I’m sitting in the garden watching the butterflies dancing around the Eucalyptus tree. This time last week Elgiva and I were in the final stages of preparing menus, making cakes and curry and buying food for the Summer Gathering. When Elgiva was in charge of the kitchen last year I clearly remember thinking to myself that there was no way I’d sacrifice my precious WiP time to slave in the kitchen… and yet when I was asked this year there was no hesitation in my YES, especially with Cali, Lou and Elgiva as the core team, gorgeous witchy goddesses that they are.
I had no particular expectations of the weekend – though I knew I wasn’t there for my own self-care as such. Rather to be in service and to nourish my extraordinary sisters.
The first evening Baked Potatoes were on the menu (*note to self – don’t plan baked potatoes in an oven you aren’t familiar with) (that doesn’t heat up quickly) (or hotly) (and cooks very slowly) (especially when there’s a power cut) (so Saturday lunch on Friday evening instead). But despite that slight hitch and with so many delicious women stepping forward to help in the kitchen, with community and singing and teasing and laughter and love, the rest of the weekend ran pretty smoothly foodwise. Thank you all.
We were in the kitchen a lot, but we sat in circle too. And though we weren’t able to attend sessions, we benefitted from the healing that permeated the walls – like sitting outside a sweat lodge when those inside are praying. On Saturday evening we sang and danced and drummed by the fire, so beautifully created and held. These pockets of precious time with my sisters sustain me and linger in my thoughts. Even more beautiful that my blood sister was right there at my side.
And then, the homecoming. Predator carnage. In the final circle, through my tears, I said out loud that there’d be fallout of some kind. I just didn’t expect it to manifest quite so quickly or intensely… I was met with hardness when I needed softness. A grunt from my son, and frustration from my husband who’d been holding the fort all weekend not getting his stuff done. He didn’t know I’d been cooking at the weekend as I was scared to admit it, so he couldn’t know how tired I’d be.
And I decided I wasn’t allowed the space to sleep, ponder, eat or give myself care. (Predator: ‘You’re not enough. He resents you. Get a proper job, bring more money in. Give up on your path. This is taking too long. You don’t do enough, you don’t earn enough, you don’t care enough, you’re stupid – why are you messing about with your drum and your studio and all this crap? How does it help anyone?’)
I’ve found it really hard not to be able to tell Mark about WiP and he felt shut out, imagining I think a sect of women slagging off men and trying to take over the world.
So I gave him the very bare bones, enough for him to understand that this is deep work, that it takes time to ‘come back’ from the holding. That I’m not just out having a sweet la-di-da time or bitching about the boys. That it’s exhausting, opening, raw, beautiful, true, connecting, tender.
The Gathering for me was more about coming home, the fallout, acting on my vulnerability, the shift, the sad realisation that my absolute soulmate and I had been pulling away from each other, and the sweetness of our gathering back together.
Drumming White Mountain Eagle on Tender Wing with Sinewy Leopard at her side
Glad for the opportunity to be part of a strong, supportive, well grounded team (Cali, Lou, and Geno), I said yes to holding the kitchen part of The Summer Gathering 2018. The Gatherings Team held the focus, to nourish our sisters, creating a place where their connections with one another could deepen. And actually, where my own connections deepened too.
Geno and I have worked together since we were young, even cooking for the Rotary Summer Camp in Castleton, Derbyshire, when we were teenagers. Being together in a kitchen is second nature to us, although the scale of things for The Gathering weekend was new.
It made my task easier, and more fun, having Geno’s support in planning the meals, going through the shopping list, preparing food before The Gathering. I loved working with my sister with a shared mission, and checking in regularly with each other on progress running up to the event. Working in the kitchen together felt joyful, and harmonious. We burst into song regularly, with our helpers joining in, even manifesting an impromptu cabaret witnessed by a small audience of Debbie, Jodi and Stella on Sunday morning, as we prepared lunch and began packing up.
Although I’d cooked for a large number of people before, I’ve not been responsible for the purchasing of the ingredients for more than a meal before. An excruciating moment for me was at the end of that first meal when the food came back. Of the large green salad we had prepared, less than a quarter had been eaten. Although mental maths isn’t my strong point, I could easily see that I’d completely over ordered on the salad…. and most other stuff.
If I have one regret from the weekend, it’s not announcing to the women at that first meal that we were serving hand whisked mayonnaise, that it was really tasty, and that it could enhance so many dishes. I would have added that it would be available through the whole weekend, and urged them not to hold back. I’d started making the home-made mayonnaise just as the power cut went off. I’d separated 22 egg yolks in a huge whisker mixer, and had begun to dribble in some oil. Suddenly without power, we had to turn to a huge hand whisk; three of us took turns for about one hour to hand whisk that Mayonnaise, each needing to rest after a few minutes because it was so heavy… and at the end of the weekend we had most of the 3 litres of hand whisked mayonnaise left over. Some of us took some home though, and I’ve been enjoying it with all sorts of dishes I wouldn’t normally enhance with mayonnaise!
Halfway through Saturday, I turned to Geno and the kitchen helpers present, and asked them for help to reframe my over-ordering because every time I saw the vast amount of food I’d ordered, my heart sank. They stood round me and helped me to change my story around it. Then I remembered that I’d been doing an affirmation about abundance flowing easily and joyfully through my life… Here was abundance! I could choose to let it flow freely here and now!
I learnt a lot: like how much food to order next time, how good it feels to work with women holding a strong clear vision, and on Friday night, when I struggled with my inner martyr, I put her down, I accepted help and went to bed. When I came down on Saturday morning, I felt I’d been lifted up by my sisters.