Saturday, May 1, 2010

Losing The Maypole

As I write, Beltane has just passed by an hour. This is how I started one of my religion's most important holidays:

At half past noon I woke up a bit, and struggled to wake up the rest of the way. It can take a while for me to get from the part where I open my eyes to being able to place myself in space and time, move deliberately, and form speech. Coherent speech takes longer. I often babble wordlessly. My wife manages to understand much of this by listening to the tone, and by paying attention to my body language. Also by using telepathy, or so she claims.

At some point during the night, I had thrust my lower leg over the edge of the bed. That added a wrenched knee to the usual back, neck and shoulder pain that grips me in the morning. The knee clinched a decision I needed to make. I will not travel two hours from my home this weekend. I will not attend a Beltane ritual, or even an important meeting. I can't sit at a table, in a chair, for hours. I can't ride in a car for two hours without arriving at the destination in something like my awakening state; disoriented, sleepy, unable to speak, moving slowly and clumsily.

Today contained a lot of napping, a lot of medications. This is nothing new. But today is Beltane. I have led both private and public Beltane rituals. I have joined in at many more, including one which set a world record for largest number of people to dance a Maypole (albeit by being the first one to establish the record category). I love a good ritual. I love Beltane. And what I love most about Beltane is the Maypole dance.

The usual Maypole dance is about the simplest dance going. Nobody should be able to mess it up. Somebody always does. It never matters. But today I thought about the simple activity I love, and realized I can't. I can't duck under and hold over. I can't step in a circle. I don't know if you can bring a cane into a Maypole dance. A wheelchair? The mind boggles.

I can't jump the fire, either. Beltane is, more than any other Sabbat, about bodies and what they can do. Maybe that's why the main rites are so physical. There is no requirement to do them, of course. Everyone celebrates in their own way, and it's also true that someone needs to tend the fire, drum the beat, ward the circle or whatever else is required. I am not unable to participate in a ritual, much less to live my faith. But this loss cuts deeper than most. I want to hold a bright satin ribbon and weave in and out, chanting and jostling and smiling. I want the sacred things somehow not to be touched, not to have to be modified and worked around and foregone like mundane life. I do not want to lose the Maypole.

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