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A blog for her friends to check that she's still alive, when she's been missing for a while, and what she's whinging about now.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Shambala - Friday
I woke up at FT Kate's house and drove over to pick up Ian and Katy from Selly Oak, before taking them back to FT Kate's in Brierley Hill. Mark practically followed us in - he'd been at work until 7 and had only had about three hours sleep, but he was happy and bouncy enough. There was a short cuppa break, while Kate and Ian created a bishop's mitre for Ian's fancy dress outfit, then we were off.
Katy and I went down in Mark's car. I'm used to a Punto, so his Rover looked massive! It was such a novelty though, as I'm used to being the driver. I got to look at the scenery instead, which was great! I was chilling out by the time we got to the M5, let alone the festival. *grin*
We stopped at Taunton Deane services to wait for Ian and Kate... then waited... then waited... in the finish there was a good enough 'phone reception to discover that we'd parked at opposite ends of the services and both thought we were waiting for each other. LMFAO! We met up and several Bakewell Tarts later, we were off following the directions on the ticket (after getting off at the Plympton Junction of the A38), then the Shambala suns, until we found the site. It's kept cryptic and moved around, so that it isn't gate-crashed and ruined.
While FT Kate, Mark and I had kept our stuff to a vague minimum, it looked like Ian and Katy had emptied their homes into the cars. So much stuff! However, days later, it turned out that there wasn't really that much stuff, it was just packed weird or not packed at all. Our dreams of one journey faded, so the rest of us left stuff so as to walk relatively comfortably down the steep hill into the festival site.
Got down there to find more tents than last year. There had only been 500 people last year, but there were 2000 this year. It was so hot and people had sprawled out a lot. I could see FT Kate getting more and more wound up as we looked for somewhere to camp and I would have liked to have made the right soothing noises, but by then my shoulder and neck were in agony from carrying the rucksack and the tent. I called a stop and bent down so that I could blink tears away without anyone noticing, while FT Kate, Mark and Ian left stuff with me and Katy so they could go exploring.
They found somewhere and Mark came back to tell us. En route, he got mugged by five or six children. They were on his back, holding onto his leg etc, demanding 50p. I was practically recovered by now and Katy and I just watched in amazement and utter bemusement. Eventually, Katy said, 'Should we rescue him?', as the children brought him down onto the grass. I was giggling my head off and said, 'We might as well...' but just on it, he managed to struggle free and run. The children swarmed after him until he passed another lad, then they started on the newcomer instead. Poor Mark tried to walk in dignity back to us, but got accosted by the ring-leader, who looked all of seven. 'Please can I have 50p? I've said please.' Me and Katy were very quietly in bits! LOL
We eventually got back to where Ian and FT Kate were setting up and started sorting the tents. Mine and Kate's tent was about four inches too small for the space, but we persevered. All that Glastonbury Festival training kicked in and we managed to get the tent up, though Kate's bedroom was a bit of a strange shape. I offered her mine, but she refused it. 'What would I have to complain about all weekend, if I had yours?' She asked. That broke her mood then. We did a second journey to the car and were soon set up back below.
Within minutes, we were all so chilled out. I'm a bit of a festival veteran now and I've never known us all relax into it so quickly. It normally takes at least an hour and a meander about the site, but it wasn't like that at all. We sat in the lounge part of the tent and cracked open the alcohol. Ian was making cocktails out of vodka, galliano and orange juice. I can't do vodka, and I'd never tried galliano, so I just had a couple of plastic cups of neat galliano. Very nice it was too.
We just sat there canting and watching people arriving. Our wide tent opening had an amazing panoramic view of the campsite, with the huge, old tents. At night, these would be lit up, and the track beneath them would be lit with lights like a string of pearls. So, so peaceful and beautiful.
After a while, we meandered out in search of teas and coffees... very successfully, as the nearest cafe was about 30 yards from the tent. LOL We sat in the Sacred Space for a while, people watching. How to describe the people of the Shambala Festival...? Beautiful people. Everyone is relaxed, everyone looks so beautiful. Not in a catwalk way - that isn't beautiful in my book - but in an ordinary, leaning towards hippy, way. If you caught someone's eye, you smiled and received a huge grin back, which you couldn't help but reciprecate. There was a tremendous sense of trust - kids ran free, because the festival was so small and everyone looked out for everyone else's kids. (Last year, I took a baby on the swingboats, because her dad didn't like them, and kept an eye on two little ones while their Mum had a massage. All of us strangers. But in reality, all but the littlest kids don't need minding.) A beautiful, safe place.
In the sacred place, there is a marquee (from Georgia, I know that this has a different meaning in America. A marquee here is a very large tent, which you could hold parties in). In the marquee, there are six altars - four to the elements, one to the Mother and the other I wasn't sure. Logic would say it was to the God, but it was very Indian in aspect and I didn't know most of the things on it. I went a wander in there, as it had been a very special, important place to me last year. The others popped their heads in, but Kate said, 'I'll leave you to it and go on to...' but she was gone before I caught the end of the sentence. I assumed toilet. ;-) There's cool, because folk are easily found again.
I walked around to each altar in turn to pay my respects. By the time I reached the last one, the water one, there were a handful of people in the temple with me and one of them had put music on. They were dancing when the priestess asked if I wanted to join in. I didn't realize that there was a ritual scheduled, but there I was! So I joined in. A while later, Ian tapped my shoulder, apologized to the group and handed me my shawl. He told me afterwards that he couldn't believe how quickly I'd managed to end up in a ritual! LOL
The ritual was really good. It began with dancing, then we sat while the priestess guided us in a meditation. We felt the flame from above, from our locus above our heads, channel down into our hearts to create a red flame there. We felt the white flame of the earth rise up through our bodies to create a white flame in our hearts, which danced with the red flame. We held hands - right to receive, left to leave - and let our energies whizz around the group of six women (including myself).
Then we took turns to walk alone in a circle, while the others watched. When they were ready, they individually got up and walked close behind the single walker, close enough that the walker couldn't see them. They copied completely the walker's walk, becoming them. Once everyone was up, emulating the walk of the first, the first lead them around another lap, then sat down and watched the others being them.
It was fascinating! And emotional. I found myself with my knees up, mouth covered, giggling and blushing, as I watched how I looked to others. I was seeing myself as others see me, which isn't something you generally see. They sat down and I had to describe how it felt to see myself through their mirror. I was shocked at how graceful I seemed, delicate in my walk, but contradictory too. The others each told me how they felt being me and how they experienced that walk. I was ethereal, one said; another said that I touched the ground so lightly and gently that it bearly seemed that I touched it at all; I was elf-like. They all mentioned that the upper part of my body seemed to have a lot of strength though, at odds with the gentleness of my steps, as if I was at once bull-like and elfish. One person mentioned that I held my one arm quite stiffly, which was at odds with it all. My shoulder and neck were still hurting from the arrival, which explained that. Once I told them, it all made sense to them!
It was amazing how many different walks we had between us. There were eight of us by the finish, as others joined in, and each of us were deeply touched. The priestess was extremely moved. She waited until last and decided to do it too, because of the good feeling in there. She was nearly in tears after hers and admitted to us that she'd been crippled a while back and the last time she'd done this was shortly after she had first regained the ability to walk. Her stiffness and injury had been very apparent then, but tonight we'd shown her that it wasn't.
A final dance and a round of hugging and I felt like I'd always known these people. We were all emotional and all of us new best friends.
It was dark outside when I left the temple and went to find the others. I walked straight to them, still full of the ritual, and was met by a fourfold sea of beaming faces in the Thali cafe. I bought a round of drinks and we sat in there so happy, so chilled, laughing and people watching and laughing some more, with the rest of the people right there with us.
Most of the festival wasn't yet open, so though we did have a little wonder around the field, we soon ended up on the track. The place looks pretty Middle Earth during the daytime, but at night it takes on such a Tolkienesque look to it! We walked down the track, into the campsite, to see what surprises were amidst the tents. We found a great one. A bloke named Jim was selling hot drinks and truffles. It didn't matter what time, day or night, we turned up there throughout the festival, there was Jim selling his drinks. I don't think he slept.
He sold THE BEST HOT CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD!! Our whole festival was punctuated with frequent trips to Jim's awning to buy his hot chocolate off him. Images 23 and 24 are us outside Jim's place
We returned to the tent and sat there chilling until the early hours. One by one everyone went to bed, except me and Katy. We went for more hot chocolate, then she too went to bed. I've already told about what happened next, but it's worth the retelling:
I sat in the 'lounge' bit of the tent, when everyone else had gone to bed. I was curled up in one camping chair, with my feet up on another, looking out over the festival, sipping Green and Black's Hot Chocolate (lovely bloke called Jim, open 24 hours, best hot chocolate in the world). The sight was so utterly beautiful and I felt so completely peaceful. That moment is indicative of how I felt for the whole festival. I wrote this:
In the silence, in the stillness
I found my soul at Shambala;
It shone through the
Murk and drab of accumulated
And my troubles melted like
So many marshmallows on a stick.
I learned again how to just sit
And watch lights, like a string of pearls,
My shoulders sag, my heartbeat slows,
My body relaxs, melding me into the seat,
I am content
And my spirit writes poetry.
13.8.04 at the Shambala Festival.