Thursday, April 23, 2009



Today was a really, really, really long (and satisfying/productive) day, starting with an early 2 hour drive to play for a dance class and then an hour to work... then 2 classes, a rehearsal, and an hour drive home. I'm wiped.

I drive home and forget that I need food and drink; instead of going straight into town, I am on automatic and head over off the main road to the route that takes me home, which is currently much longer than usual due to a broken bridge. "Dang it," I thought, I just want food and rest!

So I drive the long way into town.

I stopped at Ramunto's Pizza, my favorite place in town, and step out of the car. On the way in the owner is also walking in the door. "Hello there," he says - "how are you doing? Done for the day? Did you have a good day?" I answered yes, and said how happy I was not to cook because it had been a rather brutal day as far as energy was concerned.

"Well I tell ya what. How many folks you feeding tonight?"

"Just myself," I said.

"Tell ya what. Please have three slices on me - anything you want."




"Are you serious?" I said? "Yep!" he replied, and we talked a bit about music and such while the folks got my slices ready. Thanking him, I went home, bemused at being hit by a RANDOM act of kindness. You know what? It feels great being on that side of the fence!

So here's my dare.

Commit a random act of kindness to a stranger this week. And then leave a comment here to tell your story! What did you do? What was the result? How did it feel?

Or if you've been a recipient, your story would be great!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Orleans Presentation Update

Hello, beautiful ones!

For those who do not know, I presented a paper last weekend on fire festivals at the Popular Culture/American Culture Associations' Joint National Conference last weekend in New Orleans. Special thanks to those of you whom I spoke with at length either on the phone or via email, and thank Everyone for inspiration, both around the fire and particularly through this blog.

Our 15 minutes of fame was in the Ritual and Religion panel of the Festivals and Faires Area of the conference; because I was chairing, I got to go last, after the "Cult of the Good Death in Colonial Mexico City" paper and the "Christian Woodstock" paper. It was an awesome panel! I ended up presenting the all-night fire and fire festivals (note: festivals *specifically* created to be all about the Fire Circle, for lack of a better way of putting it) in the context of Victor Turner's Rite of Passage schema, which is cool, because both the fire circle and the entire festival itself mirror this schema. Liminality, temenos, and communitas (Janet, you're my hero) were major motifs throughout the entire area, so much so that by the time I gave my paper, I had some line about liminality being the new black.

So, using the well-known liminality framework for theory, I concisely defined and explained (as best as I could) "What. We. Do."--without getting into the variations (too much) between circles. My objective was to "bring" (I join others on this, notably Joshua Levin) these fire festivals into the academic dialogue and to see if people were interested in what I had to say.

They were.
In spades.

Mostly because I went last in the panel, about 3/4 of the Q and A session was directed to me. After saying Very Little about what actually happens around the fire besides vague phrases like "personal transformation" and "opening up to the numinous" (!!!) I got questions like:

"So, these festivals sound amazing...can you talk about how the seeming eclectic spirituality of these festivals is both celebrated and yet possibly problematic?"

"Do participants have particular roles that they serve at these festivals and, if so, are they fixed or fluid? For example, are there specific healers or shamans that help lead people through their process through the night?"

"Can you speak to the dynamics between the drummers? I mean, can anyone pick up a drum and play, or is it more hierarchical, based on talent?"

I KID YOU NOT. And that's only three of many questions I got.

So, that says a couple of things to me: 1) I successfully presented all of this in 15 minutes in a way that was accessible and led people to ask, ahem, familiar questions, and 2) Dude, Fire is cool. People were all over it.

So, that's the update--thank you again...and, by the looks of it, I will likely be pestering all of us in the future for more insights and may well go all hard core and get some questionnaires going for future research. We'll see what Joss says about that.

OH--and the Coolest thing?!! About ten minutes before I started my paper, guess who sauntered into the room with a knowing smile on her face?!


Much love and gratitude,


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Update series #3: Early Registration and the start of spring

Happy Spring all -

Just an update on where things are right now with SpiritFire - we have one of the highest registration counts for the early reg period since our "peak" attendance year in 2005, which is amazing to see! While we've adjusted our maximum attendance limit down since then (makes for a much more gentle and solid container), I'm hoping there will be a spot for everyone that would like to come to SFF 09.

There hasn't been a lot of direct activity during winter's long, drawn-out finale as far as events within the gathering. The major things that needed to get done included solidifying the 2009 crew roster, making scholarship decisions and notifying those folks about the results, and continually updating the presenter/workshop pages to reflect the current flow.

Crew: We have a rockin' group on for this year's heavy-lifting and toting and setting up! A few crew folks have agreed to take on some additional time working the welcome tent and arrival traffic to help ensure a smooth, friendly entry for all of us - I'm grateful. If you aren't on crew but are looking to help, one thing we could use is for folks to arrive at the start of the day, when the gates open, and then sign up for an early community shift either at registration or the welcome tent/sherpa areas.

Scholarships in particular were an amazing situation this year. Everyone knows the economy isn't all that healthy, but somehow not only did we get more registrations in the first period, we were able to offer a scholarship to every single application that came in to us as the result of some very generous donations from our community, both individual and group members. Some folks gave $10, some $100, and some more than that - it truly was awe-inspiring. I'd like to say that if any more scholarship donations come in, that funding will still be used to directly help those in need of assistance with registration this year, or if no further assistance is needed, it will be banked for next year.

Workshops: most workshops are finalized as far as descriptions and such, but as always the schedule will be tweaked and adjusted at least 1-2 more times as I try to make sure that 1) similar workshops don't conflict, 2) folks playing for or or assisting presenters don't get scheduled for conflicting workshops, and 2) a good balance and variety of workshops reflecting the pathways are available in all of the sessions. Once the schedule is finalized I'll post a note on the workshop page letting everyone know that's the case.

The circles are still being shaped; we're really trying this year to make the fire lighting times inclusive, engaging, and meaningful. Hint: have you been to SpiritFire before? Do you think you know what the agreements, promises, and requests between the pathways are for the circle we dance together? Might want to check that out! ;-)

Stay in touch! More soon.