By Barbara Belknap
Just over three weeks ago, on September 22nd, women hugged each other in a jumbled field of suitcases, purses, and backpacks in the Zephyr Point conference center on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Then, a short three days later, we said our good-byes, again amidst our luggage, and prolonged the moment of departure as long as we could. For many of us, the next time we will see each other will be in Rapid City, South Dakota, where the 2014 gathering will be held.
These annual gatherings, where we meet in person, play a critical role in maintaining the vitality of our organization. In the twelve months between, Gather the Women stays connected through monthly teleconferences. The Conveners meet on the first Monday of the month, and the Regional Coordinators meet on the second Monday. It is a system that has worked for many years.
The Conveners met all day on September 21st. This was the first time ever that we had all been together in the flesh, and the first time any of us had met Sierra Sullivan, our Website Convener. Two of us had met Deborah Zaher, our Social Media Convener, who lives in Liverpool, but this was a special time when everyone was together in one place sharing meals, laughing, and getting our work done.
On the first evening of our gathering, Jeane Tu Bears Jacobs, a GTW Regional Coordinator who lives nearby, led the Equinox Ritual. A self-described “old Indian from Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation”, she improvised a ceremony for Deborah and her baby. As Deborah went around the circle, each woman quietly shared her hopes and dreams for Deborah and Yousef’s baby. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as Deborah moved from woman to woman.
This ritual demonstrated clearly that we all know intuitively that it is far better to see each other in person than online, but, as pragmatic women, we maintain our “Indra’s Net” of connections any way that works. Events, ideas, books, poetry, and introductions unfold on Facebook. Pearls of wisdom, humor and inspiration are tweeted @gatherthewomen. Then, once a year, we gather together and the hugs begin.
We’ll see you next year, September 18-21, 2014, in Rapid City, South Dakota!