wanting anything from us?” asked Pia.

“I’m getting that I’m to pay a little more attention to the garden where his sculpture is… and… he wants me to do some of my own art…. I’ll try if you’ll help me, Seth.”

The group lapsed into silence again. Then Cindy spoke up, “Alex, I sense Jed here, your dear partner of so many years. Can you feel him?”

Alex began to weep softly. Ursula handed him one of the cloth hankies she kept in a basket. “There are more here if you need them. Put the used ones in the smaller basket when you’re done,” she said softly as she passed the basket around.

“The manner of Jed’s leaving was such a gift to the community,” said Charley. “I loved that day when we all came through to say goodbye to his body lying there in the bed surrounded by candles and flowers. I was so grateful you let us all take part in that. You were brave to keep the mortuary people at bay.”

“I was grateful that it worked out for me to be at his side as he died,” said Pia after several quiet heartbeats. “I saw his soul lift up. In fact, I haven’t told you this before because I was a little afraid you’d take it the wrong way, but I helped a little with my breath and hands. He was working very hard to do it well, but he needed just a little assistance in those last moments to actually leave his body.”

I’ve felt guilty that I was asleep when he passed,” said Alex. “But you helped me to understand that sometimes people need to do that last step without the presence of their loved ones. That for some it’s too difficult to leave otherwise. Still, I so wanted to be there. If I’d known how quickly he was going….”

“He wants you to be in contact with him now. He says you have some work to do together…..”

“Man, he would have hated that implication before he died – he was so science minded and so clear that pesticides and other shit killed him. So certain that death was the end…..” His voice trailed off and they all waited in silence to see if Alex himself could pick up anything.

“Blackberries,” he said finally. “Blackberries. I’m supposed to chop the brambles. What on earth can that mean?!”

“It’s not exactly on earth,” quipped June. “Perhaps it’s about clearing the path between your different worlds. And maybe teaching the rest of us about that.”

“Maybe you can come for a tarot reading soon and we can look at that more deeply,” offered Ursula.

“Don’t forget to listen to your dreams,” said Owen. “It may be a soul contract you made somehow that you have to stay connected.”

“I did have a particularly vivid dream about him recently, “ said Alex. “I knew he was trying to tell me something. But I couldn’t make out what it was.”

“Keep listening. I think that’s what he means by blackberries. Those huge tangles of prickers are in the way of you guys communicating. He’s saying he loves you very much,” said Cindy. Again there was silence to see if any more would come about Alex and Jed.

“I’m getting all sorts of local creatives flashing through,” said June. “Klaus Jordan, a painter on the Mountain who died 30 years ago and dear Brin who taught music at the Community College. I think we all need to be doing our art more no matter what the medium in order to find out more about ourselves.”

“And I just got Marta who landed here for a bit so spectacularly a few years ago with her shamanistic paintings,” said Cindy. “I think these folks will help us if we let them in and pay attention to their whisperings. We all need to clear the blackberries.”

“I’m getting something about – from? – the native peoples of the Mountain and our river,” said Charley. “They just popped into my mind anyway so I thought I’d better mention them. But I can’t…. I have no idea what they’re trying to say.”

They all sat breathing quietly, listening, reaching out…. Until finally, “Thanks to you, spirits, for coming through to us tonight,” said Owen. “We will work with your messages.”

“Ho!“ Said everyone in unison.

 

Drumming 2

So what is it that happens at Full Moon Drumming?” twenty-something Finch Terranova asked Owen nervously as they munched on lamb and veggies encased in whole wheat rolls somebody brought from Angel’s. “I’ve never done this sort of thing before.”

“It’s a loose jam. Sometimes it gets cacophonous with so many different levels of musical knowledge and drumming experience.”slide10

“Loud too,” offered Charley. “At least when we’re inside.”

“It’s been happening monthly for fifteen years.”

“More like eighteen or twenty, I think,” said Ursula. “It began when that bunch over there were in high school.” She gestured towards Arlo, Jay and Cali.”

“Others are as new to it as you are. Help yourself in the bags of percussion toys – tambourines, maracas, whistles. You name it. The pill bottles filled with gravel make especially good rattles.”

“Not everyone likes this free-for-all drumming,” said Owen. “Some prefer structure and a tradition, be it African, Middle Eastern or whatever. Or written out patterns.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you,” offered Charley. “A tight structure like a raga is cool and deeply spiritual.”

“It’s like how sonnets or haiku with set numbers of syllables or rhyming patterns somehow frees up the mind to play with images.”

“Owen, are you getting all didactic again?” asked Cali pointedly.

The older man looked sheepish but hadn’t quite finished his lecture. “Sufi dervish or Native American trance dancing has a pattern of rhythms or movements generated over millennia that can even include spirit possession. I learned recently that Shaker turning was also a trance dance tradition.”

“I can’t really grok the celibacy of the Shakers,” said Raven who had just come up. “And I like the lack of safety in what we’re up to.”

“You would,” laughed Alex. “I get frustrated when the beat gets lost.”

“Yet many traditional cultures are open to the unexpected,” said Owen. “In Voudun it’s never known who will be the ‘horse’ the spirits ‘ride.’ Brad Keeney who works with the Bushmen says you have to let go of rhythms even or beautiful dancing to give the gods room….”

“Oooo. Let’s get him here,” said Jasmine.

“We did once several years ago,” said Pia. “Sometimes he had two songs on at the same time to mess up our expectations.”

“Not that we have possession or anything like that goin’ on,” Raven contributed, his tall thin form dancing about a bit, feathered earrings flying. “We’re just makin’ noise and goin’ with what rhythms arise. Depends on the mood and who’s here and what instruments show up.”

“How the stars are aligned,” laughed Pia.

“Did you bring your trumpet tonight, Raven?” someone asked from the edge of the circle.

“I’m taking a break from brass at the moment. But here’s Uri with his didgeridoo. It’s been a while since we had didge players show up.” A couple of people broke away to greet the latecomers.

“I like bein’ in that edgy place where you never know what’s next.” Raven continued his line of thought. “I like the fact that we’re making it up. Older traditions are there to draw upon. Some of us have training even. But we’re combining and integrating to make us a new whole.”

“When it works,” said Alex.

“When it flows,” agreed Raven. “Sometimes it’s coherent and satisfying. Sometimes it’s irritating and ear splitting. Not because someone’s playing a ‘wrong’ note,” he mimed quotation marks with his fingers, “but because we’re not in tune with each other.”

“That’s not the right word cuz it implies ‘in tune’ like our western chord scale,” said Charley. “It’s more that we’re not entrained. Not together in some way.”

“Egos maybe battling a bit.”

“What? Us?”

“Sometimes the internal virtuoso gets the better of one of us and we’re rather showing off,” Owen chuckled.

“Yet sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed. When someone has a moment of being so present in the beauty of their skill that they take off and the rest give them room.”

“Play backup.”

“Yeah, the ego thing is more about hogging that spot or directing the show or … being ‘off’ somehow. Not connected with the group.”

“Don’t forget we add our bodies in there too.”

“When there’s a good beat.”

“Anyway, you’ll see that we’re improvising,” said Owen turning again to the Terranovas. “Making room for each other. Being playful. Allowing new people to be comfortable to give it a try. Just like life.”

“Inspiring the magical. Though we only manage to connect in that way every now and then….” said Cindy wistfully.

“I always like it best towards the end with just a few of us left and we can hear ourselves again – and there’s more room for dissonance and harmonies to take hold.”

“Each time is different, that’s for sure.”

“You’ll tell me if I’m doing something out of place won’t you?” said Finch still needing reassurance.

“One of the kids used to say that if you miss a beat or play a note that feels out of place, just repeat it and then it’s no longer ‘wrong.’”

“So what’s with all this talking?” challenged Raven, his hands beginning to dance on the congas. Arlo went over to join him as did Carlos. Soon fifteen or twenty folks had taken up drums. Others stood on the sidelines. Clusters of conversation persisted so the focus stayed scattered for a bit. Pia danced around the edges urging claves and rattles on the recalcitrant ones.

Most of the kids stayed out beyond the fringes of the music. Enveloped happily by the dark, they’d begun a game of flashlight tag that made them look like spirits flitting about. But as was usually the case, young Flicker sidled over and started in on a spare djembe.

If you listened carefully you might notice at a few who were a bit off. Charley’s plonking on the cowbell was erratic and a-rhythmic and the person on the third conga didn’t have a lot of confidence. But none of that mattered. The majority settled into a groove and carried the others along.

Molly lay down in the center with a deep sigh and let the beat throb over her. Though loud, it soothed her body lulling her almost to sleep.

At the end of the first fifteen or twenty minutes, an energy rush of wild-anything-goes drumming took over. Fast and loud and thumping. People grinned at each other at the joyful noise. Ursula threw back her head and laughed uproariously. Someone began to yip like a coyote.

Finch could feel the sweetness of that wild energy stir in his veins. Certainly finesse was not part of this thronging sound. Looking up at the Mountain, he wondered if he had found his home. He’d dropped in to visit his parents’ latest landing spot but there was something about this process that was calling him to linger…. As he had this thought the music suddenly stopped. Everybody was laughing and hooting in their delight at being together.

“Young Flicker here really lives up to his name. Like the woodpecker who drums on our chimneys, he knows his beat,” said Arlo quietly to Finch in the lull. “You could do a lot worse than tune in to what he’s doing.” Flicker ducked his head bashfully, proud to have been singled out by his hero.

Then the music started up again as spontaneously as a flock of sanderlings taking off at the same moment. This time the beat was more Middle Eastern. Rhea slipped into the center, banging a tambourine against her knee as her belly rolled and hips swayed. She was soon joined by Ursula and Pia as well as lithe and graceful Uri with snaky arms entwining. Two little girls in bright skirts were drawn in to dance their own versions.Drumming Circle 1

Jasmine watched, working up her courage to let her body go with the internal call she was feeling. She certainly didn’t know how to belly dance and it was hard to imagine having the grace and style of those in front of her but when Raven leapt in with wild flopping and flittering movements, she realized that there were no more rules to this than there were to the drumming. She stayed on the outside of the circle, but her sways became jiggles and her hips took up the call, seemingly of their own accord.

In a bit, as if in response to Raven’s antics, the music morphed yet again and the dancing went with it, of course, for another twenty minutes or so.

At the next pause, the dancers flopped down in the chilly sand. Beers were renewed. A few more nibbles found, especially some late arriving brownies. Most families with little children rounded up their things and headed home to bed. A few of the younger couples wandered off down the beach.

Pia picked up her flute and began a quiet Native American yearning call. It wasn’t long before Uri’s didge contributed its primal growl. Soft beats came from a Remo frame drum and the congas. A voice – whose was it? – began to chirp. Another began a repetitious wordless chant. Thea, arriving late, was surprised to hear her own voice take up a counter chant that was syncopated with the other sounds such that her notes stood out every few beats. A clave began to sound in tune with that. The whole thing was mellower and more eerie sounding. Edgier, not in a punky way, but as if a different spirit was now leading the music. Dragonfly, maybe. Bat? That mysterious creature so comfortable in the dark.

Uri was lost in euphoria and his didge seemed to be playing itself. His circular breathing was flawless for once and suddenly it felt as if Spirit had come into him. Was it…. Mountain? Bird? Animal? All of the above, perhaps. Angel? He could feel the connection with the others and knew where they were going next before they actually did it. Was he leading or following? It didn’t matter because it felt so good. The entrainment they all longed for.

Cali sat quietly nursing Menolly next to the fire as the bright blaze began to settle into coals. The evening was winding down. A few drops of rain plinked here and there. More would be following soon. Owen knelt nearby as did several others. The coals were mesmerizing. Black laced with that amazing fiery orange and red. She suddenly knew with a sinking in her heart that she needed to walk on those coals. Not tonight. No, please, not tonight. She knew it was possible – her mom and others had done it in the course of their travels and workshops. But it always made her feel slightly nauseous to imagine it. So impossible. Yet not…. she knew that…. but….

Cindy too stared into the dying fire but she was musing about her husband, Van. Little flames flickered from the coals. Cinders. Cindy. Cinderella. Sometimes she wished she could be someone different for a while. Shed the mask of the shy herb lady and be swept up by a fairy godmother into the castle of her dreams. Not to a different man. But to a man who was different. Would Van ever see the beauty of her magic? Would the shoe of the greenwitch ever fit comfortably on her feet? She knew she was mixing up metaphors but it was that sort of night. Why think in straight lines? Staring into the fire was a kind of scrying for her…. As her eyes blurred she seemed to see a figure in the flames. A salamander. She’d never understood that legend. Here salamander was a creature of the wet woods. Bogs. Yet it was often talked about as if it were a fire being. There it was dancing on the tip of its tail surrounded by blue flames.

You must come dance with me someday, Ms. Cinders,” the salamander whispered in a wavery voice. “The coals – the cinders – are calling you, aren’t they? I know you can hear me.”

Cindy froze using all her concentration to calm her gasping breath. She looked around to see if anyone else was noticing. Cali was entranced with her babe. The others were making quiet, dreamy music – the few drummers still at it were tapping now rather than pounding. Uri’s didge was dancing in and out with Pia’s flute. A voice she didn’t recognize hummed and another made rhythmic ch ch ch sounds. When she looked back at the coals, the salamander was still there, grinning wickedly at her. “You’ll dance in the fire before long, Madam Woodburn. Madam Greenwitch. Oh, you’ll dance…. Only this time you will not burn…”