This past Saturday, my partner attended his first full-on ritual. A Druidry group that I’m part of collaborated with a pretty big, local Wiccan-inspired group to have an Ostara/Equinox celebration — there was a meditative walk through the forest, chanting, singing, dancing, and a big potluck full of tasty food.
And we almost completely missed all of it.
See, we’d offered to give a ride to a group member who doesn’t drive. “No biggie,” I thought, “Twenty minutes to go scoop him up, avoid the marathon, then we get out of the city and we’re good.” There was only one problem: The half-marathon pretty much bisected the entire city, to the point that getting out was very time-consuming and complicated. In the end, we almost had to drive back home and start over from there, because completely leaving the city and driving around it would’ve been faster and simpler than trying to go through it. Yuck.
This wouldn’t have been too bad, but we hit some navigation issues the rest of the way down. What was, “It’s okay, we’ll just miss the walk and make it in time for the ritual” then became, “Okay, so we’re going to miss the ritual, but we’ll be there for the potluck at least.”
Fortunately, fate smiled on us and we managed to roll up exactly when everyone was going from the pavilion to the ritual circle. The three of us ducked into the back of the line and picked up the lyrics and intonation of the chant on the fly.
(Fun fact: Mouthing the words “watermelon, carrots, peas, and bubblegum” can help you get through any lip-synching that you’re not sufficiently prepared for.)
We sang, we clapped and drummed, we spiral danced. Day and Night did a dance to illustrate the victory of light over the darkness and gave a short speech on how Night entrusted the world to Day, and Day would return it to Night during the darker, colder months of the year.
Then it was time to eat!
The food was amazing — I think I ate my weight in lemon bars and curried chickpea salad. (We brought some cases of sparkling water, because the potluck sign-up sheet only had one other person bringing beverages and extra fizzy water always seems to go over pretty well.) There was quiche, a whole chicken, very spicy-sweet beans, curried chickpeas, banana bread, lemon cake, lemon bars, artichoke and crab dip, crackers, cheese, fruit, jam, you name it.
The conversation was great, too. We met some very cool new people, and talk seemed to flow easily. We talked about brewing mead and making water kefir and why wasps are actually great. Despite the stress of trying to get there on time, the vibe was extremely chill and comfortable.
I also have possibly made friends? This is both delightful and terrifying because I’ve moved around a lot, I’ve always been socially anxious, and the pandemic has made things weird.
Anyhow, despite being trapped in a car with us for three hours, the person we’d given a ride too suggested taking a walk through the woods after we ate. Since the walk was the one part we’d ended up missing, the forest seemed lovely this time of year, and I was sincerely shocked that he wasn’t completely sick of us already, I was down for it.
We ended up posing for photos as part of an effort to Save Lake Accotink (which is a pretty complex issue — it’s a man-made body of water, and maintaining it requires regular dredging. This has become expensive and complicated. Opponents cite the cost and some environmental concerns, but the alternative to dredging is turning it into a managed wetland. I haven’t seen estimates for what kind of environmental and monetary impact this would have over time, so my concern is that the managed wetland would eventually become a neglected area and the silt that it now captures could negatively affect waterways downstream.
It also seems like a lot of the issue is development and poor stormwater management in the area, which creates water-impervious surfaces that allow more runoff into the lake. Lake Accotink has been around since the 40’s, so it’s been a watery habitat for a while now and I don’t know what kind of impact it would have to try to put that genie back in its bottle. In some of the articles I’ve read, the social and environmental concerns also seem tacked-on and secondary to the monetary cost. All of this is why I haven’t really formed an opinion on whether the lake should still be dredged or not — it seems like it’s going to be a very difficult, disruptive, kind of sucky situation for everyone and everything involved either way.)
We also saw… Well, we weren’t entirely sure what we saw.
“What are those?”
We tried to creep closer down the bank without startling them. They were all standing in a row on a partially-submerged log, long, sleek black bodies pointed toward the sun like arrows, beaks tilted to the sky. My partner snapped a few blurry pictures of them, like cryptids, while we tried to guess at what kind of (bird? low-stakes chupacabra?) creature we were looking at. The bank was a bit treacherous, so we couldn’t get very close.
(They were cormorants, which I had never seen before because we don’t really hang out in the same kind of places. Standing there, they looked like something between a heron, a goose, and a loon.)
The only real damper was the sheer number of beech trees that were carved over with graffiti. I’m not very good at identifying trees by their bark, but it seems like carving is almost an identifying characteristic for these guys. Their bark is a silky medium gray, which appears to make it almost an ideal canvas for
thoughtless dipshits people who want to carve their name in something.
After a long day of car rides, dancing, singing, eating, talking, and walking, we made it back home in a decent amount of time. (Fortunately, the marathon was over and the city didn’t require any vehicular shenanigans.) I’m feeling energized and can’t wait for our last frost date to pass — I really want to get my hands back into the dirt!
Hoping you all had a lovely equinox,