Saturday, January 31, 2009

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

I am an athlete, have been almost my entire life. Soccer is a passion of mine, and while others can boast that their team may have won the state championship or other high honors, I can proudly say that while I was a captain, the entire athletic conference for my high school division, referees included in the vote, selected our team as the Robert Tingly Memorial Good Sportsmanship Award winners. What does this mean, and what does this have to do with SpiritFire you may ask.

Well, to earn that award, they looked at every member of every team - which team was the most kind, most passionite about their skills on the field, and how they treated those they were competing against as well as those who officiated the game. Our team treated everyone we played against, and each other, with the highest level of respect. Accidents happened, and in the spirit of competitiveness, people were knocked over or hurt. Our team members were the first ones to apologize and lend that other person a hand in getting up, or if they needed to be carried off the field, we helped them to their bench. NOT, every team was like this, in fact, there were some pretty aweful people out there. The kind that purposely tried to injure a member of another team, or took advantage of a bad call. We held ourselves, and each other, to a higher standard, not just as athletes, but as people respecting other people.

Society puts such an emphasis on competition, for sports, for jobs, for posessions, etc. How often do you see someone behaving in a manner that screams, "it's all about me!" and shake your head at them in disbelief? More often than not I find myself smiling in the face of the person that could have held the door for me, but instead walked through it and let it close behind them. When I get through the door and they are still close enough I remind them that I was right behind them and make them think about someone besides themselves for a minute. (
I'm respectful, but I'm no wallflower either.) I might even throw in a line about, "remember that poem, All I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarden?"

So in the spirit of compassion and ethical treatment for others, especially in our community, it was with great pleasure that I saw this article today, and had to share it:

Sprinter gives Olympic medal to opponent

NEW YORK (AP) - Shawn Crawford confirmed that he gave his Olympic silver medal to Churandy Martina, the sprinter who finished second in the 200 meters but was later disqualified for running out of his lane. "I'm like, if a guy is 10 meters in front of me, I don't care if he stayed in the middle of his lane," Crawford told The Associated Press on Friday after finishing third in the 60 at the Millrose Games. "He was going to beat me anyway. He didn't impede in anybody's race." Crawford, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, originally came in fourth in Beijing.

Teammate Wallace Spearmon was third but was disqualified for running out of his lane. American officials studied video of the race and then filed a protest against Martina for the same error. Martina and his Netherland Antilles team have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, arguing that the protest was filed too late under rules set by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Martina finished in 19.82 seconds behind world record-setter Usain Bolt. Crawford's time was 19.96.

"It wasn't about doing the right thing. It's just me as an athlete - I feel like we all compete and train for four years to get to the Olympic Games," Crawford said. "We got there, he was told he finished second after all that, he took a victory lap. I can understand his humiliation and embarrassment and all that.

"Me being an athlete, I know how he feels, so I feel like it was to me to give it up to him."

Crawford left the medal for Martina at a hotel during a meet shortly after the Olympics. The two have since spoken about it.

"He was very surprised, thankful about it," Crawford said. "He thought it was very big of me to step up like that."

One of the highest honors in sports is to be the winner of an Olympic medal. It is not just for the fact that your country beat another country in competition, but more for the fact that the athlete accomplished this achievement in a nerve-wracking environment, with all the world watching, and did it proudly for the place he or she calls home. The unselfishness of this particular athlete reaffirmed my belief that there are greater things in life than winning an award that will collect dust on a shelf, or be forgotten about years later.

It reminded me of that time my team won the Good Sportsmanship award. It reminded me that there are people in this world that DO care about others, that WILL lend them a hand in time of need, that WON'T let a door slam on someone behind them, and will ALWAYS care about the world around them, and the people they share it with. They will do the right thing because their heart tells them it's right, and for no greater honor than feeling good about what they did for someone else. THAT's what I'm talking about!

Love and Light,

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Exercise

I've been working my way through some exercises in relaxation, attentiveness and focus with my class, and I think this one in particular is highly valuable and potentially useful to SpiritFire attendees.  It could easily be matched with transformative breathwork, or some of the other processes that get taught in SpiritFire workshops — but it only takes a couple of minutes a day, especially once you get used to it.

1) lie down in a relatively comfortable, dimly-lit space.
2) make yourself comfortable.
3) Begin flexing muscles, small and large, in order, from the tips of your left fingers up your arm to your shoulders.  
4) As each muscle tenses, hold it a moment and then release it, releasing the tension that goes with it.
5) As you reach your shoulders, scrunch up the muscles on the back of your neck, and then release the tension; do the same to your face, chest, and then down your right arm.  
6) The more attentive you are to tightening and releasing each muscle, the easier this will be to do quickly.
7) Tighten and then release the pectoral muscles of the chest, and then the horizontal bands of abdominal muscles.  Tighten the muscles of the lower back and release.
8) Tighten the buttocks and then release.  You should feel your spinal column relax against the floor, especially if you tighten and release the muscles of the lower back as well.
9) Tighten and release the muscles of the thighs, front and back; and then the calves.
10)  Flex, tighten and release the muscles of the ankles, feet, and toes in turn.
11) Take a few minutes to sense where there is any further tension in your body. Then work your way through all the body, top to bottom, rapidly tightening and releasing all the muscles through a second round.
12) Repeat a third time, if necessary.

At this point, you will have given yourself a thorough workout of all the major muscles and minor muscle groups, and you should be feeling relatively calm, relaxed, and happy.  Intense workouts using this method can generate tears, moments of anger, flashes of pain, and even spontaneous laughter.  It's slow-going at first but the process picks up speed with practice, and it makes me feel most days as if I spent part of the previous night dancing in the sweet spot at SpiritFire.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


When I wake up from the shortest nap I can take and still function, I know I am at SpiritFire, I am aware of the community I am connected with, I am mindful of the steps I take along a path alive with the roots of trees worn smooth by the feet of many brothers and sisters before me. Whispering voices drift through my hair in the breeze, laughter echoes through the woods, disguising its origin, becoming the air I breathe. Eyes become as bright as the sun, as deep as the universe and as warm and comforting as a mothers breast. Drum hearts beat in anticipation of the divine union of spirit. The fire…. the fire is my heart burning for learning, awareness, evolution, change, oneness, it is the sun and we are the heavenly bodies that revolve around it, honoring its gifts, its life-giving power, its consistency and its perfection.
When I am at SpiritFire, I know where I am, I AM where I am. I am more mindful of each moment on the Mountain because I am there with purpose! The more I live in awareness of the moment, the better I live!

Peace now,

Friday, January 23, 2009

A New Nation

I sat motionless, eyes transfixed on the television, sitting among my peers and co-workers as the 44th president of our country was sworn into office. What captivated me was not only the words he was speaking, but that he said them with such conviction, and without once looking at his notes, and without the use of a teleprompter. I know there are those of you in community who can speak from the heart with the same passion and effortlessness that he did on that day, and I admire you all for that. What you give to others when you can do this, just as I felt coming from this man, was a true sense of understanding for all people regardless of background, faith, beliefs, age, sex... the list goes on.

As he spoke, Obama touched on just about every subject he could, sometimes sublty, other times with more fiery seriousness and he essentially let us know that he was going to honor his words. That he didn't just do what most politicians do and say what we wanted to hear to get into office. He gave me a sense that he was going to fight the good fight, and that he knew what odds he was up against. It felt to me like we were seeing Olysseus coming home from his Odyssey and after everything he had to fight through to get to Ithaca, that he was standing before us a humbled and grateful hero.

In that moment at the pdium, and speaking to the faces gathered before him and to the people listening around the world, he knew that there were the those in places of great decision-making power that are happy with the way things are even when they know that they are not right and should be changed. And he was going after them next. At that moment, forgive the reference, but I also pictured that scene in Rocky where he dances with great joy after successfully climbing all those steps of the Philadelphia Library, arms straight up in the air in achievement, and a knowledge that he wasn't done yet.

He spoke of the economic woes and his intentions to change things for the better. He spoke of the educational system and how it has been failing us, and he spoke of the trust "we the people" have not had in our government for a very long time. When decisions are made behind closed doors it is a dangerous thing. It's like putting all your money in a bank, not getting a receipt and having a teller say, "trust me, it's there." There aren't many people who can blindly trust in situations like that, so it was refreshing to hear the newest leader of our country tackle these issues and concerns head-on only moments after being sworn in. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders a little bit. That burden that has been there for the last several years. The weight of putting on the happy face and keeping all these issues that keep me awake at night to myself so that my daughter can grow up in a positive environment.

We create the container for ourselves and for each generation that follows, and not just around the fires we build and tend for our gatherings. Not just in our communications with each other, but with everything we do with our daily lives. Watching the inauguration and seeing every face of every person there, most of them as I was, with tears brimming in their eyes, with something we had not felt from a person in the Oval Office in a long while - hope and faith. Of all the things he spoke of, the part that stood out the most for me and rang the truest, was this:

"This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

Our country has made great strides indeed, and as a community we have a love for each other that is like no other. We welcome each other with open arms even if we have never met before. We share in each other's stories, and grow with each other. We look forward to seeing each other and "pay it forward" by taking those yummy good feelings from our gatherings back into our every day lives. I do believe our tribe, as near and as far as we reach has been changing the world just by being who we are. Isn't it refreshing to have a president who seems to support the same ideals with live by? After seeing what he has done so far, just in his first few days of office, I am so looking forward to seeing how the attitude and the economic state of our country begins shifting as well. And as that happens I am so looking forward to seeing what our tribe can do to make it even better!

Love and Light,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bringing it all Home

As I read through what Lyra posted regarding community, and ponder what my beloved (Ahriana for those who don't know) posted regarding our upcoming journey to India, I have a couple of thoughts that seem to serpentine through my mind.

I find it rather interesting that I'm attending a gathering of indigenous peoples from around the world, my beloved is speaking from the pagan perspective (an entire dialogue in itself about what that does and doesn't encompass) and I'm feeling as though I don't fit into any single path and so what am I representing while I'm there? I look around me and observe a lot of people in my circle following a Native American, Wicca, Buddhist, Taoist, or some formal path that has some structure, sacred texts, or other element that creates a sense of belonging or kinship that others who follow the same tradition can associate with. But, I also look around and see an entirely different group that don't call themselves by any given title or group; the seekers who pull from the various traditions and sort of blend the best of what fits their souls...this seems to be where I find myself.

Here are my questions:
1) Since there is no tribe that these seekers belong to because of their spiritual beliefs, is this why events such as Spirit Fire and other gatherings become "home" or community.

2) Assuming this is the case, how do these seekers take it beyond the environment of tribe and step into a more contemporary venue where a different form of community can be established?

3) What is it that I'm bringing to this gathering in India that could be considered of indigenous nature? Who am I representing and how can I share what this group embodies from the collage of traditions from which we draw upon?

And, in response to Lyra's post, I feel that we find the ability to express our deepest questions and theories of what it is to be human/spirit at the Spirit Fire gathering without fear of rejection, persecution, or isolation in a world that is already too isolating. This freedom and desire to explore what spirit is and how we connect with it in myriad ways, is exactly what draws me to these tribal's the inner most exploration of self in the presence of others trying to find commonalities that both verify my experiences and allows for a richer, more deep experience of my own.

So with this I leave for India with that little nudging from spirit letting me know that I will not be the same person when I arrive back in the states. I wonder what magical unraveling will occur?

Many blessings to all...

In all ways...


Rising from the Ashes!

In one week, I leave for India to sit in discussion with Elders from Tribal and Pagan traditions from 40 countries. We'll be talking about the "Renaissance of Ancient Ways" and I will be speaking on the subject of contemporizing what we already know. Using correlations between the elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit to address, respectively, government, education, economics, religion, and the arts, I am asking that we, of all tribes and traditions, rededicate the ceremonies and rituals we regularly perform to change our current condition.

Why is this pertinent to Spiritfire?

I'll be sharing that the element of Fire carries such qualities as energy, passion, will, and clear vision. Our economic position, whether personal or that of our Country, is a driving force in our lives. It is the fire that warms the modern world, and our language reflects the element. For example, we "burn ourselves out" in our work efforts. We are "on fire" when a job excites us. When we can't find a job - the market has gone "cold."

Because Spiritfire is a powerful ceremony using the same energy that it takes to drive our economy, I see this gathering as an opportunity to affect change in that area - and since our economy is such a big concern, what better time than now?!

The question is, how do we do it? Is it as easy as placing intention? What are we asking the element of Fire to achieve? What, exactly, is wrong with the economy, and what needs to be corrected? Fire unleashed without direction is destructive and dangerous. Fire directed well
can consume and change, leaving the Phoenix to rise from the ashes.

What tools do we use? From the time we enter the gate, how do we use our voice, our movement, and our music in service to the economic fire?

Do we re-kindle a dying spark? Do we calm and direct a flame blazing out of control? What is the practical application of this fire to the larger concerns of our world?

We could sure use an economic Phoenix right now!

I'd love to hear your thoughts and, with your permission, be able to share them when I am in India.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Pathways Series: Music

Pathways Series: Music

Every fire circle gathering has unique aesthetics and intentions that fuel the interactions between people and the various mechanisms that bind them together in sacred space: SpiritFire refers to these as the Pathways of music, motion, voice, and seva.

Many of those who come to SpiritFire attend other fire circles around the country: Forestdance, MayFire, Phoenix Fire – and find an underlying sense, as Lisa so aptly describes in her recent post, of community. We share much, and our various forms of celebration are similar, but one of the beautiful aspects of having different events is the diversity we find.

I’d like to offer an exploration of how fires can be specific in their own ways of doing things, and offer a discussion about SpiritFire’s approach to each of the pathways. Music seems like a good place to start; recently we had our first staff meeting and devoted a good chunk of time to this topic (as well as the other pathways), and I know folks have been discussing these things in various forums, both public and private, quite a bit.

So what is the SpiritFire approach to music and the fire circle? What our the intentions and aesthetics of what we do? How can we celebrate diversity and spontenaeity at the fire and yet keep the circle’s boundaries consistent and clear for everyone to enjoy?

A few years ago we put together a (rather wordy but complete) basic description of how SpiritFire walks the path of music. You can access that in its entirety via the Yahoo Group files section, or contact us for a copy. We’re hoping to put up some new pages on our website that are dedicated to the individual pathways, and I’ll let you know how that idea progresses.

Here, however, I’m just going to offer some bullet points, and then share some of the staff’s realizations and decisions that transpired during the meeting in mid-January.

• First – SpiritFire is primarily a percussive fire circle; this was a big part of our discussions at the meetings. Our music is made from instruments of indefinate pitch, meaning non-tuned instruments, as opposed to instruments of definite pitch, which are tuned and focused on melodic content.

Tablas are a wonderful example of walking the line in-between these two ideas. They are tuned, but percussive; or the hang drum, which is a multi-pitched steel drum, but the pitches are rich in overtones and meld well with softer percussion.)

So how do we view our relationship to instruments of melodic nature? We felt the need to clarify some of that for ourselves, as a staff, which in turn will help us support the container more easily once we’re at the event. As many of you have seen, each night’s fire lighting ritual is focused on a different theme; each night’s focus is created by both staff and recruited community members, who are responsible for creating and maintaining the container that night. What we’ve set up is that for each night, the faciltators have the final say about what kinds of non-percussive content might appear at the circle, within the following perimeters:

1. Melodic offerings are meant to be brief, as a specific statement or transitional moment; they should done conscientiously and at pre-agreed upon times (with that night’s faciltators). For the most part, they are offered at dawn.

2. Those wishing to offer melodic music need to first check in with the night’s facilitators, and come to an agreement about the nature of the offering.

3. Folks should not assume the rest of the circle must stop and listen – the offering (like any other offering) needs to leave room for others to participate. A melodic offering is not a “spotlight” for someone to perform – it is meant to enhance and contribute to the sense of sacred beauty that is there, and to support the intent of that night’s focus.

On to the rhythmic/percussive part of who we are – here are some of the ideas that have grown over the years – and are already in practice:

• During the drumming sections, especially those with more drummers at a time, SpiritFire encourages playing 3-4 hand drum “parts” with multiple people playing a part in unison.

• Diversity in percussive sound is important, and can be supported in a few ways:
i. Bells and rattles are critical to helping those on hand drums and dunduns keep together – if many people are playing djembes, consider helping with a solid, consistent rhythm on a bell or rattle.
ii. We are trying to actively encourage other drum styles in addition to the djembe/dundun ensemble: dumbek/frame drums, congas, etc. – and all the musicians need to be an active part of holding space for those sounds. If a group of dumbeks is playing, consider allowing them to have their space without dunduns/djembes. There are loaner drums for those who want to participate in groups of instruments that they don’t own.
iii. Sacred Sounds like didgeridoos, singing bowls, and other such instruments are an important part of our circle, too!

• We ask that drummers stay conscious and connected, in service to dance.

• Our rhythmic aesthetic is one of long-playing grooves with very few sudden “breaks” to end a rhythm, which can throw a dancer off. Once a rhythm comes to an end, we ask the drummers to refrain from introducing a rhythm too quickly, so that chants and other sounds have a chance to manifest. It might be that a chant or sacred sound moment goes on for a long time with no drums – that’s a good thing.

• One soloist at a time, if there is a soloist!

• Simpler parts will meld with ensemble playing (particularly large groups) with more clarity and effect than fast, busy parts with many beats.

That’s quite a lot to digest; on the other hand, we’ve been building on these foundations for a few years now. Your thoughts? What else is there to consider for music? What things deserve more conversation or focus?

Update series #2: Inertia...

Well, the staff met on January 17th in Western Mass, from 10am to about 10pm. Long day, but we got a lot covered (and ate a lot of junk food) in the process.

My thanks to Brighid, who hosted the event at her home - it was wonderful!

So what did we cover? Basically, we decided on the nuts-and-bolts issues of operations and gathering structure. This includes:

1. Staff duties, both before and at the event
2. How to spread the word to new folks
3. What crew positions did we need this year (what specific on-site jobs were needed)?
4. What did we want to accomplish with the workshops, and which of the current proposals fit those intentions?
5. Schedule - any changes, clarifications, or other modifications to the event schedule
6. What things do we need to order/purchase before the gathering?
7. Scholarships - we generally discussed scholarships, but no decisions were made - applications aren't due until April 1st and 8hen only by a specific subset of the staff (which, thankfully, does not include me!)
9. The pathways and related pathways workshops
10. Fire lighting rituals - developed some thematic ideas and considered some proposals by community members
11. Site issues
12. 2009 icon and T Shirt art
13. Community workshift issues and schedule
14. Some changes and pre-planning for non-fire circle rituals

.... and about 10 or so other smaller details. I'm very grateful to have a group of folks on this staff who are so talented at focusing, communicating, and helping to constructively create and criticize in such a way that we can cover such a large agenda in one day! There is more to do, much more, but we did well.

So coming out of that - a reminder that if you would like to help us get some postcards out there, let me know by dropping a private email with your name, addy, and how many you need. We're looking to hand out postcards in person as much as possible at drum circles, dance classes, gatherings, etc.

If you can donate to the scholarship fund, please do! If you need a scholarship applications are due by April 1st - please make sure to read the scholarship FAQ on our website.

More soon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Weaving the Great Web

Today is a happy day for me and for countless others like me around the world. Today hope was inaugurated into the executive office of the United States government. A tremendous tide of change is surely underway, and the intentional fire circle movement is, at least for me, one feature of this “Great Turning.” It signifies a return to earth spirituality, divine feminine power, and a leap forward into the next millennial phase of human cooperative systems on our planet.

I had given up hope for the first time in my 44 years following the 2004 election, and therefore was particularly amazed that my beloved friend, Julie Woods, could still be so vibrant and full of life when the whole world was clearly going down the tubes. Somewhere along the way, it seemed evident to me, people had forgotten how to belong together. Julie lived in a different world. I felt a twinge of envy every time she talked animatedly about her "tribe" and entertained us with fire circle stories. I wanted to tap into that energy somehow, to feel anything but the dullness of my own existence. As far-out as her stories sounded to my ears, I secretly, desperately wanted to belong to a tribe like Julie. That was how I came to attend my first fire festival in May, 2005. When Brett and I arrived at the registration tent at May Fire in Nevada, we were greeted with smiles, hugs, and these prophetic words: Welcome home.

The transformative nature of the work we do at Spiritfire – through the various pathways of Music, Voice, Movement and Seva – needs to be acknowledged here, because it represents what is beginning to happen on a global scale, in what Jeannette aptly identified as the profanum, or the realm of our common lives. Whenever we as individuals weave our intentions in collaboration with the other pathways we are creating the web of community, deliberately, lovingly, and in a safe container. That power accompanies us as we re-enter our common lives and influences those around us, much the way Julie had influenced me. Each time we weave this magic in the container of the fire circle the web grows stronger and more complex. What an amazing gift we unleash in our day-to-day lives knowing what can be accomplished in harmony with our combined talents and differences! In this regard, Spiritfire provides a model by which this web can be woven in the greater community, via us, the lucky festival-goers.

The wonderful Spiritfire tribe has long since become my extended family. How can I ever fully express my gratitude to those of you who have contributed to restoring my hope and faith in humanity? As we collectively walk forward into the years of Barack Obama’s presidency I maintain hope that we will rise to the challenges we face, and I believe his words, Yes, we can.

Lisa B

The Sacred and The Profane

Visualizing the sacred is not hard for many of us.  Iconography of images spanning vast aspects of time and culture throughout recorded history are easily brought to mind.  But "profane"?  No, I do not write of the modern usage of the term, but instead, hints of its older meaning.  The word profane derives from the latin "profanum" and sacred, "sacrum".    Profanum encompasses all that we know through our "senses" as well as all that is common in our daily lives while sacrum encompasses the ultimate unknown of Spirit.  This concept took physical shape in ancient temple designs by separating a common area (profanum) from the area of communion with Spirit (sacrum) and continues to reverberate into the present.
The idea of sanctity and profanity exists on many levels in the experiences and people that we love, especially, the intense relationships forged through years of attending festivals like Spiritfire.   Many of us see each other only a few times a year, and yet the power of these connections serve to carry us throughout the intervening seasons.  We come together as a community and create our "sacrum" visa vie the fire circle.  We leave behind our daily concerns and turn our attention wholly to the celebration of Spirit through the vehicles of Fire, Drumming, Dancing, Chanting, and each other.  The immersion into the rhythm of festivals can be slow, fast, easy, hard, or any number of things along the spectrum, but the intensity with which we open our hearts to the experience catalyzes our relationships to ourselves and others.  Thus, community!  

We often strengthen these community ties each festival we attend, or try to find or create similar situations locally on a community level.  But, what I'd like to know is how each of us carries this concept on a more individual basis.  How do you incorporate the sacred and profane in your lives?  


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pilgrimage and Altered Mindset

Andrew Watermountain here...

In all religious and spiritual traditions, there are places of pilgrimage and great teaching. Medieval Europe learned to work with stone in order to build cathedrals as housings for relics from the life of Christ and the major saints, and both the Church and ordinary seekers designated pilgrimage routes to reach them, highways of transit for those on a journey to purify the soul. Islam, of course, has the Hajj, the annual journey to Mecca and the sevenfold circuit of the Kaabah. Buddhism has the stupas of India and Indonesia and certain Tibetan lamaseries in the high Himalayas. Hinduism has the shores of the Ganges in the city of Benares, Shinto has the Ise shrine, Native Americans have their sacred spots; even American patriots have Gettysburg, the Lincoln Memorial, and Monticello.

When I go to SpiritFire, I leave my little New England town by back roads that wind and twist past old stone walls, the public library of a neighboring town, and a thin but deep lake in a steep-walled valley. If I have time, I cross the highway rather than go onto it, and continue across the lake in Holland, MA, past the windmill there, and through the broad valley around Brimfield, MA on US-20. In Palmer, I can pick up the MASSPike, or continue west on blue highways past milltowns and the reservoir, sleepy Congregational churches on town commons, and all manner of gas stations and forests. like taking this back way home; it gives me time to reflect on what I've learned, to stop and meet people who went to SpiritFire too, or who didn't go but wanted to. We have coffee, we eat meals, we deal with the lack of sleep and the altered perceptions.

If I don't have time, and I go by the highway, there are other landmarks: the insurance towers of Hartford, the hall of fame in Springfield, the interchange to the MassPike, the steep cliffs of the Berkshires, the walkover for the Appalachian Trail, the shopping malls of Lenox and Lee, the rest areas on the highway for coffee and danish and bathrooms.

None of these landmarks are 'sacred' to me. I don't view them as anything more than wayposts or signs that point out where I'm going, or how I get there. But I find that my perceptions of my journeys to other places are affected. When I go to Hartford, I've caught myself thinking, "a right turn here and I'd be on my way to SpiritFire. Only a few months to go." I'll be going to some event or another, and I'll see Berkshire cliffs covered in snow, and think of them green and warm in June, July and August. People, too, function as wayposts... seeing SpiritFire people in other contexts is always nice, but there's that shared secret smile, that understanding: we have danced under moonlight to the drums on the mountain together.

What are the inner, and outer, wayposts of your journey to and from SpiritFire? Are there specific landmarks or specific portals that you notice as you travel? What makes the journey to, or from, SpiritFire special to you?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fun with wood

So, I spent a good chunk of a day last summer working on a carving that I hope will eventually become a new stand for the One Drum. Here's what it looked like last last winter when I had it stored in my woodshop:

It's 9-feet tall and just a tad shy of a foot in diameter at the base. My plan is to carve the top 7 feet, and have 2 feet underground to support it. Eventually, Sage and I hauled it out into the sunlight (which had FINALLY arrived to these parts) so I could start de-barking it and getting a sense of how I want to work with it. And it's a good thing I did, too, 'cause I discovered that some sort of grubs (buprestid beetles, probably) had established themselves pretty firmly under the bark; I suspect that if I had waited too much longer they would have really invaded the wood. (And, in fact, they might have; only time will tell.)

Anyway, like I said, I spent most of that day working the bark off of it with my favorite buck knife (which I found years ago when I was wandering around in the tundra north of the Brooks Range about 150 klicks south of Prudhoe Bay, but that's another story) and trimming flush a lot of the knots with my chain saw. I let myself get a truly wicked sunburn. Stupid, yes. Careless, yes. But ... it felt so good to actually be working on something for SpiritFire ahead of plan.

What's most on my mind in the long term, though, is what I'm actually going to carve. I have some ideas, and with luck I'll actually be able to pull it off. More as it develops, I promise.

And oh yeah, the wood came from an elm tree Joss and I had to have taken down more than a year ago. It was right on the corner of our house, and the trunk was splitting in a way that made it virtually certain it would topple into the house during a storm. So, we had a crew with a crane come in and take it down, with the request that they leave all the long pieces and cool-looking pieces intact. Check it out:

So with luck and a little bit of perseverence, we'll have a new One Drum stand, sustainably and locally harvested and hand-carved. And who knows what other cool stuff will come from the other pieces saved from the tree. Notice in the picture from the wood shop the other piece of wood in the background; that's from a part of the trunk where three major branches forked. Joss has some thoughts about carving it out and heading the branches to make a three-headed drum. Now that would be cool!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Of Temenos and Temporality

Hey, gorgeous ones...

I've been mulling over a question for awhile now, one that I'm sure has bounced around in everyone's head for years, to some extent. I'm wondering about the festival phenomena, and what it means to forge a community around an annual gathering, as opposed to local geography. With what intensity do we infuse our connections with each other--for five, maybe ten days a year, and how does this intensity serve to create, rather rapidly, a new subculture?

We are, of course, one of thousands upon thousands of communities who meet annually, have intense experiences, and look forward to next year all year round. But I'm really curious about this. I'm curious about the sharp demarcation some of us make between "fire world" and "real life." I'm curious about the commitment we have to SpiritFire, and sometimes I wonder if, for some, an annual festival is becoming a substitute for year-round, local community. Or, perhaps more accurately, that year-round, local community has never really existed, and the festival model has given us perhaps our first vision of what community can really be.



Playing in the Symphony

I’ve been reading a book called “The Great Work” by Thomas Berry. It is quite an interesting read about nature, and history, and life as it is today and could be tomorrow.

The author speaks about (and I am definitely paraphrasing) becoming part of the "universal symphony." Basically, instead of taking the arrogant-human, intellectual position that we must “think about” and “create” a new way of living, he suggests that we listen to the symphony of life around us and find our place in it. He implies that, when we are part of the symphony, the world will be as it should be.

Makes me think about my drumming experiences around the Fire.

It would be quite a stretch for me to call myself a drummer…. A “thumper” maybe – but certainly not a drummer. While I feel the rhythm around me, I lack the skill so prevalent in our community. Still, one can only dance and chant for so long before the urge to sit and play for a while becomes compelling.

I frequently find myself sitting on a bench listening for a beat to follow. My hands fumble as I search for a very basic and simple pattern I can duplicate without too much concentration. The fact is, the more I concentrate, the more difficult it becomes to “play.”

I love that word…”play”….

If I stop thinking and let my hands rest on the drum head, a steady and simple beat i can follow will emerge. Its almost as if the drum plays me. I can “play” as long as I refrain from thinking about it.

Hmmm – seems like Mother Nature plays me too – when I stop thinking about how to fix what we have done to Her and just let myself feel Her rhythms! Perhaps finding the “symphony” is just that easy. I love the idea that, to make the world what we want it to be, we begin by finding our own rhythm within Nature. I love the fact that being around the Fire together teaches me how to do that. I love the idea that the key to creating the changes we want is to think less and play more!

The challenge, of course, is to actually make the time to play....

Blessed be,


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Update series #1: Where are we now?

Hey folks,

Well, it's January already, and it feels like the days are streaking by at full speed. I thought I'd use the blog to keep readers updated on the process of building the structure of SpiritFire - what's planned, what's getting done, and how things are going. If you have questions or comments, they are welcome.

So where are we now?

After SpiritFire ends - Sunday evening, in fact - the staff meets for a quick dinner and basically downloads everything we can think of - every pro, con, success, failure, question, complaint, and hope that might affect the next year's gathering. Once that's done, we pack up the rest of the camp, go home, and go into our respective comas for a few days. In general, we take about 2 months out of any SFF-related modes and then in October start planning again. Martin usually has postcard art and T shirt designs ready by about late Oct. to mid November - he's awesome! In fact, here's the front of the postcard for this year:

(drop me an email OFF BLOG with your mailing addy and how many cards you want if you'd like some.)

The first thing we do is to plan our first staff meeting; this is coming up in mid-January. We look over the feedback left to us by festival attendees (another post coming about that soon!); we talk about what we need for on-site assistance, rituals, funding issues, general festival process, and what the individual staffers need in order to do their jobs. So that's coming up, and in preparation I'm compiling a lot of lists - this is where the staff starts wincing - what we need to address during our discussion and so forth.

So that's what's coming up. What's already done?

REGISTRATION IS OPEN!!!! Yes, you may have heard that rates had to go up this year - we've succeeded at keeping our registration at the same level despite our contract going up in cost each year. But even though we have finally had to change our rates to keep things manageable, they've only gone up $10. Yes, you heard that right - $10. So register early to get the best rate!

We know the economy isn't in the greatest shape; each year, we are able to award a good number of partial scholarships thanks to the kindness of folks like you who register and make a donation to the scholarship fund. Even a small donation makes a difference, so if you can give, know that the funds to to pay for folks who otherwise couldn't attend - and they are our friends, our family, our colleagues. the Ritual Arts Collective of Western Massachusetts has generously donated $600 towards scholarships this year - a huge help in our efforts to make the event accessible as possible to all. Thank you!!!!

Our presenter line up usually starts with a small group of invited teachers that help us set the basic structure of SpiritFire. So far, we have a great start, and I invite you to read the SFF Presenter FAQ if you are either interested in submitting a proposal or know of someone whose skills would be a great fit for what we do. The presenter page and other workshop areas will be updated on the main SpiritFire website as we get a more solid schedule set, so keep checking back there.

There's a lot more, but I'll save that for a later post - see you all soon!


Why have a SpiritFire blog?

If you have spent any time surfing -- over even swimming -- in the blogosphere, you already know that a blog can be a powerful tool for promoting an on-line community. If this is your first exposure to a blog, however, you might well wonder why SpiritFire should have a blog and what it can do that the Yahoo discussion list cannot.

Discussion lists provide a great medium to allow list members to post questions, thoughts, ideas, or even links for other list members to see. Conversations can emerge and community can grow. On the other hand, conversations about particular posts can get lost amidst multiple threads, causing discussion about a thought-provoking idea to lose momentum just as it is building up a head of steam. Multimedia, such as pictures and video clips, can only be made available as links rather than as embedded images. Plus, only people who are subscribed to the list can access the discussion, which limits the spread of ideas and philosophies.

A blog offers solutions to these challenges. Although individual threads can only be started by people who are identified as blog “authors,” anyone at all can comment on a thread and join the conversation about an idea, announcement, or question. Comments on a post or comments that have already been made on it are associated with just that thread, so responses as well as the author's own follow-up thoughts and replies don't get lost or disconnected. All threads are archived and are therefore easily found again. And authors can embed both pictures and video in the same post.

So welcome to the SpiritFire blog. Our intention is for this to serve as a forum for talking about the aesthetics, agreements, and philosophies associated with SpiritFire, as well as the ways in which the transformative experience of the fire circle can and should be manifested in the rest of our lives.

There are no special rules for posting comments beyond the ones we use on the Yahoo discussion list: (a) treat each other with kindness, and (b) don’t use the blog as an announcement board for non-SpiritFire related events. Visit the blog often, as it is our intention to give you all a lot to think about for the coming months.

Now … let’s go swimming and see if we can be ready for the deep end of the pool by the time late July rolls around!

Love to you all,