I am home after attending the Summerland Gathering 2022 held August 18-August 21 in Clifton Gorge near Yellow Springs, Ohio. Each day was filled with food, workshops, rituals, and thematic evening events bringing us together to share meals, to share knowledge, to pray together, and to play together. May this review provide a glimpse into the event in such a way that all who read these words who were unable to attend feel connected to the folk on site.
Summerland 2022 was more of a homecoming for me than anything else. As a former Crane, attending a festival hosted by Three Cranes Grove provided space to reconnect with previous grovemates and longtime friends (who now live 1250 miles from my new home in Colorado among the Magpies) in service to the folk—just like old times. This was also the first in-person event many of us have attended since the COVID lockdown in February of 2020. Needless to say, our emotions flowed like waves throughout the weekend, anxiety giving way to joy only to bubble up on occasion when proximity to others reminded us our faces were bare. Despite the spectacular amount of planning and preparation done by our hosts and chief organizer, we had some hiccups, and while it may not have unfolded as planned on paper, it turned out to be the festival that we all needed.
The festival began on Thursday with a shared meal, and what a significant and meaningful beginning it was! After years of isolation and nothing but virtual contact, the breaking of bread among community broke open the seeds of healing in our hearts and minds. We shared an afternoon of workshops, greeting guests as they trickled in, and gathered for the opening ritual that evening. The power of shared voices, in person voices, echoed across the gorge as we sang out our praise and made offerings together. The unscripted nature of the service allowed us to hear the words of our fellow devoted without the polish of more a formal ritual setting, reminding us of the roots we share in Our Druidry. I will not soon forget the impact of this beautiful rite. Music and revelry went deep into the night as our reluctance to part from one another held us by the fire.
Friday opened with a planning session for the evening’s Community Ritual. We ended with a loose outline for an extensive working whose goal was to facilitate the release of all we’ve held onto during these months of isolation and opening ourselves in healthy and wise ways to the unfolding of our new normal. We used all-natural yarn in the shape of a pentacle to hold that which we would release and placed the yarn on the fire to burn away our ties to that which would hold us back. We then connected everyone present to a circle, unbroken and woven through us, to fill the void with intentions of community, compassion, and connection.
A note on the “new normal:” There are many among us who lived their lives in isolation due to personal circumstances be they illness, immune system function, or any of a host of disabilities hat require time and energy to manage and leave little “spoons” for anything else. These last two years gave us all the insight and real-life experience of what it feels like to walk in these folks’ shoes, the competing desire and inability to connect with people, the burn-out from virtual meetings, the weariness of text messages as our only outlet making it impossible to bring ourselves to reply. All of these have been “normal” for these members of our community. As we move toward connecting in person, it becomes paramount that we not forget to integrate those whose needs are equally as great but whose barriers often feel insurmountable. Remember in our bones how this pandemic time has affected us, Children of Earth, and allow those experiences to keep our work grounded in accessibility and understanding moving forward.
Friday night’s Gender-Affirming Prom brought laughter and joy as we danced and took pictures with the soundtrack of our collective youths playing in the background [as a personal note, I sometimes forget the differences in age among us, and the number of songs the, uh, ‘more mature’ crowd didn’t know made a point of reminding us]. Afterwards, we again stayed long into the night to enjoy one another’s company.
Saturday morning held space for the remaining workshops. Over the course of the festival, I was only able to attend about half of what was offered. The ones I attended gave us hours of additional conversation, carrying on into meal times and arising for us in later hours after we’d had time to internalize the lessons. We had a full schedule, and there was too much great programming to do everything. I encourage those who presented to continue to share their work at additional events!
The Main Rite was particularly meaningful for me, because I was elevated to Senior Priest. Rev. Jean Drum Pagano was able to make time to come down and perform the ceremony himself, and I am grateful for his assistance in this work. We ended up holding the rite in the pavilion due to the EPIC RAIN that blessed us during the service (well, I did hope for a good “Ohio Thunderstorm,” and I cannot complain when my wishes are granted—and it was pretty amazing!). Rev. Jan Avende led a beautiful service, and I feel blessed for having my elevation as a part of it.
After potluck, we had a “karaoke style” bardic night where we listened to many spoken word pieces this year. I had the honor of helping with the raffle last minute, and I enjoyed riffing off this with Emerald, who needed constant reminding not to pick a rock out of the ticket bags (I mean, I thought it was funny…). We ended the evening once more refusing to go to our respective beds to prolong the fellowship and camaraderie.
At the risk of oversharing and immortalizing this part of the festival, I find it important to share that we had folks dropping out of social spaces one by one due to a later-confirmed-as norovirus that swept through camp. This serves as a stark reminder that all the other viruses and bacteria in the world have waited patiently for us to return to social spaces where they flourish. As different folks with different jobs were taken out of commission, those of us who remained unaffected stepped in to help. By Sunday morning for festival closure, we were all-hands-on-deck, and in that moment, I couldn’t be more proud of our folk for showing up to get the work done and care for one another. While something like this has the potential to overshadow all the GOOD that this festival offered to us, seeing that even a “throw-up flu” couldn’t diminish our determination and commitment to service confirmed more than ever that I belong to ADF as an ADF Druid, for here I stand among those who purposes align with mine: to love the land, to serve the folk, and to honor the deities.
Overall, this was a terrific event, and I wish many blessings of health, well-being, fellowship, and connection to all who were in attendance and all who wish to attend in the future. May our eyes meet many times in the future across the fire.