Our annual Gather the Women gathering ended with one last ring of the bells at noon on Sunday, September 21st. Our GTW Facebook pages glow with images of brilliantly colored scarves laid out like the spokes of a wheel around the center altar. In honor of the history of the Black Hills, there were times when we covered our shoulders with our scarves. We brought small stones from home in lieu of the customary water out of respect for the dry stony nature of the Great Plains. Each woman’s folder had her birth sign and her element. Mine was Taurus the Bull and Earth, and maybe Iron. We had a greeting ceremony with, “Woman of the West, I welcome you.” The response was, for example, “Woman of the North, I accept your greeting.” I was moved by how deeply the local women feel about South Dakota, the place itself. Suzan Nolan talked about all the Native American blood that was shed in her state, and the sacredness of the land that absorbed that blood.
Wherever we gather, there is always a sense of returning to my tribe. Each time, I meet new women from the local area, and, each time, I renew heart connections with all the GTW women I’ve known for years. The theme this year was “Embracing Our Power”. That is a provocative theme for most women. As we went around the circle, out of kilter relationships came up. Summoning up the courage to leave came up. Surviving gut-wrenching grief came up as did incredible courage and strength. In a perfect balance of deep sharing and fun, we cried, we sang, we danced, and we laughed until happy tears ran down our cheeks. As always, boxes of Kleenex stood ready. More women joined Gather the Women Global Matrix’s international circle. I have wonderful new artist, poet, and writer friends on Facebook.
As always, the women from Canada brought their own special ethos. The irrepressible Diane Jung, our Canadian Convener, is now “Pixie Crone”. Heather Plett brought authors, poets, academics, and activists from Manitoba. I came home with two beautiful journals brought from Canada, and Heather’s Pathfinder Journal – “a creative journal for finding your way”.
On a personal level, my husband and I were together three weeks on a Road Trip. We left Juneau on September 6th and made our way by Alaska Airlines and Avis to Eaglecrest Golf Resort near Redmond, Oregon. I stayed there with him during the Juneau Golf Club tournament (which he won), and then we headed northeast to Rapid City. He dropped me off at Terra Sancta, then picked me up Sunday afternoon. It was only an hour after the bells had closed our Gather the Women circle when Doug and I headed for Interstate 90 going due west. After being alone for almost four days, he wanted to talk about the how, what, and where of the treasures he had discovered to add to his collections.
I was very reluctant to let go of the gathering so soon, and felt I was suffering from the emotional bends. While he drove, I wrote little notes to myself on a pad of blue Post-It notes: “Re-entry shock. Man’s need to take care of the details right now. A plane ride home offers a segue back to life out of circle.” “Enya singing “Only Time” on the radio. Women know this. Him: “Look! There’s a golf course. Me: “Look. There’s a river.” “Need decompression chambers. Leaves are gold as we head West. We (women) changed, too.” “Need more visibility for women. Street names. Letters to the Editor. Elected officials. Testimony before legislatures and Congress.” “I will exercise now. Respect my body.” “Listening to the radio. No women’s voices at all. “Ranch Radio” out of Texas only station we can get.” “Lots of talk (at gathering) about blood flow and vaginas. My story.” “Going to Florida. Long flight there and back gives me time to digest it all.”
After a night at the SeaTac Red Lion Hotel in Seattle, we took the shuttle to the airport for our flight to Juneau. A few hours later, our jet made its way up Gastineau Channel with the city of Juneau tucked up against the mountains to the West, and Douglas Island to the East. Our jet landed on the tarmac at Juneau International Airport at 1:20 Alaska time, and I felt that familiar, “Ah. I’m back home.” Rain and all.
Today, I have three gifts from Gather the Women that I will cherish the rest of my life: the exquisite engraved glass plaque, the painting of three women by Tu Bears and Lorraine Lima, and the ample breasted goddess with a labyrinth on one side and trees and mountains on the other side. I’ll put a sticky note on my Last Will & Testament to make sure our daughter Amy will have those treasures. My project for today is this blog, followed by putting those warm weather clothes away, and getting the fleece tops out. There was a “Please Come Back!” card in the mail from Curves, and I’ll pledge right here that I will go back this week. It is good to be home, but I’m not done missing all of you!
I will see you next year in Florida!