the trade of tradition

November 17th, 2013

Day 208

The edge of the moon looks so perfectly round and every little dimple, smudge and scratch across the surface lets me get to know this faraway land more intimately than with the naked eye.  The lens is so zoomed in that every few moments I have to readjust the telescope to chase the fleeting celestial object.  The moon is full tonight which marks the ninth full moon since I’ve left home.  I can remember each full moon I’ve experienced since then, the first being the first night of the trip.

I was so lonely and afraid, sleeping in some random lot on the side of the road with the overwhelming uncertainty of what was to come.  I remember being in bed before the moon rose, tossing and turning, not being able to sleep.  I saw its light through the mesh roof of my tent and felt compelled to go outside for a few hours to hang out in its radiance.  I felt then that it’s light somehow gave me hope in a fearful time.  It inspired me to be crazy enough to go on with an adventure like this.  Being in the glow of the full moon always puts things into perspective.

I pull my eye away from the viewfinder and I’m back into the zoomed out world, standing alone on the deck.  The trees of the mountain across the river are not a blotch of darkness tonight but individually seen under the moon’s glow.  Below, the shimmering Klamath River steadily flows making its way south, passing underneath the looming gothic bridge and curving west, out of sight.  I look around the deck and see the empty chairs where I’ve sat and had so many great conversations with friends here the last few weeks.  The tall glass windows between me and the living room reveal an empty space; another venue for great conversations had, dances, feasts, music, games with the kids.  Everyone is down stairs hanging out in the basement so I say good-bye to the moon, to my reflections on the trip and head inside.

When I get down to the basement, Brian, Orion, Vince and Colas are getting ready to go outside.  They say they will be doing a ceremony for the full moon soon and that I’m welcome to join.  It doesn’t take much to convince me and a few minutes later we are all in a circle on our knees surrounding a fireless fire pit.

For a couple of minutes, we all sit around talking about the moon and I can’t tell if this is supposed to be the ceremony or that nobody quite knows where to start.  Eventually Brian speaks up and in a soft, serious tone commences the ceremony in earnest.  He addresses all of us and thanks us for sharing this moment together.  He thanks the mother moon for shedding her light upon us this evening.  I get distracted by thinking of the german language, which I studied a few years, and how the moon is a masculine being to them as opposed to feminine in the latin languages.  The way things are labeled always seem to be arbitrary depending on which culture you come from but I’m not here to knit pick discrepancies, I’m here to be open.

After  a few moments, a sacrament of wine is passed around to us all to drink in the honor of mother moon.  It is a special wine made personally by Orion and a friend of hers fermented with yeast extracted from their vaginas.  I have never heard of such a thing or have any idea how that even works but everyone seems to be OK with the idea so I drink.  When the bottle gets passed to Brian, he drinks, then spits it back out into the flameless fire.  I immediately wonder if I did something wrong in the ceremony by swallowing the wine but I’m not sure if there are any rules to this tradition.  After the bottle makes its way around the circle, the rest of it is poured into a cup placed in the fire pit.  Brian keeps pouring even after the cup is full and overflowing until the bottle is empty.

He then urges us all to share three things that we want to improve or focus on between now and the next full moon.  I find this a great idea and we spend the next several minutes sharing our vulnerabilities and hopes with each other.  I’ve only known everyone here for a few weeks now but I trust them enough to be truly open and honest.  The nature of conversation we have on a day-to-day basis is more open and profound that what I am normally used to when getting to know new people on the road.  They’re not here on this earth to waste time by scratching the surface.  They have consciously removed themselves from what they refer to as Babylon, regular society, the city world, full of ego, competition, superficiality.  They are a self-chosen nomadic family, living and sharing together, creating safe spaces to expose vulnerability and encourage growth, physically, mentally and spiritually.  It is a great thing to set goals out loud in front of people who care about me.  Although I never pictured it in this way, I realize that deep down I was hoping to meet people like this and share unusual experiences like this mother moon human flavored sacrificial wine ceremony, shaking up what normal means to me.

As we finish up sending out the last of our goals into the universe, Colas announces the next part of the ceremony, which he seems to make up as he goes along.  We are to all get down on our knees and, one by one, without using our hands, drink from the cup in the fire pit but only after finding the reflection of the moon in the wine.  Everybody accepts the next step in this ceremony as if it were a set tradition passed down several generations.

I’m starting to realize that this whole “tradition” tonight has been an improvisation.  It makes me think about all traditions in all cultures.  Who were the first people to start all these traditions? A group of friends just improvising for fun?  I imagine if everything we did tonight was passed on through generations, the people performing this ceremony would have no idea that there is no significance in looking at the moon’s reflection in the cup other than Colas thinking it was a cool idea.  They might attribute a deeper meaning to using vaginal yeast for the wine than the simple idea that some girls were experimenting with wine making and breaking social norms.  They might think that the reason the pit is fireless is to see the moon better when in reality we were just too lazy to light it.  I could imagine that someone like me who swallowed the wine instead of spitting it out would be told they were doing it wrong and might offend mother moon.

Most likely, this particular tradition will die away simply because this group is small, we’re not part of a larger tribe and we have no political power to influence tradition.  There are so many traditions that survive and are revered and looked as the “right” way to do one thing or another.  It is important for me now, and in the future as I travel on into different cultures and subcultures to see through these traditions.  To reveal what they are truly about and not to get lost  in set parameters, prayers, proper ways of blessing, when to kneel, when to stand, the “right” and “wrong” ways to do things.  Tonight we are here to show respect to a big clump of mass orbiting our planet that is important to our existence and to openly share our goals and vulnerabilities with each other.  This could have been accomplished without the wine and the cup but admittedly, it made it more fun and interesting.

Before we bring the ceremony to a close, Colas suggests that we perform a group beat box, all of us contributing a small part of the rhythm to make one big beat.  The next thing I know, several minutes have passed and we are all still going strong with a beautiful spontaneous piece of music.  At certain points, Vince manages to fart loudly, right on beat a few times in a row and our kicks, snares and hi-hat sounds are taken over by laughter.  The ceremony ends lightly and we head back to the house.

After all that, I feel more awake and spontaneously start to dance on the living room hardwood floor.  The next thing I know, everyone is joining me in a wacky weird dance of beautiful nonsense with no music to accompany us.  I don’t feel conscious of what I’m doing, like I’m possessed by the moon.  I don’t stop until a couple of hours into it when my body tells me to.

I express to Colas afterwards that I feel like a lunatic, having gone crazy in a time portal that felt like it went by in seconds.  He feels that this is one way to stay sane, by letting out all the insanity cooped up inside of us.  This idea resonates with me and I think to myself that spontaneous expression of inner insanity is really how I do keep sane.  It would be even more insane to hold all this in, to blindly follow other’s traditions that don’t mean anything to me personally, to do what is accepted as sane for the sake of seeming sane.  No way! I’m not here just to scratch the surface, that’s crazy.

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