A couple weekends ago, we trekked to the woods of Hillsborough, NC for our annual family gathering at my aunt’s lovely home in the woods. While there, we managed to rub elbows with family from Virginia, Georgia, Illinois and Texas – to name a few. The hug count squeezed itself into the dozens. Doses of Purple Jesus and chocolate chip cookies added a flare of whimsy in the afternoon. Purple Jesus is a bit of redemptive alcoholic juice, 100 proof sanctification for the courageous, awaiting brave imbibers in a white bucket with a lid on it. It sits there begging dogmatic reverence find a new vibe, a sort of salvation from anything stuffy or pretentious. Besides the warning signs, the tiny little paper cups are a dead give away: you don’t want much of this heady stuff unless you’re up for a long nap in one of the hammocks or a loud show of your less-than-reserved self. Or one followed by the other. I have about 4 big sips of Purple Jesus every year as a rule. I laugh at the irony, a bucket of 100 proof liberal for a few diverse backgrounds creates that inevitable doorway into common ground. We’re human after all.
It turned out to be one of the best times for me, in spite of my qualms. I often face these gatherings with a contradictory mixture of reticence and pleased anticipation since it’s a lot to ask of my energy in general these days. And our group of folks consists of a mix of significantly conflicting political and spiritual backgrounds. It includes my parents and sisters, the characters from a past life story within my ongoing dynamic life reality, one far-removed from the territories we had claimed together. I much prefer my religion of love, trees and earth but the divide created by such profound change is often best bridged by a river, with a few sips of colorful salvation to make it all go down. It can feel surreal out there under leaves and sky. But we manage to reach past those differences and find the love in the company of trees long lost to ancient resonance, swaying in breezes oblivious to the mind’s pitfalls, sinking roots into radical grace. We take our cues from their silent testimonies, unaware and sedated by their hypnotic ministrations.
And we often walk away wishing for more opportunity to see each other beyond the woods and songs of an afternoon.
In retrospect, I find myself wishing an annual gathering for all the nations of the world, a greet and hug fest of Purple Jesus and chocolate chip cookies for the body, mind and spirit, where we set aside our differences and remember our appetites for affection and common ground, where we listen to music, pull out our guitars and sit by a fire as the river winds her way through the magick trees. We need our place of remembering where we meet, what we share beyond all the differences we pose as obstruction to unity. We need to remember how we’re all reduced to beautifully being human in the arms of earth mother, the flow of elixirs stripping pretense and pretend under the seeing sky so blue.