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Sirius Rising 2002 (3)

Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 7th. 2002
Times Viewed: 9,085
Sponsored by: Brushwood Folklore Center
Location: Sherman, Western NY

It is hard to think of anything to add to Don's thoughtful and powerful review but, as so often happens at festivals, not everyone can make it to everything! Sometimes a mere glitch in communication, or being involved in one activity too many, means one cannot attend something significant. And Don and Daniella are two very active and giving community members, to say the least. When I shared with Don some moments I had witnessed during the week of Sirius Rising, he asked if I could help out by adding my thoughts.

The first thing that stands out is the Ice Cream Social which was held for Sirius Rising presenters. Usually the presenters are asked to gather at the beginning of the week, to introduce themselves and share some food and drink and get the week off to an energetic start by connecting with each other. This year, I found it a bit odd that no such "meet and greet" event was scheduled. Everyone is too busy, I guessed. Then, once I heard it was indeed going to be Roy Jones' last Sirius Rising (he is taking some time to pursue a PhD) I wondered if there might be some special event with this in mind. The slips of paper and word-of-mouth invites about the Ice Cream Social went around 24 hours before the event was scheduled (this is why Don and Dee missed it, unfortunately, although volunteers did try to reach everyone; they must have assumed these two movers and shakers would be in the know before anyone!).

We gathered in the Studio, that inviting space that is part kitchen, part classroom, part art gallery, part cross-country ski boot storage, and, this year, part kitten sanctuary! The ever-friendly staff (thanks Darlene and Craig and Fate and Jess and Airaday!) were serving up ice cream sundaes, featuring Darlene's own homemade vanilla ice cream! Wow; she runs a real tight ship at Brushwood but who knew she could make such great ice cream too? Also, Tom and Ava, handfasted this part year, shared their wonderful home-brewed beer. Needless to say it was a lively party! I had a great time talking with Ian Corrigan (who this year realized I was "that" Peg from Witchvox!), and Prydwyn, Sirona, Jim Barleycorn, Diana, Jake and Ingrid (my bandmates and buds from Green Crown), Skip Clark (my partner in academic angst), and generally enjoying the good fellowship (helped along by that homebrew and everyone's glee at finally gathering together).

Then after a bit, Theresa Barney (daughter of Frank and Darlene and, among many other things, coordinator of volunteer work crews at Brushwood-an enormous job) got up to speak. First she asked everyone to go around and say their names and why they were there and how long they'd been involved with Sirius.This in itself was interesting since normally it would be Roy Jones who made these introductory remarks. Many of the presenters had been there from the beginning; for some it was their first time presenting after attending at least once. (I have been giving workshops since the second year I believe). Some of us shared our memories of the "old days" (when workshops were mostly of the "hands-on" variety, lots of crafts and practical activities like blacksmithing, weaving, paper-making, bread-baking, etc.) and many people offered sincere thanks to Roy (having already heard about this being his last year). Once everyone had gone around and we all took a beat to take in what was going to happen next, Theresa announced that, after eight wonderful years (has it been that long??), Roy was stepping down and turning over the running of Sirius Rising to others. No specific names were given as they have not been chosen, but the core of the gathering will be run by the Barneys and the regular Brushwood staff who return year after year. She offered profuse thanks to Roy, and emphasized the close friendship shared among these Brushwood long-timers, which we as guests and volunteers are so honored to learn from. Roy then offered his own thoughts, including his warm gratitude towards all the presenters, oldand new, who helped create this gathering every year and made the program one to rival the best gatherings in the country. He briefly described this future plans for pursuing study at a university in England, and reiterated his intention to return to Sirius Rising as the "Emeritus Founder" in two years' time.

This was a moving and memorable meeting, marking this important change. We could all feel that within the sadness and (temporary) loss was a deep love of the work that happens year after year in this beautiful place, and that those who began this work passed it to its next caretakers with perfect trust and confidence. The Barneys first conceived of the idea of Sirius Rising years ago and asked Roy to helm it. After eight years of his tireless leadership, they now will be able to "take the reins" of the gathering and continue to allow it to evolve and manifest as the magical community event it has become. I looked at Frank, Darlene and Theresa and realized I was very excited to see what Sirius would become within their hands. I realize it sounds a bit melodramatic and corny to mark this occasion with mere words which cannot do it justice. But I think many of us can relate to the notion that the gathering experience, which for many of us marks the year and brings us back to our true homes and communities, is one made up of countless memories, vivid ones, hazy ones, moments that are so profound and magical we wonder if we have dreamed them, and moments of such piercing clarity that we know we will never forget them. Standing in this room of old friends and new ones, all of us grateful for the experience forged these last eight years which has grown to such a wonderful shape, I knew: I will never forget.

I had a few chances to talk with Roy this year (for the first time, or so it seemed to me, he was not running all over the campsite, making schedule changes, finding people, or preparing a workshop space or concert stage) and mentioned to him that Sirius Rising, despite having grown so large, had turned into a gathering that could run itself. Far from making Roy expendable, this was testament to how well he had done this work. From the early years when Roy not only organized the event but designed the program, ran sound at concerts, posted weather reports and made announcements all over the campsite, to this year when this well-oiled machine had obviously found its rhythm and continues to grow in astonishing ways! And his family has been an integral part of this work: Roy's partner Bunny and daughter Gwyneth have also made their presence unforgettable, Bunny with the fabric-painting and henna tattoo workshops that draw so many , as well as her ritual designs at the Roundhouse, and Gwyneth playing Mistress of Ceremonies for the Charity "Slave Auction" at the Cosmic Cotillion for the last two years. I remember their son Rhys attending a couple of times too and hope he will return in the future. Roy and I reminisced about the humble beginnings of Sirius Rising (which began in part as a way to have "something before Starwood that wasn't Starwood"), and talked about what is coming next for him. It is an exciting time of change in what for many has been a difficult year (I see you all nodding your heads in the back); may we meet our challenges and new experiences with the grace and intelligence and capability many of us have seen in this man. I have felt for years that Sirius Rising was one of the best-kept secrets on the gathering circuit; well, it ain't no secret anymore! Roy, you RULE.

One other wonderful thing Roy has done is to make Sirius Rising a gathering known for great musical entertainment. The schedule of concerts this year is solid proof of that: the band Sona, harpist deLuna, and dulcimer player extraordinaire Matthew Abelson on Wednesday night; Ohio's own rowdy Irish pub band The Mickeys, and the psychedelic-gypsy-trance songscapes of Green Crown on Friday; Saturday brought The Buddhahood and Brushwood favorites Einstein's Secret Orchestra, and Sunday night The Raft (with Starwind and Nighthawk, formerly of DreamTrybe) and long-time festival favorites Kiva (in a hot new line-up including Jim and Diana of Green Crown). Many of these bands had new CDs available for sale, including a great one from Kiva that I have been listening to a lot since I got home, and one from Green Crown, composed of live tracks recorded from five years' worth of gatherings, 1997-2001. This year we had professional sound engineering assistance from Josh, who worked with ACE's Regis to bring us aural wizardry worthy of some New York dance club. Thank you so much for this; I know Roy does not miss the days of running the board himself (although he is great at it). Roy told me that a number of bands have played Sirius Rising for years, starting with no pay and sometimes food provided, and now reaching a point where their festival admissions are all taken care of and they receive a bit of compensation of their hard work. We all have seen that at times gatherings tend to play favorites with entertainment, and "big-name" acts get big bucks and smaller acts are lucky to be able to break even. Cheers to Sirius Rising for celebrating the performing artists and treating them like their work and presence really matters.

I have also enjoyed the way that Sirius Rising has continued to evolve as a "family" gathering. Let's face it; many gatherings are not great for bringing your kids to because of their size and general level of chaos. At Sirius Rising, there are workshops and activities specifically designed for kids, like storytelling, painting, dancing, drumming, and even including a fabulous parade--the Great Dogstar Walkabout--that everyone loves to get in on, with amazing huge puppets (thanks to Andy, puppet master from New England, for bringing that magic back!), musical instruments and costumes. Thanks to all who continue to make the kids' activities happen every year (Jo, Penny, Kirk and Eva, Autumn and Logan, Evan and Jen, and anyone else I may have forgotten). This is important work, as we as a community raise a generation of pagan children!

I was privileged to spend an entire month at Brushwood this year, from the quiet leisurely days of early July, through X-Day, Sirius Rising and Starwood. It was a time of intense joy, ecstasy, discovery, humbling moments, thought-provoking experiences, and many difficult challenges and lessons to be learned. I offer thanks to all who take part in this community and I hope I can continue to share and watch it grow with you.

My special gratitude goes out to my friends and teachers and companions on the path: Frank, Darlene and Theresa Barney, your many years of hard work as stewards and shapers of this land that has brought joy and teachings and peace to so many: how can we thank you enough? Roy, Bunny and Gwyneth, the passion behind Sirius Rising; the hard-working Dave and Craig, insightful behind-the-scenes kinda guys; my new partner-in-crime, Fate; Tim, Airaday, Gypsy, Sonny, Obie, Danny, Anziette, Gary, John and other hard-working staff, who are a joy to be around; special thanks to Jason and Jess, young-and-wise keepers of the flame and the land, whose magic and effort have helped build this place in recent years; and to Dennis and all the amazing men and women of the Fire Tribe: watching this cadre grow and find its path has been a constant source of inspiration; to firetender David/Animal for staying strong amidst turmoil; to Daveed and Billy and Josh and Debra and Rafael and Saffire and Evan and Spinner and Magnus and Cheri and lovely Jackie and all the other drummers and dancers and music-makers who make the Roundhouse, the Didge Dome and the ritual fires places of such beauty and community; a warm kiss to the Dalton family, whose love and generosity towards all makes me want to weep; to my Brothers of the Maple Grove, Frankie and John; to Ayla and Gaelyn, fae mistresses of magical space; hugs to all the good people of Babylon and my tribe in Silver Woods; to Hank, Penny, Prydwyn, Sirona, Diana, Jim, Ingrid, Jake, Dana, Billy, Violette and Whitedeer who were there in spirit, Rick and Randolphe, and all the loved ones of my musical Green Crown family; to JP, my knight in shining armor, and my old friend Lisa, for her lovely merchant presence; and of course Don and Daniella, for our shared meals and chats, nightly meditative drumming, and a constant source of love and laughter.

If I forgot to mention you, it means my heart is full and, well, I am still a bit sleep-deprived! I can only hope that I may continue to grow through my connection to this place and the extraordinary people who help keep it going. I have slowly but surely become closer to this family and cannot imagine my life without an annual retreat to Brushwood, meeting in friendship with the tribe of walkers and seekers who tend it lovingly, this land of wise trees and many-colored skies and fires warm through the mist...

Peg Aloi

Email: [Staff Page Link]

Photo Credits: The Beautiful photos in this coverage were captured digitally by Don Waterhawk of Waterhawk Creations

For the Latest on Brushwood: Visit the Brushwood Folklore Center on the world wide web.

Article Specs

Article ID: 4603

VoxAcct: 3

Section: festivals

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 6,373

Times Read: 9,085


Peg Aloi

Location: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

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