Kindred Spirits Trip Report
I was awake at 6 am on Thursday, August 17th and on my way to the airport by 6:30 (and I am not a morning person). I took a flight to Charlotte, NC, and then transferred to a flight to Asheville, where I was met by the incredibly huggable Petra. It was noonish by the time I arrived in Asheville (I had a lot of waiting around in airports), and Petra took me to a bookstore/cafe in Asheville to waste some time until we could really check in at the Inn. We had great Iced Mochaccino thingies, and then we were off for Hot Springs to find our co-retreaters.
Petra kept trying to convince me that there were a lot of mountains around us, but the haze and mist hid them from our view.
The Inn where we stayed was this incredibly eccentric old house, filled with books, trinkets, knick-knacks, and religious statuary. I claimed a bed in the haunted room, and went down to join the crowd in the main room. I must confess that I wasn't sure what to think of the place when I first arrived. I guess I kinda pictured someplace more hotel-like. I think, in retrospect, we could not have developed the intimacy that we developed in a different venue. The home-iness of the place played a big role in making us feel like family.
A neat coincidence: I was sitting in the music room (where we had most of our circles), and I picked up a booklet and started reading about mindfulness classes being offered in the area. The booklet told me that Dana was the essence of giving and generosity. And at that very moment, Dana walked in.
We had a very informal opening circle on the first day. Many people drummed, and we started by talking about the things that we were seeking to get out of the retreat. Holly set the tone of the weekend, early on: candid, undramatic discussion, sometimes about very unhappy things. We shared tears and laughter, music and drama.
We ate our first meal that night: the first of a series of wonderful meals prepared by the Inn staff. And then we did a recitation of a play by Cheryl, our resident Buddhist nun. That first night was hot and muggy, but it didn't matter.
Earlier in the evening, Holly had told me that my room was haunted by a little girl. Apparently, on a previous outing, someone had seen lights at the end of one of the beds. I woke up in the early morning, and noticed that the room was pitch black. I have excellent night vision, but I couldn't see a thing. As I was lying in bed, waiting to fall back to sleep, I looked over at the end of the other bed and thought about Holly's story. And then, suddenly... I saw lights at the end of the bed. The lights illuminated the end-board; they glided sideways, and were accompanied by the vrooming noise of a car on the road outside. The car drove by, and then the lights were gone. So much for my ghost.
We started the next morning with breakfast, and then we had a working circle in which we talked about ideas about gender and balance and fusion. Then we had a discussion about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. After lunch, we went hiking through the woods to go swimming. On our journey, the skies opened up and it rained on us. I was soaked.
The water was a bit too cold for my tastes (I'm Canadian; we're trained to be suspicious of cold), so I didn't join in the swimming. When we got back to the Inn, I enjoyed a marvelous hot shower.
I hung out in the music room with some of the other women. People were staring at me. It was because I wasn't wearing my hat (I almost always wear a beret, but it was in my room drying out). Petra said, "I thought you had a big bald spot or something". Hurmf. No, I don't have a bald spot; I just like my hat.
I'm a really nosey person, so spent a lot of time finding people and asking them really direct questions: "So, tell me all about yourself" "What does spirituality mean to you?" "What are the essential things I should know about you?"
Cheryl took me aside at one point and read my tarot cards. (The reading resonated in a Big Way). And we played a bit of chess.
Then we went to the hot tubs. They don't call the town "Hot Springs" for nothing, y'see. They have, well, hot springs there. And you can rent some time in these wonderful hot tubs filled with mountain spring water. Stephanie, Petra, Michelle and I took the really *really* hot tub, but Petra and Stephanie wimped out early.
Michelle and I started talking. ("So what are the essential things I should know about Michelle?" I asked :-)
After we came back from the hot tubs, Yvonne and Dana lead us in a spirit journey to find spirit guides. I, myself, had a really bizarre vision. It involved a petting zoo that had no place where I could connect my laptop. At breakfast the next morning, Holly, Dana and I half-jokingly discussed whether or not my spirit guide is Laptop.
Most of Saturday was spent up on a mountain-top -- Max Patch Bald (?). We formed the circle and just as we were about to begin, two mundanely-gendered people took notice of us. Yvonne spoke to them, telling them that they could join us if they wished, and they did. We aren't certain at what point they clued in about us all being transgendered. We spoke of healing that we were looking for, and of visions that we had for the future. But the most profound part of that day was the renaming ceremony that we had.
I myself thought about re-taking my Craft name, which I haven't used since I left the coven I worked with. It was a good name, with lots of intellectual reasons why it would apply to a transgendered person like me (one of the things I'm very self-conscious of is the fact that I tend to approach spirituality too cerebrally). On the spur of the moment, I decided to ask for a new name. Jessie threw out a name that I never would have thought of in a million years. But it really felt right. One of the reasons that it appealed to me is that it has this almost playful aspect to it. That name was probably the best gift I've taken away from the weekend.
(Sorry, I'm not actually going to tell you what the name was. I come from a secrecy tradition, where magical names aren't used outside of the circle. But I'd be happy to tell you the name, some time, in a spiritual setting).
After that, we went to a park, for a picnic lunch (peanut butter sandwitches!), and more swimming. Then, back at the Inn, I talked with Annie for a while before dinner. ("So tell me everything there is to know about Annie")
That night, we listened to music -- pianos and violins. I was thinking, then, about the quietness of the place, and about how the building didn't have a television. I'm quite fascinated by turn-of-the-century dinner parties, and the sorts of entertainments that they had (ever see the movie, The Dead by John Huston? I love that film). I think that I could become drunk on the sort of entertainment that we had there -- drama, discussion, poetry, music. Sweet, heady stuff.
Late into the evening, people were doing energy work. I'm told that a lot of people were really quite profoundly affected by that; I myself am still a bit leery of people people manipulating my energy, and I went off to connect to the Internet.
The next morning, we were talking about the Internet; I, myself, find it quite enabling at times. I suspect that this has a lot to do with where one hangs out on the Internet, but I've learned so much from people whom I admire on the 'net, that I credit it with a lot of my personal growth. I have a belief that the Internet is succeeding because it is filling a void in our culture: a void left by the loss of community. We've largely turned away from the traditional centres of community in our culture -- the church, the social events, and the local pub. The Internet gives us a place to meet people and talk and feel kinship.
The morning ended, though, and by noon, people were packing up to go home. It was so saddening when the first folks started to leave. But I intend to return next year.
Copyright © 2000 by B.C. Holmes. Last updated: September 3rd, 2000
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